During the summer of 2011, Jess Ekstrom participated in an internship at a wish-granting organization for kids with life-threatening illnesses. During this incredible experience, she quickly discovered that there were so many small things that made such an immense impact. One of the things that impacted her personally was the idea that kids loved to wear headbands after losing their hair to chemotherapy, yet all she could find was donations of hats and wigs.
Armed with inspiration, she spent her junior year at North Carolina State University developing her company, Headbands of Hope, a mission-driven brand geared toward both women and children. For every headband sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer. By the time she graduated, she had donated thousands of headbands to kids with cancer and was elected to give the commencement speech at her graduation to 20,000 people.
Along with her business, her message started to spread across America. In just over two years, she’s spoken to over 100 campuses, conferences and businesses totaling over 100,000 people. She believes age should never stop anyone from going after their dreams and becoming leaders in their communities. Sharing her experiences, Jess inspires listeners to crush stereotypes, identify their purpose, and create their own definition of success.
Today, Headbands of Hope is in over 800 stores across the United States and Canada. They’ve been featured on the TODAY Show, Forbes, Seventeen, Vanity Fair, People Magazine, Good Morning America and the headbands have been worn and supported by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, Lea Michele, Molly Sims, Tiffani Thiessen and more. But their biggest accomplishment has been donating headbands to every children’s hospital in America.
In the past year, the company has launched impact initiatives such as their #BandTogether program where they partner with a childhood cancer charity for a week at a time and donate proceeds from sales to their mission. They’ve also joined hands with art therapy by having the patients create their own headbands with the flower crown kits they provide.
Headbands of Hope will also be sponsoring a prom for current and former patients at Duke Children’s Hospital in Spring 2017.
Jess believes entrepreneurship can be the fastest vehicle to create change. She’s passionate about supporting college startups, millennial entrepreneurs, and socially responsible companies and looks forward to continuing to find new ways to do so.
Head Bands of Hope
Founder + CEO
310 S. Harrington St. Raleigh, NC 27603