“A few years ago, I had an idea for a company that would be the trusted lifestyle brand for millennial families, like mine,” began Jessica Alba, actress, author, entrepreneur and key presenter at the Independent School Alliance’s annual Impact Awards at the Beverly Wilshire on Tuesday night.
“I wanted effective, safe, beautifully designed products that are convenient to get. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?, I thought,” she posed to a ballroom full of benefactors backing education and diversity, including Stacy Keibler, John Legend and Lisa Loeb. “My husband Cash, who’s here, he knew just the right person to help make my dream a reality. (Brian Lee) was an entrepreneur on the digital frontier, and with two successful businesses under his belt, he definitely knew what people wanted,” she decreed. Then she delivered a surprise: “So I pitched him my idea, and he turned me down.”
However, the California native and mother to two daughters revisited and refined her plan for the Honest Company — which would deliver safe, eco-friendly baby goods to parents’ doorsteps — and reapproached Lee. “Okay, he wasn’t the first or the last person to turn me down,” Alba confessed, “but he would be the first and only person that was truly capable of seeing it through. He made my vision into a sustainable business that would change the way people approach their everyday needs.”
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Lee, who’s also behind LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle — and who’s earned leading entrepreneur distinctions from Forbes and Ernst & Young — along with wife Mira, received the Alliance’s 2015 Visionary Award from Alba (“I’ll get you some more shares in the Honest Company!” Lee quipped). Honoree Irwin Gold, executive director of Houlihan Lokey, was similarly recognized for being an outstanding member of the Los Angeles community at the honorary anniversary dinner gala emceed by Fox 11 News anchor Jeff Michael. Now in its 30th year, the Independent School Alliance is a group of 54 private, independent elementary and secondary schools in Southern California that advocate for diversity in the classroom.
“It’s a pathway to success for a lot of people, a way to break the cycle of poverty,” said recent Oscar winner and learning proponent Legend, who sat chummily at a table beside Alba and Warren. “I try to support the education cause as much as I can,” the University of Pennsylvania graduate told Variety.
“For me, growing up, education was one of the main values in my household,” noted Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Loeb, who performed platinum-selling hit song “Stay” along with a new number, about a disappointed pancake, geared toward children. “I went to an all-girls private school growing up, and then went to Brown University. My parents always stressed education as a way to connect with other people, as a way to communicate, as a way to be excited about the world and learning, not just in a classroom, but in general.”
These days, Loeb, mother of two (“a 5-year-old, who’ll be in kindergarten next year, and a little boy who will be 3 in June”), has directed her efforts toward the younger set. “I’ve had a couple of kids records, as well as a couple of illustrated books with CDs that come with them, and I have a musical opening on Saturday in New York City at the Atlantic Theatre,” she said of the new show she co-wrote called “Camp Kappawanna,” a “summer camp musical” inspired by her summer camp record “Camp Lisa.”
“I went to camp and loved summer camp,” explained Loeb, growing visibly nostalgic about her experience at a camp outside of Austin, Texas. “And just as education is important to me, I feel like (camp is) a place where kids can really learn to be themselves, understand what independence is in a safe place, learn how to connect with a community, learn how to be a great leader, and try things they haven’t tried before.”
(Pictured: Actress Jessica Alba at the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs Impact Awards Dinner)