Jessica Alba

Actress, entrepreneur and EW Woman Of The Week Jessica Alba has told the Forbes Women’s Summit how she went from being dismissed as “not the brightest bulb” to heading up a billion dollar business. Her start-up The Honest Company, a line of non-toxic household products, has been valued at US$1billion.

As answers to your critics go, turning a small start-up into a billion dollar business in the space of just three years is pretty hard to beat.

It’s why Jessica Alba should be feeling mighty pleased with herself this week, after being asked to deliver the keynote speech at the Forbes Women’s Summit on the back of the success of The Honest Company, the line of non-toxic household products she launched in 2012. Under her direction, revenues have soared from US$10million in 2012 to US$150million last year.

The actress told how her roles in action flicks like Sin City and Fantastic Four saw her dismissed as “this girl in a bikini… not the brightest bulb”, and described enduring three-and-a-half years of “condescending nods and pats on the back” as she strove to grow her business.

Jessica Alba

Savvy: Actress Alba now heads up a billion dollar company

Alba, a 34-year-old mother of two, said she was told to try endorsing products or launching a fragrance as she pursued her goal of providing chemical-free alternatives to major household brands, and encouraging more openness generally around ingredients. The actress hit on the idea when she developed a rash on her arms from using a mainstream baby detergent, and discovered the lack of regulation surrounding the contents of cleaning products.

The movie star turned entrepreneur made no apologies for her choice of acting roles, pointing out that her decisions were financially rather than creatively driven. “I made a lot of money in entertainment at a very young age and I saved it,” said Alba, who used her own savings to launch The Honest Company.

The former FHM Sexiest Women In The World may be savvier than its readers gave her credit for, but she’s not letting the success of The Honest Company go to her head. She said of overseeing its lightning fast trajectory: “For me, as a person at home with my kids? It’s crazy. It’s awesome.”

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