It’s not been an easy year for Alba and her company Honest, but she refuses to be deterred from business
It’s fair to say that running your own business comes with its pitfalls and no matter how successful a brand is, at some point, it will encounter its difficulties. It’s something Jessica Alba knows only too well. Her firm, The Honest Company, has been beset with criticism over the past 18 months – there were first claims its sunscreen didn’t protect users from the sun (the company released a statement standing by the product) and multiple lawsuits have followed claiming that it misled buyers about its ingredients.
Honest’s focus is selling nontoxic, eco-friendly products to parents, but of late there have been numerous recalls over the contents of its wares – in May the company withdrew its baby wipes “out of an abundance of caution” after it detected mould in some packages.
“Every business faces its challenges,” says Alba. “It’s not realistic to think otherwise. If nothing else, it brings out the best in the team. It’s important at that point to be open with the consumer and educate them around the realities of creating a product in bulk.”
Honest has denied wrongdoing, but in June was forced to pay out $1.55 million in a nationwide class action lawsuit regarding the ingredients of its laundry detergent and soap. Alba has refused to let Honest’s recent difficulties deter her from business – she since replaced the majority of her team, including her CEO.
“Everyone in a senior leadership role is new,” she told us. “We went from being a scrappy start-up where everyone did everything to hiring people who all have 20 to 30 years experience in their respective fields. We knew we had to upgrade the team.”
While she has made serious changes to her team, she doesn’t blame them for any of the company’s recent challenges. That said, she expects any criticism dished out to her staff to be taken with good grace.
“If I’m hitting a wall with someone, I don’t look at them as the issue,” she explains. “I think, ‘How can I communicate it differently? How can we both come to a solution together?’ There are always better ways to communicate. I repeat myself a lot.
“When someone gives you feedback about your work or behaviour, it takes humility to deal with it,” she adds. “You have to be conscious that you can always be better. Times are changing in retail and you have to be curious about that and appreciate that you can’t know it all.”
EVERY BUSINESS FACES ITS CHALLENGES. IT’S NOT REALISTIC TO THINK OTHERWISE
It’s undoubtedly been a stressful period for Alba, but she’s furnished herself with the tools to manage the pressure.
“Meditation really helps,” she says. “There’s an app called Headspace that does quick meditation exercises that centre you and put you back in your game. They stop you from feeling overwhelmed. You can’t surround yourself with work 100 percent – anything extreme can become an obsession. When I’m with my kids, I try to put my phone down and stay present – you have to be strict about things like that.”
There is an argument that Alba’s fame makes her more susceptible to public scrutiny and criticism; after all, the media loves to see a celebrity fall from grace, especially when they set out with as earnest and well-meaning goals as Honest. But she refuses to see her profile as an issue.
“Do I receive more of a spotlight because I am who I am? Yes, without doubt,” she says. “But I feel that, with the rise of social media, a lot of people in business have become public figures. I’ve just been in the spotlight longer so I understand the role of media and salacious headlines. I have perspective, but some people in business haven’t had that experience at all so learning this stuff is all new for them.”
Honest may have had a tough year or so, but its founder’s outlook remains as determinedly sunny as ever.