Inside Jessica Alba’s Billion Dollar Business

Early on in her career, actress Jessica Alba was known as “the hot girl” or simply “the girlfriend” in a lot of the films she starred in. For many years, she was marketed as the “it” girl, but eventually that fizzled out, and Alba emerged as a powerful entrepreneur.

Making that transition wasn’t the easiest thing to do, given how she was seen in the public eye. Alba sat down with Forbes to discuss her company, Honest, and how she managed to get the ball rolling on a business that’s now worth $1 billion.

In a candid interview, Alba said, “People just saw me as this girl in a bikini in movies kicking butt—maybe not the brightest bulb.” She continued, “It took three and a half years of condescending nods and pats on the back… They were just like ‘You idiot, how are you going to do this? Go back to like endorsing things. Go do a perfume.'”

And what she built in three years is incredibly impressive. Alba, who is mother to daughters Honor and Haven, went on to establish a company that took in $10 million in 2012 all the way to $150 million in 2014, and now in 2015 it’s a billion dollar company.

So what worked for Jessica Alba’s Honest company? Well, according to the businesswoman, it was the doubt and preconceived notions. She said she “needed people telling me no.” She continued, “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.”

In case you aren’t aware, the Honest Company was started after she gave birth to her first daughter in 2008. Honest is about providing healthy eco-aware products for children, and to make them affordable to everyone. The products are all about health and sustainability.

In the mission statement, Alba stated, “When I became a mom, I finally became the person I am, that I always should have been,” she says. “It’s the most satisfying job in the world. But, it can also be overwhelming and confusing. I created The Honest Company to help moms and to give all children a better, safer start.”

As for what she thinks of herself, when asked if she feels smart, Jessica said, “Yeah, I think I’m, um, you know, I’m not the smartest, but I try. I’m here at the Forbes summit, I’m talking to you guys—I was on the cover of Forbes. That’s so cool!”

[Photo by Thos Robinson / Getty Images]