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Jessica Alba

It’s difficult to imagine the athletic and beautiful Jessica Alba, with her virtuous hot-yoga California lifestyle, as being a sickly child but illnesses – many of which she now puts down to partly being caused by allergies and asthma – meant she spent a lot of time in hospital.

Pregnant with her first child, Honor, in 2008 her friends threw her a baby shower. Washing her unborn child’s Babygro in detergent, Jessica Alba broke out in hives and became hysterical. Her allergic reaction triggered her memories of all that time she spent in hospital.

Alba remembered: “I was thinking, what if my baby has a reaction and I don’t know? What if her throat is closing? I had all this fear and anxiety because I was always so sick as a child.”

That night she Googled every detergent ingredient and discovered that some toxins can be labelled as “fragrance.” Her vision was clear: she would create a company that offered an alternative to commercial baby products with ingredients such as petrochemicals and synthetic fragrance.

“I wanted safe and effective consumer products that were beautifully designed, accessibly priced, and easy to get,” she said.

‘I just knew in my heart that this company should exist,” Alba told People magazine. “If people knew that they could take their health and wellness into their own hands and make better choices, why wouldn’t you? The hardest part was probably getting it off the ground.”

However, the first investors she approached did not share her vision. “Actresses are used to rejection,” she told Vanity Fair.

The Fantastic Four star co-founded The Honest Company in 2012 after consulting author Christopher Gavigan, whose book Healthy Child Healthy World listed the range of toxins children are exposed to in traditional household products.

Despite advice that she should start small with a singular focus, Alba launched the company with 17 products and, like other entrepreneurs, found those first years a slog.

“Every detail mattered. So I didn’t sleep very much, and worked weekends and obsessed,” she admitted.

Today, The Honest Company sells all kinds of baby, beauty and wellness products and advertises them as being eco-friendly thanks to a list of over 2,500 chemicals which it refuses to use in its products.

“No one believed I could do it in the first place,” Alba added. “If you’re doing something that you haven’t done, or has never been done before, what do you really have to lose?”

The Honest Company went public in the US in May 2021 with a valuation of $1.44bn, with Forbes calling Jessica Alba AMERICA’S RICHEST SELF-MADE WOMAN.

And Jessica Alba has good advice for other entrepreneurs starting out.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it. You have to be a little bit crazy; you have to have gumption and tenacity,” she said. “A lot of people give up at the first roadblock. But, for entrepreneurs, if there isn’t another road, we create it. We break concrete; we throw dynamite; we figure it out.”

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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