Jess Ekstrom
Everything starts with a spark.

During the summer of 2011, Jess Ekstrom participated in an internship at a wish-granting organization for kids with life-threatening illnesses. During this incredible experience, she quickly discovered that there were so many small things that made such an immense impact. One of the things that impacted her personally was the idea that kids loved to wear headbands after losing their hair to chemotherapy, yet all she could find was donations of hats and wigs.

Armed with inspiration, she spent her junior year at North Carolina State University developing her company, Headbands of Hope, a mission-driven brand geared toward both women and children. For every headband sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer. By the time she graduated, she had donated thousands of headbands to kids with cancer and was elected to give the commencement speech at her graduation to 20,000 people.

Along with her business, her message started to spread across America. In just over two years, she’s spoken to over 100 campuses, conferences and businesses totaling over 100,000 people. Jess focuses on increasing workplace engagement and employee empowerment. She also encourages her audience to focus on their personal bottom-line: the underlying or ultimate outcome of their life fulfillment, not just finances.

Today, Headbands of Hope is in over 1,000 stores across the United States and Canada. They’ve been featured on the TODAY Show, Forbes, Seventeen, Vanity Fair, People Magazine, and Good Morning America. The headbands have been worn and supported by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, Lea Michele, Molly Sims, Tiffani Thiessen, and more. But their biggest accomplishment has been donating over 100,000 headbands to every children’s hospital in America and across six countries.

In the past year, the company has launched impact initiatives such as hosting proms and children’s hospitals and starting their #BandTogether program where they partner with a childhood cancer charity and donate proceeds from sales to their mission. They’ve also joined hands with art therapy by having the patients create their own headbands with the flower crown kits they provide.

Jess believes that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. She’s passionate about helping others find those collision points and live a more purposeful life. Her most popular audiences are employees, millennials in the workforce, leaders and college students.