”People Just Saw Me As A Girl In A Bikini” – Read How Jessica Alba Became A Billion Dollar Businesswoman
In a day and age where people equate fame, followers and ‘popularity’ to wealth (perception vs. reality) it’s refreshing to know that a lot of hard work and a little ‘Honesty’ still does go a long way.. and we mean “money-long” way.
Thanks to her new business, ‘The Honest Company,’ which was recently valued to be worth a billion dollars. Actress Jessica Alba has nearly secured a top spot on FORBES’ “America’s Richest Self-Made Women,” list and it’s not quite for what you might think. The 34-year-old actress, known notoriously for her breakout role on the short-lived FOX show Dark Angel, and her countless movie gigs thereafter (Fantastic Four, Honey, etc), is now said to be worth $200 million- that’s $50 million shy of joining the ranks of Beyonce and Judge Judy, who are both tied at #49, at $250 million a pop. Not bad for the girl who admitted that she saved up her acting money in her 20’s because she wasn’t sure how long she’d keep a job, and that coming from a family where her parents fought to keep the lights on, she had a plan to never return to broke.
However, work fortunately did continue to come, but since trading in her 90 hour Hollywood work week for a desk, Jess is now less stressed, more blessed and even further, the wealthiest she’s ever been. But you too would swap the silver screen for an office chair if you were sitting on a cool $200 million. (She now has a 15-20% stake in the company which is backed by investors).
So where did the major coinage pour-in?…continue to find out
It wasn’t from acting! In 2008, Jessica launched ‘The Honest Company,’ an organic and eco-friendly line of baby and household products. Her decision to develop the organic products came after she experienced an outbreak of redness and welts on her skin during her pregnancy as a direct reaction to her laundry detergent which contained chemical-based ingredients.
She started considering the contents of the products under her kitchen sink for the first time.
“I read the box and I couldn’t figure it out,” she said. “I went online and researched, and figured out this particular detergent was very different in 1981 when my mother used it on me.”
Having spent half of her childhood in the hospital due to being prone to allergies, outbreaks and an iffy-immune system, Jessica started researching what things were actually in some of her household products, only to be appalled by the long-list of toxic ingredients they contained.
Long story short, after failed attempts to create her own stuff at home for personal use, Jessica began researching and using the help of researchers, to get a better grasp of “going green,” (and no, not the money part… yet.) This turned into Jess stumbling across everything from a shortage of truly organic baby products to the 1976 “Toxic Substances Control Act,” which has allowed more than 80,000 chemicals to remain in household products untested- only five are actually regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency; and just 11 are banned from consumer goods. (In Europe that figure is more than 1,300.)
“Bringing these items into our homes is such an intimate thing, to put it next to your newborn child,” she said. “My mother had cervical cancer at 23. My grandmother died of stomach cancer. I grew up with people being ill. This has got to stop. My friends in their 20s shouldn’t have a hard time getting pregnant.”
Alba also spoke of early setbacks during the The Honest Company’s launch.
“We launched with a beta website that could have crashed at any minute,” she said. In the first five weeks, the company sent out its signature bundles of diapers and baby wipes without charging any credit cards. “I mean, that’s enough to put you out of business,” she joked.
|Jessica Alba Honest Company|
The wife and now mommy of two is currently in the process of reforming this act but in the meantime, she has launched ‘Honest,’ which supplies the needs for everything from biodegradable diapers delivered to your door steps to affordable and less-hazardous ‘Honest’ cleaning supplies.
And well, safety sells!
Now, 3 years since the company first started selling product, ‘The Honest Company’ went from hitting $10 million in annual revenue in 2012, to an insane estimated $250 million this year (80% of revenue comes from its monthly subscription service), and it’s now worth almost a billion dollars. During Forbes Women’s Summit this week, Jessica opened up about her success, saying:
People just saw me as this girl in a bikini in movies kicking butt — maybe not the brightest bulb. It took 3 and half years of lots of condescending nods and lots of pats on the back like, ‘good luck,’ like, ‘You idiot. How are you going to do this? Go back to endorsing things. Go do a perfume!’
I needed more people to tell me no. I needed people to not get it and look at me cross eyed for me to really figure out exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.
It’s something I had to learn as a woman in business. To ask for help and to not be afraid of criticism. And when you don’t know what to do, to be okay with not knowing [but learning]. And to not be defined by your mistakes. There are challenges, there are roadblocks, there are mountains. And you just have to figure it out. You just have to be malleable and surround yourself around really smart people. And I didn’t think I was smart for a really long time.
Do you think you’re smart now?
