Honest IPO: Jessica Alba’s Beauty Company On Wall Street

·5 min read

Jessica Alba’s The Honest Co. has landed on Wall Street.

Shares of the clean beauty pioneer shot up 43.8 percent to $23 after the company’s initial public offering on Wednesday.

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That jump valued the company at $2.1 billion on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Now Honest’s market capitalization — the combined value of all of its stock — will float second-by-second as investors make their bets on the future of the company, which is looking to grow through new products, Honest.com and internationally.

“What matters right now are the possibilities this IPO creates for an Honest world,” Alba said. “The team and I are focused on our growth strategy and we are excited to be able to continue to shift the clean lifestyle conversations in the industry — driving our mission forward — inspiring everyone to love living consciously….We’ve grown and learned a lot in just a few short years and today we are a modern brand that consumers love and trust.”

Last year, international sales represented just 2 percent of Honest’s $300.5 million in revenues and the company noted many of Alba’s 39 million social media followers are outside of the U.S., providing a base for expansion.

Nick Vlahos, chief executive officer, who helped the company develop over the past years and prepare it for its public debut, said, “The Honest Co. is a digitally native, mission-driven brand focused on leading the clean lifestyle movement, creating a community for conscious consumers. We are focused on our growth strategy and confident this IPO will enable us to further drive accessibility and product innovation to meet consumers however they want to shop — every day, at every age and through every life stage.”

After the IPO, the company has some more cash — and a new type of liquid currency with its stock — to fuel that growth and move toward profitability (net losses narrowed to $14.5 million last year from $31.1 million in 2019 as gross margins increased 370 basis points).

In an interview with WWD, Kelly Kennedy, chief financial officer, described the offering as “one day in the history of the company.”

“Today was really the beginning,” Kennedy said.

And she noted it was a celebratory beginning as Wednesday was Cinco de Mayo and that Alba is the youngest Latina, at 40, to take a company public.

But now it’s on to the next chapter.

Kennedy said Honest is working to build “the next generation” consumer packaged goods company.

“There’s a lot of CPG out there and it doesn’t tend to have a lot of growth,” she said. “We truly are a lifestyle brand, we’re a portfolio of products and our consumers give us broad license.”

So where consumer product giants often have a host of brands all targeting shoppers independently, Honest is seeking to attract shoppers once and then keep them, moving them into new categories of goods under the same brand umbrella as they grow and form families.

In many ways, the market has come around to where Honest began with an emphasis on “clean” ingredients and digital sales (55 percent of the brand’s revenues form through its own web site and pure play e-commerce sites).

Honest is just the latest company to jump into what has been an outrageously hot stock market, despite the economic pain of the pandemic, by low interest rates, online buying and government stimulus. Dr. Martens, MyTheresa, Poshmark and ThredUp have also taken advantage with offerings of their own while others, such as Warby Parker and Allbirds, are rumored to be weighing their options.

IPO’s are a two-step process with the company and its backers selling stock to large institutional investors at a set price — Honest’s offering priced at $16 a share, the midpoint of its projected range. And then those investors turn around and sell the shares on the open market.

In the offering, Honest sold 6.5 million shares, raising $103.2 million to put to general corporate purposes. But it was private equity firm L Catterton that supplied most of the stock for the IPO, selling 15.5 million shares for $247.2 million.

That makes a good turn for L Catterton, which dubs itself the world’s largest consumer-focused fund and has built a large portfolio of fashion-related companies, most recently adding Birkenstock. L Catterton invested $200 million in Honest in 2018 — meaning it has already more than made its money back and still holds 15.7 million shares, valued at $362 million.

Alba, who founded the company in 2011 and serves as chief creative officer and chair, held on to her 5.6 million shares, which are now valued at $129.8 million.

The firm Alba founded has grown to 191 employees, but she is still the central figure, bringing both her creative chops and her celebrity into the mix.

In its registration statement for the IPO, Honest described Alba as “a globally recognized Latina business leader, entrepreneur, advocate, actress and New York Times bestselling author.”

In addition to serving as an executive, Alba appears in Honest’s marketing and also has a “likeness agreement” with the company that she is able to drop with prior written notice.

“We believe that the success of our brand depends in part on our ongoing affiliation with Jessica Alba,” Honest said.

And now, that success will be tracked constantly by investors and analysts the world over.

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