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For every headband sold, Headbands for Hope gives one to a child with cancer. Headbands of Hope is a simple accessory that instills confidence in kids battling cancer.
“How you feel about yourself can effect the healing process and overall quality of life.” -Jess Ekstrom, founder
Why does Jess believe this?
Below is a Q&A with Jess Ekstrom, the founder of Headbands of Hope
Turning a summer internship into an organization that changes the world is definitely a rare transition. Tell us the story of your internship and how it sparked the inspiration behind Headbands of Hope.
I was inspired to start Headbands of Hope when I was nineteen. I was interning at a wish-granting organization for kids with life-threatening illnesses. I saw a lot of kids losing their hair to chemotherapy and being given wigs and hats to cover up their heads. A lot of them weren’t concerned with covering up their head, they just wanted something to restore their self-confidence and expression after hair loss. So many of them would wear colorful headbands but no organizations were donating headbands to children’s hospitals.
A 4-year-old girl with brain cancer wished to go to Disney World to meet Sleeping Beauty for her wish. A week before her trip, her cancer took a turn and the doctors sent her home saying she could have her last few weeks with her family.
A couple days later, I showed up on her doorstep dressed as Sleeping Beauty. I brought her a princess dress and crown and read her the story of Sleeping Beauty. A week later, she passed away. Her mother called me saying she was at peace with her daughter’s passing because she knew she got everything she ever wanted: to meet Sleeping Beauty.
At this point, I knew I wanted to take action of my own to help these girls. They’re already risking losing their life, their hair-loss should be the last thing they have to worry about.
How have you found Headbands of Hope has educated consumers on the effects of cancer on young survivors?
I believe Headbands of Hope can also serve as a token of awareness for childhood cancer as well as a conversation starter for parents and kids. We’ve had numerous parents purchase headbands for their kids and tell them what Headbands of Hope does as a way to explain to them what cancer is. They say it’s a really ‘light’ way to introduce such a heavy and hard subject. We want our headbands to get people thinking about how they can make strides against cancer and help.
What organizations have you worked with thus far that you found have made the biggest impact?
The first organization we ever partnered with was the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They host head shavings across the country and raise money for childhood cancer research. They’re a great organization because they donate tons of funding to kids cancer but they do it in a fun way that gets people involved and talking.
Tell us about your Headband Hero program!
One of the biggest questions we get is, ‘How can I get involved?’ Our Headband Hero program is the answer to that! We wanted to create a structured and scalable program that gave people ways to help out and get involved like donating to hospitals, working with influencers, making sales etc. They earn points for all the activities they complete and then they can exchange their points for products!
On top of Headbands of Hope, you are also a motivational speaker. How have you found your experiences and entrepreneurial journey impacts those you engage with, from one-on-one coaching to large conferences and symposiums?
My story of Headbands of Hope really humanizes the entrepreneurial journey. I was a young college student with zero business experience but saw a need that wasn’t being met, so I created a solution. I try to explain through my speaking that problem solving is really what entrepreneurship is. Find areas of need and have the courage to fix them.