During her junior at North Carolina State University, Jessica Ekstrom experienced a life changing moment that changed the trajectory of her life.
While volunteering for the Make-A-Wish foundation, she would spend time with young children battling life threatening illnesses. One thing she noticed was that young girls who lost their hair from chemotherapy treatment preferred to to wear headbands instead of wigs. Inspired by the courage of the young girls and seeing a void to fulfill their wishes, Jessica created Headbands of Hope.
Established in 2012, this social driven organization creates fun and fashionable headbands. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to childhood cancer research. With such an inspiring purpose, Headbands of Hope has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Vanity Fair, Forbes, Seventeen Magazine and many more outlets.
We spent some time with 23-year-old Jessica to learn more about her path and how she balanced running a business with being a college student.
You started a company while still a college student at North Carolina State. Did you always have entrepreneurial endeavors?
When I was little, my father started his own company. At the time, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of a startup and why he was working so hard to start his own business when he already had a job at another business.
Jumping ahead a few years into his business, we decided to take a family camping trip.
I was unpacking my CD player when my long headphone cord got tangled in a knot. My frustration built the more I tried to untangle this mess. Finally, I snapped, “Why don’t
headphones have a spring roll up cord like a vacuum cleaner?” Then I thought to myself, “Wait – can I invent that?!” My dad is a generally goofy guy, so when his face looked serious and he told me to sit down, I thought I was in trouble. He took my hand and looked me in the eye and said, “Jess, that’s already been invented. But I want you to keep thinking that way.” So I did.
From then on, I started thinking about what could be done better. What could be more efficient. Where are there gaps that could be filled, I didn’t really have the mindset that I was going to start a business, but rather the mentality that I wanted to solve problems. So when I saw the need for headbands for kids with cancer, Headbands of Hope was born.
How did you successfully balance being a college student and running a growing business?
Hear more of Jess’ and the Headbands of Hope story on campus.about.me.
Antonio Neves is the Director of Higher Education for about.me. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter at @TheAntonioNeves.