Public Appearance > 2014 > Sin City:A Dame To Kill For Los Angeles Premiere
There’s no shortage of Yummy Mummys in Hollywood who have figured out celebrity plus motherhood plus a clever marketing campaign for a family-centric product can equal the beginnings of a business outside of Tinseltown that may have a longer shelf life than the average movie career. From the highfalutin recommendations of Gwyneth Paltrow on her website Goop ($900 throw anyone?) to the train wreck reality television franchise that is Tori Spelling’s life, it seems that virtually every actress in every strata of the entertainment business is developing their personal brand around their experiences as a mother.
And then there’s Jessica Alba.
The 33 year-old actress, who this month stars in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” co-founded The Honest Company, a line of non-toxic, eco-friendly products with Christopher Gavigan in 2012 as an e-commerce site. The company started by selling diapers online but has expanded to include a full line of organic baby and personal care products as well as household items like detergent and stain remover. In its first year, the business raked in $12 million in sales which jumped to $60 million in 2013. The Honest Company is projected to do $100 million this year. In addition to its burgeoning on-line business, The Honest Company’s products are now sold at several major retailers including Target TGT -4.4% (which Alba said was a direct result customers’ request), Costco. Buy Buy Baby, Nordstrom JWN -1.31% and Whole Foods. Alba and her partner have seemingly mastered the entrepreneurial handbook’s three-pronged formula for success : leveraging a likeable, credible celebrity to endorse the brand, identifying and capturing a distinctive and loyal customer base (using a subscription model) and expanding into brick and mortar distribution.
Alba’s star is clearly on the rise in the business world as there has been no shortage of venture capital funding with $6o million raised since the company’s launch. In February, the latest Series A Financing Round raised $8,000,000 with Norwest Venture Partners and Wing Venture Partners earmarked for product development and an expansion of the brand’s partnerships.
Celebrity involvement in their own brands is often limited to camera ready PR campaigns with the requisite appearance on Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood showing the hard working star reviewing clothing lines they say they’ve designed or sitting in a meeting with staffers they don’t even know. Alba, Gavigan and CEO Brian Lee preside over a growing company of 250 staffers (the milestone hiring was trumpeted on their website earlier this month) in Santa Monica which boasts a childcare center for employees with kids. Forsaking a corner office, Alba’s desk at the company’s offices is situated amid the open floor plan occupied by her employees.
On a recent visit to Buy Buy Baby in Westchester County, New York, I stood near the fixture set up for The Honest Company that was stocked with a cross section of products ranging from sunscreen and bug spray to dishwasher pods. The somewhat generic looking packaging had a sunny, Target vibe and the only sign of Alba was on a video playing on a small screen monitor on a shelf amid the product. In the video she explains she and Gavigan created the company “because we had to” when they couldn’t find eco friendly, non toxic products for their own young children. And the end of the video Alba shares what she says is her greatest hope that they “redefine the idea of the family brand.” And just happen to have created a successful business in the process.
Somehow, Alba has managed to crack the code and set herself apart from the rest of the increasingly crowded pack of celebrity entrepreneurs in Mommywood by following these five basic rules:
1) Be Authentic Alba, the mother of two young children, created a company out of her own personal need. She is her customer. In the company video when she says being a parent is “exhausting” and can be “totally overwhelming” you actually believe that she’s speaking from firsthand experience. One customer I spoke to at Buy Buy Baby told me: “She seems genuinely concerned about making something safe for families. That means something to me.” Another added: “She’s not fake. Her name’s not even on the packaging. It’s not about her being a celebrity. It’s about her being a smart mom and I like that.”
2) Use Your Celebrity Judiciously Call her the Anti-Kim Kardashian. Alba is hardly over exposed. Her blend of accessibility (she’s the girlfriend who you meet up at Starbucks with after Soul Cycle) with just the right amount of glamour (red carpet appearances and earnest interviews with InStyle) make her a non-threatening, aspirational role model for modern moms.
3) Don’t pimp out your kids Fans love to see celebrities and their kids but there’s a tipping point. Too much and you can veer into Kate Gosselin territory. Unlike some other high profile Hollywood moms, Alba doesn’t trot out her daughters Honor Marie,6, and Haven Garner, 3, for every photo op. They are not models for the brand. She’ll occasionally mention them in interviews as fans of certain products (lip balm and the hand sanitizing spray) and they appear briefly in the company video, but that’s the extent of it. She’s cleverly given customers just enough information about her home life for them to picture the actress at home using the products without having to stage contrived photos.
4) Be strategic Everything from The Honest Company’s name (We’re trustworthy!) to its list of retail partners (which includes the requisite big box stores for access to an entirely different demographic reached by the upwardly mobile Whole Foods crowd) shows that there is a well thought out vision for the company. Rather than put their name on another company’s product, Alba and Gavigan decided to manufacture all of their own products — a big gamble but one that gives the company more credibility in a crowded field. Earlier this year Gavigan, who calls Alba “a huge asset” said, “We really took time to understand who we were and what the vision was that we wanted to put out in the world.”
5) Be charitable Alba’s activism drives the company’s social component. In the two and a half years since its launch, The Honest Company has donated 540,000 products, over 1,000 employee hours and a percentage of sales to over 100 charities for families in need and invites their customers to support them as well. They have a one-for-one model where they donate a crib for every one purchased (there’s are made of sustainable wood and non-toxic paint and retail for $400) Their website features several feel good videos of Alba and staffers working with kids and families. Doing well by doing good is always in style. And obviously, very good for business.