At first glance, Jessica Ekstrom seems like the everyday college student pursuing a potential career in public relations. Take a second glance, though, and you’ll find that Ekstrom is well on her way to a successful and fulfilling career. In fact, she’s already the CEO of her company, Headbands of Hope.
How she’s making a difference
Headbands of Hope manufactures adorable headbands for girls and women everywhere, but here’s the catch: with each headband purchased, one will be donated to a girl fighting cancer. In addition, $1 of each purchase goes toward St. Baldricks Foundation, a leading childhood cancer organization.
While interning for the Make a Wish Foundation, Ekstrom discovered that girls going through treatment preferred wearing headbands instead of wigs. “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,” Ekstron says.
She started the company with the intent of spreading awareness about childhood cancer. “Often times people don’t want to think about kids having cancer, I know I don’t, but it’s still the reality of it,” Ekstrom says. She points out that most people tend to think of kids as smaller adults who can take a lesser dosage of the medication they receive, which isn’t the case. “They are in such a developmental stage physically and their bodies go under so much trauma that even if they are cured they might have lifelong implications,” Ekstrom says.
Age is just a number
Being the CEO of a company is a goal that many people can only dream of, but Ekstrom has accomplished this admirable milestone at the age of 21. “Being the age that I am, it’s given me an opportunity to show that you can do anything no matter what age you are and I am able to inspire others, which has been the best gift of all,” Ekstrom says. “Sometimes people say ‘How are you CEO and you still have to turn in your Spanish homework tomorrow?’ If you want it bad enough you can make it happen.”
As a student at North Carolina State, Ekstrom has an entire campus behind her that is full of resources. “One of the biggest mistakes that I made at the beginning was hiding that I was a college student, but then the people I worked with saw it as my strength,” Ekstrom shares. Being a college student has also allowed Ekstrom to expand her company throughout the nation with the help of campus representatives at 20 different colleges.
Headbands of Hope started as a unique way to spread awareness about childhood cancer and attract attention to the need for a cure, and even though it may seem like that goal has been reached, Ekstrom would disagree. “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with how many headbands I’ve sold,” Ekstrom says. “I don’t really have a number that I am reaching for because I always want to do the best.”
Advise for others
Interested in starting your own business? Ekstrom offered some advice: “Find what fuels your fire. If you find that passion there shouldn’t be any problem or any obstacle that is too big to get through. Once you find that just go for it and don’t look back. If you let your hesitations and doubts consume you, you won’t really believe in what you are doing.”
Ways to spread hope
• Recommend a local hospital for donations
• Apply to be a campus representative at your university
• Purchase a stylish headband which come in a variety of colors and designs