About - Jess Ekstrom

I live in an Airstream with my two boys: Jake (husband) and Ollie (dog).

What I’m good at:

Running Headbands of Hope, my social enterprise that impacts hundreds of thousands of kids with cancer around the world
Speaking to audiences about believing in better
Making people laugh (one of my most consistent praises in testimonials!)
Ping Pong
Empowering women to speak professionally
Helping people tap into their inner game-changer
Making inboxes more fun

What I’m working on:

Using her GPS too much
Trying to stop dabbing
Sharing food
Stretching so she can touch her toes one day
Toning down her competitive spirit
Reading celebrity gossip
Talking about her dog too much

Early Days

My first brush with success was when I auctioned off all of my toys on eBay when I was 12. My operations were shut down when I sold all my sister’s toys without her consent. But needless to say, I now know that moment was foreshadowing the life of an entrepreneur.

(my sister on the left and me on the right)

When I was in college, I interned at a wish-granting organization for kids with life-threatening illnesses. I discovered that a lot of kids losing their hair to chemotherapy loved to wear headbands after hair loss, but they were only given wigs and hats. I searched Google to see if there was any business or organization donating headbands to kids with cancer and came up dry.

I didn't know what I was doing, but I
believed in better.

I saw a need that wasn’t being met so I wanted to create a business that filled a gap. To me, there’s a lot of fancy words surrounding entrepreneurship. But at its core, entrepreneurship is just the action to create what you wish existed.

And that can be in the shape of a startup, a nonprofit, or new systems within larger organizations and communities. We don’t all have to be “entrepreneurs” and start businesses, but we can all create what we wish existed.

Headbands of Hope

I spent my junior year at North Carolina State University developing Headbands of Hope. For every item sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer. By the time I graduated, she had donated thousands of headbands to kids with cancer and was elected to give the commencement speech at my graduation to 20,000 people.

Jess is a very poised and polished speaker- confident, funny, great connection with the audience and left them truly inspired.

- Marc Randolph, Co-Founder Netflix

I speak over 50 times a year all over the world.

Then I caught the bug (no, not a stomach bug. I wouldn’t tell you that so early in our relationship). The bug to speak. I was hooked on the idea that my story could help other people write theirs. Now, I speak over 50 times a year to campuses, corporations and conferences. I have a long list of raving testimonials from Leadercast, Under Armour, Netflix, Newell Brands and more. Arianna Huffington’s platform Thrive Global even named me one of their most inspiring speaker picks for 2019! Forbes also named me a "Top Motivational Speaker." And with training in improv comedy, I make sure people are inspired while having a good time.

Some core beliefs in my work:

I want to pull back the curtains on success. I want you to forget the highlight reels we see on social media and the “perfect” narratives we hear of overnight success.
I want to change the dialogue on how we talk about our dreams and normalize the mess so you won’t feel alone when you’re in the mess (like I did).
I want to make the excitement of possibility louder than the fear of the unknown.
I want you to take the first step, even if you don’t have it all figured out.
I want to make inspiration from frustration.
I want to encourage you to execute with purpose, not perfection.
I want you to know that failure will always feel better than regret.

Some other core beliefs:

I believe that french fries don’t have calories if they’re on someone else’s plate.
If you bring your umbrella, it won’t rain.
Coffee goes towards your daily water intake.
I also don’t understand showers that you have to stand in the shower under the shower head in order to turn it on.
It’s appropriate to tip the bag in your mouth to get the leftover broken pieces of Cheetos at the bottom.
My dog completely understands when I speak to him in full sentences.
I rate airports by their food courts and seat to outlet ratio.
I think magnifying mirrors are stupid (who needs to see their pores that close?)
Yellow lights mean you floor it.

Tell Your Story

I also believe the power of speaking comes through honest storytelling, not lecturing. Through my business and travels, I’ve met so many amazing women with incredible stories but don’t know where or how to get started telling them on stage.

That’s why I created Mic Drop Workshop: an online course + community for women who want to make an impact and an income through public speaking. Did that give you a flutter inside? If so, click here to see what Mic drop is all about.

Leave Your Mark

I know, like me, you want to be change-maker. You want to leave your mark and make a ripple effect on all the things that matter to you. The problem is you look around and there is so much to be done, you might think “if I can’t do it all, why do it?” Don't worry, I've been there.

I know what it’s like to have an idea and feel overwhelmed. Heck- I get overwhelmed picking out my toppings on my Chipotle Burrito Bowl. But even though at times it was messy and overwhelming, I started Headbands of Hope because I believed in better. I knew my idea of giving headbands to kids with cancer would make a real difference in the lives of others. If this roller-coaster of a startup has taught me anything, it’s that the path to creating change starts with better. Better doesn’t mean best. It doesn’t mean creating super long lists and massive lasso-the-moon plans. Better starts with one step. And then another.

I didn’t have a grand plan, but I chose to Believe in Better. And because of that belief, I created a multi-million dollar business that has donated over half a million headbands to children with cancer; I was dubbed the Ultimate Game Changer by Women’s Health Magazine; and Under 30 Women to Watch by Business Insider; I’m an award-winning speaker; and have created workshops & tools to help women be confident change-makers by telling their stories to others through paid speaking engagements.

In my book Chasing the Bright Side (that hit #1 on Amazon!), I teach you how to Believe in Better and then go create it. Oh- and Apple picked my audiobook as their Must-Listen of the Month (I blame my Bill Nye the Science Guy impression in my narration).

When you wire yourself to lead with optimism you will have the confidence to take action – big or small - and make a difference in your communities, your family, your job....and the world around you.

Simple Revelations

And, I love serving up simple revelations with the people in my community. Little tidbits, one-liners, and short stories that have changed the way I think, and maybe will change the way you do too.

Want 17 simple revelations to get started? Enter your email below.

Let me shoot it straight: we won’t ever achieve perfect and solve all the world's problems. But- it’s not silly, naive or a waste of time to try to make them better.

Nothing will ever be “perfect” (except for my dog, he’s exceptional) but anything can be better. And the missing ingredient to achieving better is YOU.

Better isn't always easy but it's always worth it...

I remember where I was standing when I got the first sale on my website (from my mom, much to my disappointment).

I remember where I was standing when I got my first letter from a parent whose daughter received a headband in the hospital (now I keep a file on my computer of all of them).

I remember where I was standing when I found out I lost the $10,000 loan I started the company with.

I remember where I was standing when my publicist called me to tell me the TODAY Show was flying in to do a story on me.

I remember where I was standing when I got my first paid speaking gig.

I remember where I was standing when a Mic Drop student announced she got her first paid speaking gig two weeks after starting the course.

I remember where I was standing when I was about to speak after Joe Biden.

I remember where I was standing when Michael Strahan interviewed me on Good Morning America.

I remember where I was standing when Women’s Health Magazine named me their Ultimate Game Changer.

I remember where I was standing when Harper Collins acquired my book.

I want you to remember where you were standing when you accepted my invitation to believe in better and go create it.

Do you accept?

Here are 3 way you can get started!