Headbands of Hope
|Founder||Jessica Ekstrom, CEO|
Headbands of Hope is a company founded by college student, Jess Ekstrom, that gives headbands to girls with cancer and funding to research. For every headband sold, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to fund childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick's Foundation, CURE, and Alex's Lemonade Stand. Headbands of Hope has donated over 30,000 headbands to girls around the world battling cancer.
Headbands of Hope aims to improve the self-image of girls battling cancer and raise funding at the same time. Ekstrom believes that “They just wanted to keep their feminine identity, and sometimes wigs can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for younger girls and they also hide what they are going through."
Headbands of Hope was envisioned by Ekstrom after an internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2011. One of the girls at her internship, four-year-old Renee, had cancer and wanted to go to Disney World so she could see the fairy tale princess Sleeping Beauty. Her condition deteriorated before she was able to go to Disney World, so Ekstrom came to her home dressed up as Sleeping Beauty in order to fulfill the girl's wish. Renee died wearing a Sleeping Beauty costume given to her by Ekstrom.
Noticing that many girls who received treatment preferred wearing headbands instead of wigs, Ekstrom began to work toward distributing headbands to young girls fighting cancer. The planning period lasted between Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 until the organization finally launched in April 2012. By January 31, 2013, Headbands of Hope had donated more than 3,000 headbands.
Future projects include expanding the headband line by incorporating printed phrases on the headbands, increasing their thickness, as well as continuing further development on their brother company, Headwear of Hope.
The headbands, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, are made by a company in Bismarck, North Dakota. Ekstrom chose the company with help from the College of Design and the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, where she graduated. Styles are determined by Ekstrom and her team of designers, who look at popular trends and what styles of headbands women, especially female athletes, purchase. Types of headbands available for purchase include "Go Glitter" headbands, "Classic Shabby," "Skinny Shabby," "Beaded Beauties," and "Couture" headbands.
Outside the United States, donations have extended to Canada and will continue to expand with plans for distribution in Peru during the summer of 2014. The systematic style of delivery, which involves sending the headbands to hospitals rather than individual patients, was inspired by TOMS Shoes, which is also a supporter of the organization. Other products include shirts and bumper stickers.
Ekstrom is an outspoken advocate of social media as a means of advertising, stating that "we can show through pictures how purchasing headbands makes a difference."  The organization uses college campuses to market Headbands of Hope. The headbands are marketed by representatives that hand out headbands to schools across the United States. By January 2013, there were over 20 representatives promoting Headbands of Hope nationwide, and talks are also given by Ekstrom. In addition, the "Hope Club," a club created by Ekstrom, allows cancer patients who have received headbands to post photos of themselves along with their biographies. The organization believes sharing personal stories about cancer survivors is what most effectively helps sell their headbands, for "almost everyone has some connection to cancer."  In addition, the organization asks people to find more local hospitals where donations can be made, sign up to be representatives of the organization at their universities, or buy a headband.
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