The Honest Company was founded in 2012 by a Golden Globe-nominated actress who claims that her main interest is being a mom. Honestly. Her company reflects that interest, offering fellow moms socially responsible and sustainable products for their children and their homes.
At the start, people thought Jessica Alba should stick to being an actress, not an entrepreneur. At the very least, she was advised to get into something sexier than non-toxic baby and household products, more like the beauty and lifestyle products offered by the brand-extension ventures of fellow actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.
Instead, Alba pursued her vision and proved the naysayers wrong. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 2014 revenues tripled from the previous year to exceed $150 million. The company is valued at nearly $1 billion and has raised $70 million as it moves towards an IPO, according to Fortune, which named Alba to the magazine’s list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012.
You’d think Alba’s high celebrity profile would have automatically opened doors for her that most other start-ups wouldn’t even get the chance to knock on. In fact, Alba discovered that her connections and Hollywood status were of little or no help.
Her experience launching her company creates a standard script for any successful start-up to follow. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how well you can act a part. It matters whether you can convince people of your vision...and get them to commit money and resources to help you make the vision a reality.
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Jessica Alba & Brian Lee (Image via WSJ blog)
Get a Solid Business Partner
You’re an idea person. Creative people are not necessarily business people. The people you need to fund your creativity and vision are business people. And business people not only like to talk to other business people, but business people they know and respect.
Key to Alba’s success was partnering with a business person with a successful track record (serial entrepreneur Brian Lee, who started LegalZoom.com and ShoeDazzle.com). Unfortunately, business people with successful track records are often bombarded with proposals. Indeed, Lee initially rebuffed Alba’s proposal.
If you’re not seeing something differently than everyone else, then you don’t really have a vision. So if everyone doesn’t see things the way you do, it’s going to take some effort to at least convince them that you could possibly be right. And it’s going to take even more effort to convince them to invest money and resources to help you realize that vision.
So if you get turned down, figure out what the objections are and then address them. Wherever possible, gather allies who, if they can’t lend money, can at least add credibility. Then go back and try, try again.
Alba notes that a lot of people were telling her that she was nuts and there was no way anyone could make money selling non-toxic products online. It took her three-and-a-half years to find the right mix of partners, according to Fortune. Alba advises finding people smarter than you, who understand your weaknesses and complement your strengths.
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Keep it Real, But Stay True to Your Vision
You’re pursuing your dream, but harsh reality butts against it. Alba told Biz Woman that she built the business following her gut. She was advised to market through traditional retail channels, but the idea “didn’t sit right” with her. While going online proved the right choice, there were a lot of unknowns and operational challenges to address.
As you move forward with your business, there will be times when certain notions have to be discarded and you need to work with things as they are. You’ll need to make adjustments. Just make sure your actions still serve the overall vision of where you are headed.
It’s going to be a lot of work. A lot of work. But you’re also going to learn a lot, and have a lot of fun. Enjoy the ride.