Headbands of Hope has always been dedicated to giving back. Founder Jess Ekstrom had an ambitious mission when she created the company, which sells bright, colorful headbands, scarves, beanies and more: For every headband purchased, the company would donate one to a child with cancer.
The headbands were “a great way for girls who are losing their hair from chemotherapy to get a little surprise and help them keep their feminine identity as they go through that,” said Lauren Athey, president of Headbands of Hope.
The company started small, but since its first online order (from Ekstrom’s mom) in 2012, it’s grown to have merchandise in thousands of stores across the world. It’s attracted a healthy online following and garnered support from a roster of celebrities and sports icons—but best of all, it’s donated over 600,000 headbands in the United States and 19 other countries. At the beginning of 2020, the company extended its mission to donate headbands to all children with illnesses, not just cancer.
A couple months later, the coronavirus changed everything. As states went into quarantine and businesses began to shut down, the company’s sales plummeted.
“About 80 percent of our business was wholesale,” said Athey, “so those orders came to a halt. One of our largest trade shows was coming up in April, and that was canceled.”
The sudden lack of business was especially scary because the company had just signed a lease on a large warehouse facility, and the first rental payment was due March 1.
However, “our founder Jess is the queen of thinking optimistically,” Athey said, “and figuring out how we can take lemons and turn them into lemonade when something bad happens.”