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‘I've made people cry’; Jessica Alba on being a tough boss at The Honest Company

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You may know Jessica Alba as a Hollywood starlet, but her nine to five job is to run her successful environmentally-friendly baby and home brand The Honest Company.

The business, which she launched in 2012 with environmental-health expert Christopher Gavigan, is now worth almost $1 billion (£650 million), employs 338 people at its office in Santa Monica, California, and sells 117 products and counting. 

While Alba often gives her Instagram followers a glimpse into her office life, we know little about what kind of boss she is, until now. In a new interview with More magazine, Alba reveals she's often a blunt and ruthless manager. 

“Sometimes I'm a little more iron fist than velvet glove,” says the 34-year-old. “I'm straight to the point. I've made people cry. I have to say, 'This isn't personal. This is what needs to get done, and it's just as simple as that. And... we're not crying anymore.' I'm learning to tone myself down.”

Alba says her mother Catherine Jensen calls her “a workaholic control freak”. 

The Golden Globe-nominated actress has starred in blockbusters such as Fantastic Four and Sin City as well as television hits Dark Angel and Entourage, and says her career in entertainment is far easier than the one she's carved out for herself in retail. 

“Being an actress is like a vacation; business is relentless,” she says. “People work hard here. It's nice to be around people who are so committed.”

Jessica Alba poses proudly with her products

Jessica Alba poses proudly with her products

While Alba might be a hard-hearted manager, The Honest Company office, in contrast, is calm and welcoming. Formerly a toy factory, the building has wood feature walls, exposed brick and a floor-to-ceiling display of plants sprouting from little pots.

“Sometimes my CFO gets irritated about it,” Alba said on the wall of greenery. “Someone has to come every week to water and put them in the sun for a day, and that costs money.”

But the aesthetic of a workplace is important to the star. “We needed something alive. We couldn’t just have pretty pictures,” she explains. “And so when he’s like, ‘Do we really need the live succulents?’ I say, ‘Yes, yes, we do.’”

Alba's husband Cash and two daughters surprise her at the Honest offices on her birthday this week

Alba's husband Cash and two daughters surprise her at the Honest offices on her birthday yesterday

As a woman working primarily with senior male staff, Alba says she faces challenges. "My [business] partners are men. Whenever I say something that's kind of against their intuition, they go back and talk to their wives. And then their wives usually agree with me. So that's how we get stuff done over here."

Alba revels in the challenge of building her business, her film career and family - she has two daughters, Honor and Haven, with movie producer husband Cash Warren.

"I didn't want to wake up and kick myself for not pursuing something I believed in. I couldn't wait to reject the status quo, punch it in the face and kick it to the curb." 

Alba lets us in on a meeting at the office

Alba lets us in on a meeting at the office

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