Yes. I think I’m [ok]. I’m not the smartest, but I try. I’m here at the FORBES summit and I’m talking to you ladies. And I’m on the cover of FORBES!
“I made a lot of money in entertainment at a very young age and I saved it,” she said, describing the roles she took in her twenties as rooted in financial rather than creative decisions. “I just needed to make as much money as quickly as possible, knowing it was going to go away at some point. I was very deliberate about it.”
“They just didn’t know how they were going to keep the lights on,” she said. “I didn’t want to live like that.”
“One billion feels like a small number for the opportunity of what’s possible,” she said. “For me, as a person at home with my kids? It’s crazy. It’s awesome.”
So how does this apply to us? Well, because in 2015, we live in a time where most billionaires are actually self-made, and not trust-fund babies or heirs to cash.
According to professor Steven Kaplan of Chicago University:
Who is Getting Most Paid: Most individuals on the Forbes’ 400 list did not inherit the family business but rather, they made their own fortune. Kaplan found that 69 percent of those on the list in 2011 started their own business, compared with only 40 percent in 1982. And that only about 31% of individuals on the list today came from “old money”
Where is the Money Coming From: Between 1982 and 2011, more individuals involved in retail, restaurants, computer technology, and private finance entered the list than ever before. Technology has become more important even in companies other than the computer industry (i.e.: selling stuff online, web apps, etc!)
What Did They Do for the Money: Most of those on the Forbes 400 became rich by applying their ideas in industries where new technologies and effective ideas allowed room for growth and profit.
Take ‘Nasty Gal’ founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso, who, by 28, had grown an Ebay store made popular through her Myspace page in 2007, to a company that had grown to a $100 million-plus online fashion retailer by 2012. The daughter of Greek immigrants, Sophia, who’d worked since 14 and had already had 10 jobs by 22, admits that she never witnessed anyone in her family work for a “salary,” in her life, and all she knew was work hard to barely get by.
So she continued to make her money the honest way: through effort and ‘supply and demand.’ As a source of extra income, she started buying and selling clothes online. People wanted to shop and to feel good about shopping, which she knew through her past experiences in retrial, so she created a fun online shopping space and simple e-commerce service (i.e. using Ebay), initially just to afford her rent. However, between that and priding herself on good customer service, Sophia is now sitting on a gold mine.
Sophia Amoruso GirlBoss Book 2
So what are some tips to take from this:
Invest in Yourself: Whether or not you have access to the money, we all have access to the information. One of the biggest mistakes onlookers can make when reading on a self-made milli-or-billionaire is to automatically think that they can’t relate to the person because they are already rich. When in reality, most started out just like you- so they are exactly who you want to take notes from. Growth comes from looking up, and not just looking around you. Nasty Gal’s Sophia’s book, #Girl Boss, may be a start, as it explains her journey to fashion phenom, with added tips on how to go from rags to rich!
Profit from Your Passion: Passion increases your chances of reaching a place of wealth, because the road to riches is not hardly ever a short one, and patience is definitely needed to put up with the trials and errors. But if you are doing something that you would do even if you weren’t getting paid for it, the incentive of money, although pretty amazing, is secondary to the incentive of living and working your purpose. cc: Oprah and Beyonce
Fulfill a Need for Consumers…. or Create One: Before Oprah, women didn’t know they could use a woman who looked just like them to take advice from. We were always taught that our advice came from men of a certain age or appearance, in media. Then Oprah stepped into our lives and spoke to us, and through us, in a way that would change the history of media forever.
Sell What You know and Love: Similar to Jessica Alba’s brand’s namesake, ‘Honest,’ you have to make sure whatever you do is true to you too. Selling what you know is always easier than selling what you don’t, because you will always be speaking and selling from a place of experience with the product.
At the end of the day, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. Not everyone is equipped for selling out arenas, nor are they hip to public speaking or starting ‘Start Ups.’ But everyone, who is anyone willing to do so, can work their butt off.
Oh, and FYI- Your ‘D.I.Y‘ is nothing to sleep on- so don’t shy away from your creativity. What might be your meal ticket now can be your lottery ticket later.
Now, go brainstorm about a billion!
Ironically, despite being the cover girl for the America’s Richest Self-Made Women issue, Alba just missed out on making Forbes’ top 50.
Oprah Winfrey is the highest-placed celebrity at five with a net worth of $3 billion, while Madonna is at 28 with $520 million (£325 million), and Beyonce ties with TV’s Judge Judy for 49th place, with $250 million (£156 million).
Watch Jessica speak at the Forbes Summit below