Jess Ekstrom

Renowned Award-Winning Top Motivational Speaker Known For Motivating People at Business, Schools and other events. Founder of Headbands of Hope

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…

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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, Good Morning America and 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 6 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.

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Popular Topics:
Fraternity + Sorority life
First-year experience
Finding purpose
Making the most of college
Goal setting
Using millennial strengths
Failures into opportunity
Defining success
Professional development

Previous Keynotes:

    Headbands of Hope: How One College Student Refused to Wait to Make a Difference
    Inspire, not Require (*Most Popular Booking*)
    Leadership: Millennial Style!
    Self Made Success: Making College Count

Headbands of Hope: How One College Student Refused to Wait to Make a Difference
So many college students want to make a difference, and plan to do it “someday.” Jess is living proof that a college student with an amazing idea and a willingness to act on it need not wait.  College students can build companies, affect change, and solve problems before graduation, if they have the commitment.

In her campus keynote, Jess shares her journey creating Headbands of Hope, a company that gives headbands to girls battling cancer. Through her story, she encourages audience members to change awareness of issues into action.  “Awareness is only skimming the surface of change,” she said. “When we focus on action instead of just awareness, things really change.”

Jess is a great choice for programs that encourage leadership, social change and making the most of your college experience.  Consider her whenever you are promoting service and social change to students.


·      Learning the importance and impact of internships

·      How to use college to launch your idea

·      Don’t wait until you have “experience” to start following your dreams

Inspire, Not Require                           *Most Popular Booking*
Has community service become a requirement?  Something we have to do to please those evaluating us?  From college applications to campus awards, so many students are engaging in service projects within their organizations.  But, are they really making the connection to the good work they are doing?

In this keynote, Jess Ekstrom encourages student leaders to “redefine philanthropy” from a requirement to a lifestyle.  “We’re so worried about crossing philanthropy and service requirements off our list that we forget the purpose behind it. We forget to feel the passion.”

Jess uses examples from her own development as a student leader and philanthropic professional.  As founder of Headbands of Hope, she has learned the amazing power of service – changing thousands of children’s lives.  She understands that service often means doing grunt work, but she knows how a connection to those who are served makes all of it extremely worthwhile.

If students at your campus need to make a stronger connection between their service activities and the ethics of service, this program will open their eyes and hearts. If you are planning a large campus service event (dance marathon, Relay for Life, etc.), Jess will get your coordinators better equipped to communicate the crucial messages to other students. 


·      Treat philanthropy as a lifestyle, not a requirement

·      How to inspire your peers to take action instead of forcing them

·      Don’t stop at awareness of social issues, focus on action

Leadership: Millennial Style!
Jess Ekstrom admits that she hid her young age when starting her business. At 20, she feared the Millennial stereotypes would be stamped on her forehead. She worried that no one outside the college environment would take her seriously. 

Why?  Look around.  There are thousands of articles bashing today’s 20-somethings. “I thought the fact I was finishing my Spanish homework in between conference calls would make me less credible and they’d just write me off,” she said.

She learned quickly that being a Millennial was actually one of her biggest strengths. Jess realized the stereotypes that are placed on her generation could be turned into qualities of great leaders. In her keynote, students will learn from a fellow Millennial how to use their age and generation stereotypes to become leaders in their communities.  Being socially connected, itching to see the world, expecting success, and being a self-starter are all qualities that can be used for good, contrary to what some in the media might suggest.  Jess encourages audiences to crush the stereotypes and take advantage of the resources available to college students to get an amazing idea off the ground.


·      Flip millennial stereotypes into traits of leaders

·      How college can help us launch an idea

·      Use millennial traits to inspire change

Self Made Success: Making College Count
When Jess started college, she wanted to become a better public speaker, so she taught fitness classes and became a campus tour guide. When she wanted to jump start her career, she worked with the campus career center and landed an internship with the Today Show. When she needed to make friends, she took a leap and joined a flag-football league. When she wanted to start a business, she worked with the business school to create Headbands of Hope.

During her keynote, Jess stresses the importance of maximizing each opportunity that presents itself during college. She shares her own stories, tips, and tricks that she found helped her succeed not only during college, but also in building her dream career as a business owner and philanthropist. Broken down into four key areas students are eager to hear about, Jess walks them through being successful in the classroom, getting involved on campus, being safe on the weekends, and making preparations now for life after college.


·      College isn’t the best 4 years of your life, but we can use it to create the best life we can have.

·      What to do in college to prepare for a professional career

·      Making the most of the resources given to you on a college campus


Awareness into change: Jessica Ekstrom

APEX Experience Speaker Series: Jess Ekstrom


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