We love a mama that takes a personal experience and turns it into a big idea, and big is one word to describe Jessica Alba’s company, Honest. When pregnant with her first child, the actress had an allergic reaction to a detergent that was designed for babies which led her down a google-fueled rabbit hole of research and the realization that gentle and non-harmful ingredients should be a prerequisite for all. One discussion led to another, and before long this mama had pivoted into starting a new career as Founder of one of the fastest lifestyle brands around. We caught up with the mama to three to chat about the launch of her new and improved diapers, her plans for Honest Beauty and what part of her daily routine is driving her absolutely bananas. Read on…
We’re such big fans of Honest and how you turned a desire for wanting the healthiest products for your family into a multi-million dollar business. What has been the hardest thing about moving from actress to Founder? The best?
I mean they are totally different things. So much of the life of an actress is dictated by everything that is out of your control. There is a community of entertainment people that decide whether you are talented or whether you are the “thing” at the moment and it’s so random how it all happens. For every role that you’ve seen me in I’ve had well over a 1000 no’s and rejections. Being an actress is a very solitary and lonely experience but then you have these moments of bliss when you get a job. But, when the job ends and you’re unemployed, you start to wonder if you’ll ever get another job and that’s really hard.
Now, when you start a company, having an idea and actually getting it off the ground is a huge accomplishment. Just going from the stage of “I think this company should exist” to fruition is a big deal. When I first had the idea for Honest, I put together a binder of all of my ideas which was like a real life Pinterest page that showed all the values behind the company and what I was dreaming of. I would sit down with a bunch of people in business and finance that I could get access to and talk to them about this type of company and the best feedback that I would get was, “Doesn’t this already exist?” which showed me it was something that felt really right for people. The next comment was, “That feels like a big idea.” and people thought I should just do one piece of it, not the whole thing. That was the hurdle that I had to overcome. From there, I refined my idea and found the right business partner to bring it to life and help me build a business model around the idea and then helped get money from a third party to invest and launch. The whole process took 3.5 years and in the past 6 years that we’ve been around, the business has changed so much. We were originally just a subscription e-comm business and now we make baby and beauty products and are in stores and online. It’s been such a daunting but great experience. The closest thing I can compare starting a business is to having a child. So much is out of your control but you love it so much and you want to take care of it and nurture it. You’re learning as you’re going.
The closest thing I can compare starting a business is to having a child. So much is out of your control but you love it so much and you want to take care of it and nurture it. You’re learning as you’re going.
All of us on Team HEYMAMA have used your diapers for our kids – the designs are just too irresistible! We can’t wait to get our hands on the newest version that is more absorbent, more soft and dare we say, more adorable?! What was the design process like? How exactly are the new diapers improved from the old?
When I launched the company I was trying to do something that was innovative. I wanted to make a product that used as many naturally derived ingredients as possible but still have the aesthetics that were modern, fun and cute. When I was looking at all the “better for you”, alternative products in the market, I felt like they wanted me to be a hippie or a vegan and live a very beige life. So, when I launched Honest it was still quite unheard of to have a product that was better for you but still aesthetically beautiful, modern and fresh.
I think we’ve done a good job at showing you can have beautiful products that are held to a higher standard and have integrity. Now, the biggest customer feedback that I’ve gotten over the years is that people want a little bit more performance out of the product. We heard that moms wanted our diapers to be more absorbent and softer so that’s exactly what we did. Our new diapers hold 17 times their weight in water so they’re incredibly absorbent and they are also the softest diapers on the market. The material is a bio-based, sustainably harvested, pulp and plant derived material. We wanted to ensure that the majority of the material that is touching your baby is naturally derived vs synthetic which is the mission of our company.
New and improved diapers
How are you involved in the pattern selection each season? Which one is your favorite design?
I work with the creative team and we come up with the concept a year before we launch them. Last year around this time we mapped out 2018 like you do in fashion. We look at fashion trends in women’s wear, children’s clothes, home and design and we gather all of that data. We create approximately 20 concepts from that and ask for feedback from our customers. Once we have 2 or 3 concepts that we all like, we build out a collection that our customers can then use to build their bundles with. There is nothing more important than what our customers tell us and we get really valuable feedback. We know that changing diapers can be kind of brutal so I really wanted to make this task a little more joyful and delightful for parents.
We are all about being real and know how hard parenting is sometimes. Can you share any parenting “disasters” other moms can relate to? Did any of these inspire Honest products?
Yes! I had an Allergic reaction to a laundry detergent that was meant for babies when I was pregnant with my first child and that inspired me to start Honest. I learned that there are a lot of hidden chemicals that can cause reactions even in laundry detergent that are geared towards babies. This reaction and my subsequent research is really what inspired me to start this company.
A more funny anecdote is that I’ve run out of diapers at 2am and my husband and I look at each other like, “what do we do now?” which inspired the subscription model. I’ve also run out of diapers in a restaurant and I had to use my scarf to wrap my baby which was a bit of a nightmare!
