The Honest Company’s New CEO Talks Growth Opportunities, Jessica Alba at the Business Table
Carla Vernón has been named CEO of The Honest Company, a move that doesn't just make headlines for the manufacturer of baby products, personal care, and beauty items. It's an important milestone for the business world: Carla is just one of a handful of Afro-Latina women to hold the top spot at a U.S. public company. Here, Carla chats with Beauty News about her new role, which takes effect January 9, and what she sees as the biggest opportunities for Honest, which was founded by Jessica Alba, who plays an active role in the company as Chief Creative Officer.
PUBLISHED December 14, 2022
By Andrea Nagel
Carla Vernón first discovered The Honest Company at a baby shower in 2017. It was then when Carla, who was named CEO of the baby and beauty company on Tuesday, December 13, realized how loyal the brand’s customers can be about its items. Particularly its diapers.
“I was at a baby shower for my kids’ godmother. I have a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old. They are too old to have been Honest babies. But at this baby shower I saw something I had never seen before, which was a little stack of diapers in the shape of a cake. I thought to myself, ‘They like these diapers so much that they actually used them for decorations?’ That’s what hit me. I’ve been a brand builder my whole career. So, if you’re a brand builder and you go to a party and you see a diaper cake, you’re like, okay, something’s happening here.”
It was later as Vice President of Consumables Categories at Amazon when Carla really became familiar with the company’s portfolio.
“As a business partner of the Honest team, I got reintroduced to the business and the expansion of the portfolio. In those meetings you get a chance to try and test the products. So right away I was on board to helping be a growth accelerator and a champion of the brand. And when the opportunity came to have a new conversation with the Honest team about leadership, it was such a fit because I was already a fan of the brand,” Carla said.
Carla’s role as head of the public company, which in 2021 generated $318.6 million in sales, takes effect January 9. The appointment makes Carla one of a handful of Afro-Latina women overseeing a U.S. public company. Among the 10 executive positions at Honest, six are now held by women; 50 percent of the company’s board is made up of women and people of color.
Investment bank Jefferies issued a note on the news, stating that the hire “will be a positive for the company as it expands into new categories and distribution.”
Carla replaces Nick Vlahos, who has served as CEO of Honest for more than six years. Nick’s accomplishments include strengthening the business’s fundamentals, leading the company’s successful initial public offering, and significantly expanding the Honest brand in omnichannel and global markets. Nick will remain on the company’s Board of Directors.
Carla is a familiar face in beauty with more than 20 years’ experience. At Amazon, Carla is credited with achieving double-digit topline growth and building out Amazon’s virtual beauty experience, such as implementing virtual try-on, and growing its portfolio of emerging prestige beauty brands. Prior to Amazon, Carla was at General Mills for 20 years where she held various leadership roles, including Division President of its Natural & Organic business, a portfolio with more than $1 billion in sales.
Carla said she is looking forward to working with Jessica Alba, Honest’s founder and Chief Creative Officer, who she knew from the get-go was an instrumental part of the company’s leadership team.
“Jessica was at my very first business meeting with Honest. She is amazing. If you follow her on social media, you will see she just recently posted pictures meeting with the Walmart team, going in stores, setting up the displays for the new distribution there. So, it was no surprise to me that she’s very involved in the company because I met her around a business table where she was talking about business matters. Her standards are high; she knows the business from end to end because she truly helped build every aspect of the company’s structure and strategy…Jess is a formidable business leader. And I look forward to hearing more of her ideas and inspiration,” Carla said.
Much of Carla’s onboarding will include meeting with stakeholders and the team in greater depth, visiting retailers, and listening to customers.
She’s also identified several obvious growth levers.
“The first one is that Honest is only in 5 percent of U.S. households…I come from the world of big national brands, so I know the importance of making sure that marketing awareness and brand engagement is there. Nowadays there are new ways to do that that are a perfect fit for a company like Honest, which was born in the social media age. Another area is distribution. We need to make sure that whenever you show up in an aisle, you have the chance to buy an Honest product. And right now, we’re only in about slightly more than half of retail outlets.”
Another is innovation, including improving on products that are already in market, as well as creating new innovations in new categories, Carla said.
Honest reiterated its first half 2023 guidance and will update for the full year following its fourth quarter earnings call, which is scheduled for March 2023. First half revenue is estimated to increase between 7 percent and 10 percent as a result of distribution gains and recent price increases.
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