Jessica Alba is using her star power to launch a brand new e-commerce business – Honest.com that sells eco-friendly baby products. Through an innovative business model for safe baby stuff, Alba has shown some keen business acumen.
She says the idea was born after she learned that toxic chemicals are widely used in everyday products. What shocked her was the fact that only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in US products have been adequately tested for safety.
“I would buy what I thought was like an eco-brand and pay out the wazoo for it and then find out that it’s made with the same ingredients as any other brand, but the packaging is a little more biodegradable and you’re like ‘But I care about the product touching my kid. Is that OK?'”
The business is based on a subscription service. To make a purchase, consumers sign up on Honest.com and choose from subscription packages for products including diapers, shampoo and laundry detergent. The products are then delivered monthly to the buyer’s door.
Cool idea. While reading about her company, I found some great takeaway points for budding eco-entrepreneurs. Here goes:
Your Story Is Your Biggest Sales Pitch
Jessica Alba founded the company as a natural progression to her own concerns as a new mom. Her pitch – a personal experience, is a powerful one. Customers can identify with her business because they can understand her point of view. Nobody needs any more convincing. And though there are similar baby product alternatives in the market, who would you trust more for safer alternatives – a founder with young babies or a CEO with an unknown story?
Know Your Competition, Be Ready for Comparisons with Conventional Products
When you sell “green and safe” stuff, you are ALWAYS asked – “How much does it cost compared to conventional products?”. A lot of eco-entrepreneurs do not have hard data or information on the competition. Alba’s business goes so far to compare their line-up to other similar green and conventional products available in the market, right on the website. Entrepreneurs must foresee these kinds of questions and prepare a strong business case. Cost matters to most people. Address that issue upfront.
Another great point that comes through from the website is the fact that the company is proud to detail its products. It shows that the company is confident about the honesty of its products. For instance the ingredients in the bath and body products are clearly listed – both chemical and every day names are given so you feel like you reading a chemical lab supply list. Transparency can distinguish your business from your competitors and can avoid negative press or publicity.
Gather Consumer Feedback
The Honest Company is offering a free discovery kit of the subscription offers (you pay $4.95 shipping and handling) to customers wanting to try the products. When you sign up, you answer a few questions on what is important to you as buyer. This a very smart way of getting customer feedback that can help you design better products and improve your business. Offering a little freebie to welcome customers is not a bad idea either.
Identify a Social Mission
Alba has worked to support for the proposed Safe Chemicals Act, which would require products to be tested for chemicals before they are sold and would have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test products already on the market. The federal legislation has been criticized by the American Chemistry Council, which says the safety standards the measure proposes are “unachievable.” What does this demonstrate? A desire to offer the safest products – both for people and the product.
She also supports a non-profit called Baby2Baby, that supplies Los Angeles families in need with essential baby gear and clothing for their children 0-4 years old. Doesn’t it all come together in a holistic and trustworthy kind of way. Sure does. Actions like these prevent greenwashing claims and build credibility.
Green entrepreneurs – do you have other tips to share from your successful business?