As far as products, when I had my first daughter I realized that girls have a lot of creases and it’s hard to clean them properly which inspired the Soothing Baby Bottom Wash. The two-in-one Shampoo + Body Wash was inspired by me taking baths with my kids. It was important that what we could all use the same products. Lots of ideas came out of my personal experiences!
We know that changing diapers can be kind of brutal so I really wanted to make this task a little more joyful and delightful for parents.
Why do you think it’s empowering for women to collaborate and work together? What have you learned most by working with other women/mothers?
I love hiring mothers because they are so efficient and they are really good at managing their time. Mother’s understand that it’s about quality of time, not quantity. I think when you are a parent, you inherently have more compassion and empathy because you know now the sacrifice of loving someone who will never love you as much as you love them – it’s just not possible! So, when you are faced with that harsh reality and you are terrified and your heart is walking around outside of yourself every day, it comes with a layer of understanding that you get being in that situation.
Your own mama served as a huge inspiration for you. What 3 things has your mom passed down to you?
My mom actually works at my office! She is on the education team and she works with Nordstrom, Whole Foods, and BuyBuyBaby to educate their sales people about our company. We are still quite small and scrappy and having her focus on these grass roots efforts is important to our brand.
Seeing my mom’s drive is super inspiring. She’s a hustler, she does not slow down, give up or take no for an answer. If there’s a will there’s a way and Kathy Alba will get it done! She loves a good deal and can haggle like no one else. I never look at a price and think that’s the final price, I’m always trying to figure out how to get a good deal!
Congrats on the birth of your new baby Hayes! Do you have any advice for making each of your three children feel special?
I don’t really know how to juggle three kids because I don’t know if I’m doing a good job! It feels really crazy in the morning and again at night. I think the night is where I struggle the most because my kids are still young enough that they want to have one-on-one bedtime routines from songs and stories to rubbing their backs.
Doing customized bedtimes for 3 which also includes the baby’s baba time is a lot to juggle. I rock my son to sleep since I know he’s my last one which is different than my first two where I just put them down and they fell to sleep.
The girls try to stretch their time out as long as possible with calls for water, more stories, more cuddles… it’s really brutal right now! I know it’ll only last until they’re 13 or 15 but right now it’s pretty crazy. Sometimes I’ll look up and it’s 9pm and I’m so tired and I haven’t eaten yet. I used to be so good with getting everyone down by 7pm!
One thing I did learn now that I have three that I didn’t do as much with two is emphasizing one-on-one time. I work and travel a lot, so I try to bring one kid with me if it’s a short trip. They love the plane rides and sleepovers in the hotel and of course, ordering room service! It’s fun to bring them to work with me because they get to see me in different situations. As a working mom who works and travels a lot, it’s a good way of incorporating my kids in my life.
And then on the weekends, my husband Cash will take one of the kids for a couple hours for lunch and I’ll take another. We try to do that at least once a month with the older kids.
How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you treat yourself?
For me, on Sunday night, I don’t feel bad about letting the kids watch a show on their iPads. I have them go to bed early, set an alarm for 8pm so they know when their time’s up and I can take a bath. I put the baby to bed between 6:30 and 7:00 and I take a bath and do a face mask or hair mask. I really look forward to that once a week.
Sometimes I try to do a work out before the kids get up. I can do a 6am spin class and be home by 7am when they wake up.
We’re all about community here at HEYMAMA and are so thankful for our mama tribe. What does your support network look like and what do they mean to you?
I have a group of women with kids around the same age and we all have different careers. Some are entrepreneurs, some are stay at home moms and it’s nice because we really lean on each other. Our husbands are also friends with each other so we can all hang out and do couples’ date nights and our kids can sleep over at each other’s houses. My kids are friends with my friends’ kids even though they don’t go to school together. It’s nice to have a group of friends that understand what it’s like to be a present mom and also a friend. They’re a little more lenient when you’re trying to juggle it all and you don’t call back right away.
What’s next for you? Any big plans for the second half of 2018?
This diaper launch has been in the works for 2.5 years, from development to packaging to marketing. We’ve also revamped and updated our Beauty line. We have a lot of new innovative products that will be coming out in January 2019. On Honest.com you can now shop baby and beauty which is great. A lot of feedback that I got from customers is that they look to Honest as more of a lifestyle brand and want our products in other parts of their lives. Our customers care about how things are made and they want everything they use to be naturally derived products which is how our Beauty line came to be.
I’m really proud of our Beauty line. Our products can really stand up next to more conventional products when it comes to performance as well which has never really been done in colored cosmetics. Moms especially are craving healthier options. It’s important to note that in a pretty short amount of time by choosing better for you products, eating fresher foods, drinking more water and having less toxic chemicals in your home, you can make drastic changes in your overall well-being.
3 pearls of wisdom
What works for others isn't going to necessarily work for you and your family. Each kid is different.
Stay open to making mistakes and learning from them and moving on. You don’t have to be defined by them and feel too guilty. There is always room for improvement and doing better tomorrow.
Surround yourself with positive people.