In this week’s Fit For Business, Well+Good’s co-founder and publisher Alexia Brue sits down with Christopher Gavigan, co-founder and chief purpose officer of The Honest Company, the non-toxic household and personal-care products brand he started with Jessica Alba.
According to Christopher Gavigan, many parents go through a “baby moment”—what he dubs “a great awakening” around the chemicals and toxins that children are exposed to at a very young age. It’s empowering, sure, but also confusing. “You don’t know who to trust,” he says.
He realized this firsthand as executive director and CEO of Healthy Child, Healthy World, a non-profit focused on education around environmental toxins and children. “I was working with other major brands in the cleaning and personal-care space, and I just felt that someone had to do it better,” Gavigan says. So he did.
“I was working with other major brands in the cleaning and personal-care space, and I just felt that someone had to do it better.”
After connecting with Jessica Alba, who was equally passionate about the issue, the duo launched The Honest Company in 2012. Since then the company’s grown to include 450 employees and over 100 products (primarily for kids ands babies—all non-toxic); it’s now valued at over a billion dollars.
Of course, choosing one of the most famous people on the planet to be your business partner and including the word “honest” in your company name invites a greater level of scrutiny (Honest had at least four different lawsuits filed against it in 2016).
But Gavigan completely welcomes the attention. His ethos? “Being positive, passionate, and happy attracts good things—trust me,” he says.
As Well+Good wraps up its first-ever Healthy Pregnancy Guide, Gavigan sits down with our co-founder Alexia Brue to talk about how he says stays true to Honest’s mission—and what it’s really like to work with Jessica Alba.
What led you to the wellness space?
I did my undergrad degree in environmental science, [but] for me it was all about environmental health, which is really the study of your immediate environment. What goes in your body, on your skin, and where you’re living. It’s really the immediacy of the space and how these environmental triggers impact long-term health and wellness—I was fascinated by that!
How did you and Jessica Alba meet?
Jessica and I met at my book launch party in 2008, and she was many months pregnant. She was in a panic because she had just had a horrible allergic reaction to baby laundry detergent and broke out severely. That was a motivating factor for her to come to the book launch party. She said, “Hey, please me help me. We’ve got to figure this out.” She had a vision around organic clothing, and we worked nights and weekends and really developed this concept of a unified brand to really encompass the most important products.
Jessica is incredibly committed to the brand. She feels that this is her life’s work.
We launched with 17 products that we felt were the most core and essential to every family: cleaning, personal care, diapering, and wipes. When we were first conceptualizing the company, we always had a vision to be a modern-lifestyle family brand. We were new parents and really wanted to tap into the fervent insights that consumers had.
What are the pros and cons of having such a famous celebrity as a business partner?
Jessica is incredibly committed to the brand. She feels that this is her life’s work—I’ve heard her say that. She offers a ton of inspiration for culture, the consumer, and the design elements of the business. She’s really a powerhouse when it comes to having a great eye and instinct.
The challenges that we have experienced is that she’ll get great press…and then she’ll get headlines like, “Jessica Alba Burns Babies.” No, Jessica’s not burning any babies. Let’s talk about a product and how it’s being used.
What nourishes you as an entrepreneur and keeps you inspired during stressful times and long hours?
I make it a point to call at least 15 to 25 Honest customers or members every week. That connectivity helps clarify professional efforts—innovations, business challenges—and serves as a huge reminder of why our mission and brand is so needed in the marketplace. It inspires us to keep pushing so that we can be even better for our customers and the community as a whole.
I’m continually inspired by the human element of business. The more humanity present, the more humility I embrace. I’ve got this moral compass—for better or worse—that continually drives my thoughts and actions; an innate desire to be of service. So to feed that, I’m nourished by our community of customers, families, employees, and kids, who are the most vulnerable. My optimism is fed by their stories of success and satisfaction and their desires to raise healthy, happy families.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I can recall receiving was from Michael Cronin, the great creative and brand builder. His contention was that the most vital part of a brand is the tone—how you visually and verbally express the brand—and the feelings it would elicit. It’s where art and science meet.
How do you incorporate wellness into the workplace?
It’s a never-ending journey of betterment. There has been a real magic here at Honest, and as we grow, we realize we have to do more and strive harder to make the experience enriching, unique, and really great to retain top talent. So monthly all-hands gatherings, kombucha on tap (my favorite), healthy snacks and popcorn (Jessica’s favorite), gym membership reimbursements, and the traditional needs of professional development like strong pay and great management are all a must.
Similarly, because we work so hard, we need to always remember to embrace the fun and happiness of our culture—and that starts with empowering people to do the same. This means a ton of athletic engagements, like company-sponsored charity triathlons, crazy dive-bar parties for a much-needed mental and emotional release, and bikes for lunchtime outings. They’re all examples of how we prioritize one of our most valuable assets: our people.
How do you start every day?
Each morning, I make a concerted effort to think about the following: finding gratitude—thankfulness is a habit and a reminder of the importance of each day, each moment. Connecting with a core purpose—everyone’s is different, but it’s a focus on what you’re here to ultimately do. Mine is to be in service to make the world happier, healthier, and better. Choosing happiness—your mindset is critical to how you approach everything in life.
A business owner’s to-do list is always long. What’s your favorite efficiency hack?
I use Evernote and Slack for efficiency tools. I also try to focus on only checking my email in four increments during the day: upon arrival to work, noon, 5 p.m., and at 8 p.m. You could go through your day just responding to emails and not accomplish anything.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work, and the last thing you do before you leave the office?
First thing I do when I get to work is open my second kombucha. And the last thing I do is clean and organize my desk—my OCD runs deep!
Always looking for email efficiency tips? Anna Kaiser’s got a great one. Meanwhile, Reebok’s CEO is all about the midday workout break to boost productivity.