Recently, Sonya became opinionated about how I do her hair. For her first two years, we would simply not do anything and just put a headband around her head, or tie it up in a top knot with a Rubyband headband. We still love and wear Rubybands, but now that she is three and attends nursery school, Sonya sees other little girls sporting braids. “I want two braids!” she often demands in the morning (typically when we are already running 15 minutes behind schedule, of course!)
With a new hairstyle, came a need for new hair accessories that would hold her processors. Luckily, a friend of mine told me about HeadBandsforSophia, beautiful and well-made headbands that we adore. I love the sweet and simple designs that seem to work with many of Sonya’s clothes. I especially love the fact that these headbands hold her processors in place behind her ears, and are perfect for when Sonya has to wear a hat or a helmet.
The newest design Dino Dash features seven distinct dinosaurs in emerald green, capri blue, silver gray, chestnut brown and coral pink! It’s so refreshing that the designs are not gender specific.
Of course, Sonya is particular to the bands featuring sparkles, in any color. I recently had the privilege of connecting with Erika Smith, the founder of HeadbandsforSophia.
What inspired you to start HeadbandsforSophia?
My daughter Sophia is the inspiration and namesake of my Etsy shop. She is the second of my three daughters. She was born profoundly deaf and was bilaterally implanted with Cochlear’s Nucleus 5 at twelve months.
Growing up, we always used some sort of homemade headband, hair rubber bands or wig tape for keeping her processors on. About two years ago, at age 5, she got very self-conscious and wanted to be able to wear pretty hair accessories like her friends in Kindergarten. Her old headbands were functional but not so cute. That was when I figured I needed to integrate function into fashion, and began sewing these elastic headbands. I designed these to keep the processor in place behind the ear, hopefully as good training for the day in the future when she wouldn’t need any retention aids. She started getting lots of compliments wearing these and it made her feel special.
Today, Sophia is nearly 8 and still wears them daily, especially because they let her run around and do somersaults and roll around on the floor. She plays soccer and does ballet. Mainstreamed children with hearing loss already deal with a lot of stressful situations at school, such as social interaction and listening fatigue — this is one less thing she has to worry about during her day.
What is your background? Did you have prior design training?
I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a MBA. The closest I’ve come to retail fashion was working in a children’s clothing store in the mall for a summer job. I remember that customers would call the store and specifically request me by name to put together gift sets, so maybe I do have a knack for picking out what customers like!
As for sewing, I’m a late bloomer. I’ve always had a sewing machine but could only sew a straight line, never mind anything with a pattern. Only after I started my shop and sewed headbands for six months straight, I made a mermaid costume (under duress) for my older daughter performing in summer stock. Nowadays, my other creative outlet is making cute bedding for our two guinea pigs.
Where do you get your materials and what goes into choosing your designs?
This is one of the most fun parts of the business, but also time consuming. At first, I only intended to feature Sophia’s personal choices, but I quickly expanded to include options for boys and wider range of ages. I try to add fresh new colors and prints to my shop every month.
Quality is really important to me. If the elastic is too thin, it doesn’t retain a good amount of tension and stretches out fast. My favorites are the elastics with an “oil” or “foil” metallic print like my classic silver polka dots on black shown in my shop picture, and of course, the glitter elastics. Because the glitter elastic is so strong it can take a little time to break in but it ends up being very durable. I offer a range of elastics so that customers can figure out what they like best.
Most of my ribbons are sourced from wholesale distributors in the US, but I recently started working with an overseas ribbon factor to custom print my new design. I’m proud to announce my new and exclusive “Dino Dash” print which comes in five colors and displays seven dinosaur oil-printed silhouettes.
How long do you spend on each headband?
I spend on average five-minutes on the actual production of each headband. I also spend time managing other aspects of the business, such as order processing and mailing, bookkeeping, keeping up listings on Etsy, and responding to questions, etc.
It’s eye-opening how far the cochlear implant network extends around the world, and how we share a similar experience as parents across so many cultures trying to keep cochlear implants on our children! – Erika Smith, Founder of HeadbandsforSophia
Do you only sell your pieces on Etsy? Do you have plans to grow?
As a made-to-order seller, I currently only sell on Etsy. It’s a great platform for reaching an international audience, and they have made my headbands very visible via Google search. However, I’m considering the idea of creating another online store separate from Etsy in 2018 and eventually adding other function and fun cochlear implant-related products.
My hope is that someday we won’t need headbands like these! The new all-in-one processors like Cochlear’s Kanso and MED-EL’s Rondo are the next wave of cochlear implant technology which may eliminate the need for behind-the-ear retention.
I am a stay-at-home mom and consider this as a part-time commitment. If demand increases, I may have to hire someone to help sew the headbands, but that would also mean an increase in cost, which I want to avoid. I wanted to price these competitively and fairly, since cochlear implants are already a huge expense for some families.
Any other aspects of your work that you find interesting?
I really enjoy working with customers to experiment with different designs. Sometimes customers will want to try positioning the processor on the headband a different way, and I’m happy to oblige.
I ship worldwide and you would be surprised at how much time I spend processing international orders. I manually verify each address and print out custom labels. In the past, many international packages were lost or significantly delayed. Replacing an order meant sewing a whole new set of headbands and paying to re-ship at my expense, per my customer service policy. Fortunately, by taking more time to check addresses, I’ve been able to nearly eliminate this problem.
The farthest I’ve shipped to is Saudi Arabia. It’s eye-opening how far the cochlear implant network extends around the world, and how we share a similar experience as parents across so many cultures trying to keep cochlear implants on our children!
Are you surprised by the popularity of HeadbandsforSophia?
Absolutely. When I first started, I thought I would be lucky to sell about 10 headbands a month. I started it only as a hobby, wanting to help others find a solution, and thought it would be a good way to off-set the supply costs for making our own headbands. Things really took off about four months after I started, when I got a large order of a few hundred headbands from an early intervention program at a school for the deaf.
Thank you, Erika! We just love HeadbandsforSophia and you are an inspiration! Bonus! Get 10% off your order with the coupon code SONYAROSE.