Honest Company’s new CEO has a plan to boost the brand’s $3 share price

December 14, 2022, 1:45 PM UTC
Carla Vernón, the new CEO of the Honest Company
Courtesy of The Honest Company

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A Senate investigation finds inmate abuse at the majority of federal prisons; antiabortion activists are targeting abortion pills; and the new CEO of the Honest Company tackles a challenging market environment.

Honest work The Honest Company, the personal care and consumer goods brand founded by actor Jessica Alba, went public in May 2021. Its shares popped 40% on the first day of trading, raising more than $400 million.

But the market has taken a dramatic turn since then, and today the Honest Company’s shares are trading at around $3, down 82% from their IPO price. That’s a challenging market response for the company—and it hopes a new CEO will help navigate the tough climate.

Carla Vernón, a longtime General Mills executive who for the past two years has worked as a VP overseeing the consumables category at Amazon, will be the Honest Company’s next CEO, the company announced yesterday. She takes over from CEO Nick Vlahos and will continue to work alongside Alba, who serves as chief creative officer. The share price, low as it is, rose 11% yesterday on Honest’s announcement.

“I have the foundational principles in place. I know the market is ready for us,” Alba told me yesterday. “I believe that Carla is the visionary that will be able to take us to this next stage to really stand up.”

Carla Vernón, the new CEO of the Honest Company
Courtesy of The Honest Company

Vernón calls herself a “CPG geek,” referring to consumer packaged goods. At General Mills, she oversaw everything from family cereals to organic products. At Amazon, she stocked Honest products on the e-commerce giant’s storefront.

Vernón pins the company’s share price on external trends. While Honest might seem a prime target for a take-private deal, Vernón says the company’s “road map continues to be the road map that we have communicated to investors.”

“The entire sector of emerging businesses that launched at that time have had external market pressures on them—externalities that are separate from the actual fundamentals or performance of the business,” she says.

Still, she has a strategy to address the challenges that are in her control.

At the moment, Honest products are in 53% of retailers and 5% of households. Vernón will aim to grow both those percentages; at General Mills, she worked for brands that were in three-quarters of U.S. households. She sees beauty as a category ripe for growth, compared with Honest’s diapers and wipes, which already have a higher market share. She plans to tap into Alba’s strengths as a voice for the brand. And she wants to explore new categories for existing Honest customers.

Vernón’s new role makes her a rare Afro-Latina CEO of a publicly traded company. “Growing up the daughter of an immigrant and a mother who was from the segregated South…gave me a tenacity to know that just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean now is not the time for it to be done. And maybe I’m just the person to do it,” she says. “Being an Afro-Latina leader is about the fact that we are a combination of things. So often, we get asked to simplify ourselves to one thing. I try to champion anyone who sees themselves as more than one thing.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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