Goal Diggers this episode is a beautiful story of how you can make a profit AND an impact. Today we are talking to the beautiful and brilliant Jess Ekstrom, the founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, a company she started as a junior in college in 2012. For every headband sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer. The company has been featured on the TODAY Show, Vanity Fair, Seventeen, Good Morning America and People Magazine.
These headbands have been worn and supported by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, Lea Michele, and so many more! But most importantly, they’ve donated over 200,000 headbands to every children’s hospital in the United States and 15 countries. Jess was named the Women’s Health Magazine Ultimate Game Changer in 2017 and also received ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award from Atlantic BT. AND A Huffington Post article named her a “limit breaking female founder”.
In this episode, you’ll find out that you shouldn’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference. She’s passionate about helping others find those collision points and live a more purposeful life. Goal Diggers, without further adieu, Jess Ekstrom!
FINDING “YOUR THING”
Think of those moments when you feel so connected to what you are doing, and you just know you’re on the right path. For Jess, it was turning in-hospital visits while interning at Make A Wish that she just felt so aligned and on fire for her work. She sais she just knew inside that was her calling, and thus, Headbands Of Hope was created!
Jess faced a MAJOR challenge right out the gates of starting her business (You have to tune in to hear this story… it rocked my world), but she just knew that wasn’t how the story was supposed to end. Goal Diggers, if you have an idea that you can’t stop thinking about, follow that.
STARTING A BUSINESS IN COLLEGE:
Calling all college Goal Diggers! It is possible! “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a grade A student that was over-achieving, but it really came from a place of reactionary problem solving, and I just knew I had to do it. And you have to accept that the roadblocks and problems are a part of the journey- it doesn’t mean you are bound to fail.”
Jess right away acknlowedged the difficulties of starting with little experience in the “business” world but attributed her success to being scrappy and creative, pursuing different options for factory made. “You don’t want to seem too naive and ask the wrong questions” at the beginning, but just trust that you are doing your best. “I feel like in the beginning I felt like I had to pretend to be this typical “business person” who was always on, always had the right answer. I was getting exhausted pretending to be who I thought I had to. Slowly but surely, transitioning into myself and not putting on the persona of being a “typical” businesswoman.”
No matter what your age is or if you are a college student or not, there is so much truth in what Jess is saying- there is not one way to succeed. Just be yourself and write your own rule book!
CREATING PROFIT AND IMPACT:
Jess pointed out that the world is moving towards a world that values companies that give back, and that it’s going to stop being a “trend” and start becoming an expectation. There are a ton of ways to make your business give back without it being a “front and center” cause: from how you outsource, purchase, employ, etc. You can take your day to day operations and use them for good!
Goal Diggers, you can make a difference and a profit. Jess has donated over 200,000 headbands (which also means, she has SOLD over 200,000). Jess stated, “I felt successful before I even started a profit” but acknowledged that at times it can be hard to distinguish between the line between alignment and business, but as the business grows and you have logistics (staff, payroll, etc), you feel like you lose that connection to the purpose. “I think there is a misconception that social entrepreneurs are just skipping through meadows with flower crowns on, but it does get challenging to keep perspective on the bigger purpose.”, but in actuality, there are running a business (often with more logistics!) than the rest of us! However, along with the challenges, working for something greater than yourself is incredibly inspiring. Jess gave the advice to “bottle up the feelings in the early days, to remind us of the impact in the later, more difficult days”
Imperfect action is better than standing still. I’d rather look back and say “look what I’ve done” and not “look what I wish I would’ve done”
Wow, this woman. Jess is realistic, honest, and brilliant! I admire her tenacity and true mission-driven business. I’ll wrap up this blog post with this quote from Jess, “Living a vibrant and meaningful life is meant to be messy- that’s all part of the process. You can’t control the random stuff that happens, but you can control the meaning you assign it.”