From Action Star to Honest Boss Girl, Jessica Alba Means Big Business

Jessica Alba rose to fame as an actress, playing everything from a genetically-enhanced soldier in the TV series Dark Angel to a superhero who can turn invisible in the Fantastic Four movies. In reality, Jessica doesn’t need superhuman skills to impress us–and she doesn’t have to fake it by pretending to be someone she’s not; She’s becoming a larger-than-life boss girl by building Honest business.

Jessica started acting when she was a child, and has become of the biggest stars in the world. For some people, that might be enough, but Jessica didn’t just want to make a name for herself–she wanted to make a difference.

When she was pregnant with her first daughter, she bought baby laundry detergent to wash some onesies she’d received as a gift–and to her surprise, she broke out in hives. She started researching the detergent’s ingredients and was dismayed with what she found. “I was horrified by the realities around the use of chemicals, and also the link that these chemicals have to a lot of illnesses, from obesity to lung disease to cancer, allergies, eczema—all of it,” she told Self magazine in its September issue.

The health scares she was reading about hit home. As a child, Jessica was sick with chronic asthma; she spent so much time in the hospital with recurring bouts of pneumonia that she had trouble making friends. She wanted her daughter to be as healthy as possible, so she started looking around for safer household products. She didn’t find many options. But instead of getting frustrated, she saw an opportunity to make change and build a business.

Jessica reached out to Christopher Gavigan, of the environmental nonprofit organization Healthy Child, Healthy World and started learning as much as she could about natural products. She found that there’s very little legislation to regulate household products. (In the United States, only 11 chemicals are banned from consumer goods, while Europe bans over 1300.)

Jessica’s concern spurred her to action, and she and Christopher decided to team up and start their own company. Despite their best efforts, it took a few years to get the startup off the ground. “People just saw me as this girl in a bikini in movies kicking but– maybe not the brightest bulb,” Jessica recently told Forbes. “It took three and a half years of condescending nods and pats on the back of ‘good luck’, or ‘go back to endorsing things or go do a perfume.’”

In 2012, Jessica and Christopher launched The Honest Company, a line of non-toxic, earth-friendly products. It started as an ecommerce site, but in addition to the online store, The Honest Company’s products – which include everything from laundry detergent to personal care  products–are now sold at major retailers, including Target, Costco, Nordstrom, and Whole Foods. In September 2015, the company expanded even further to offer a line of makeup and skincare products, Honest Beauty.

From the start, the Honest Company has made a commitment to sell products that is founders deem safe and effective. They’re a B-corporation, also known as a benefit corporation, which means they’re not just trying to make money–they’re trying to make the world a better place. A B-corporation pledges to meet certain sustainability and environmental standards, and that’s what The Honest Company is all about. In addition to making products free from things like lead, chlorine and pesticides, the company has donated hundreds of thousands of products, over a thousand employee hours, and a percentage of sales to charities that help families in need.

The honest truth: It’s working. The Honest Company made $10 million in revenues in 2012–a figure that has ballooned to $150 million in 2014. The company now sells over a hundred different products, and it’s planning to expand to more countries, including China. The Honest Company is now worth $1.7 billion.

That girl kicking butt in the movies? She means business.

Lisa Beebe

Lisa Beebe lives in Los Angeles with Stitch, a one-eyed Maltese dog who is her favorite living creature. She loves writing about creative, inspiring people who are making the world a better place. When she isn't working, Lisa volunteers with WriteGirl, a nonprofit organization that matches women writers with teenage girls for creative writing mentorship.