URI student turns heads with her new business

KINGSTON, Oct. 24, 2012 – All great ideas have an aha moment, and Stefanie Olesen’s came during a brisk winter day in New York City.

She was sipping coffee in a café across from Rockefeller Center when a young woman offered a compliment that changed her life: “I love your headband.”

Olesen was elated. On a whim, she had whipped up the hair accessory the night before to keep her ears warm – in a stylish way. More compliments from more strangers followed, and in no time a business was born.

Since that fateful day in January, Olesen, a 21-year-old senior majoring in marketing at URI, has sold hundreds of handmade headbands through her company, S.O. Glam Headbands.

“The key to success is that you just have to stay motivated,” she says. “You have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing and have a passion for it. You can’t give up.”

Raised in Ocean Township in central New Jersey, Olesen says she knew as a senior in high school that she wanted to study marketing in college. She visited several schools on the Eastern seaboard, but was especially impressed by the business school at URI.

She credits her marketing courses with giving her the confidence and smarts to launch her own company. She also learned about the importance of building business relationships, especially in today’s tough job market.

“Probably one of the best things I learned in college is that it’s all about networking,” she says. “It’s important to meet with lots of different people and connect with them.”

Wearing her creations helps, too. Not long ago, she walked into AVEYOU, a cosmetics store near her hometown, with her hair swept back by a black lace headband spiffed up with a pendant. The owners were so impressed with her work they decided to carry the entire line. Now her headbands are available in the store and on its website.

“This is huge for me,” she says. “And really cool.”

Starting a business is fun, but also hard work, Olesen says. While her friends were skiing or hanging out at the mall during winter break, Olesen was sitting on her sofa, sewing tiny cloth daffodils onto swatches of fabric. No small task, considering her sewing skills were limited to buttons on shirts.

She quickly remedied that. During spring break, she took a three-hour sewing course at a fabric store and even bought a sewing machine to boost production. Her designs are whimsical and glamorous and usually include a piece of jewelry or a flower.

One of the highpoints of her career so far was an event in September hosted by Jacqueline Laurita, the raven-haired star of Bravo’s reality TV series, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” She hooked up with Laurita through a friend of a friend.

Olesen made two baskets for the event, which raised money for autism awareness campaigns. (Laurita’s son was recently diagnosed with autism; Olesen has a 21-year-old cousin who is autistic.)

“It was awesome,” Olesen says. “After the event, I went up to Jacqueline and said, ‘My name is Stefanie Olesen,’ and she said my headbands were really, really pretty. I was, like, ‘Wow, a celebrity saw my work.’ ”

Her plans after graduation are ambitious. She hopes to find a marketing job in the Big Apple and continue expanding her company, which will keep its present name. “Everything I do,” she says, “has some glam in it.”

Her headbands cost from $10 to $30 and are available online through etsy.com/soglamheadbands, aveyou.com, and soglambystefanieolesen@gmail.com. Richgirlonabudget.com, a fashion blog that gets thousands of hits a month, is expected to write about her soon.

Olesen’s next sales and marketing event is at Towson University near Baltimore. The order is steep – 100 gold and black headbands by Nov. 3 – but she’s up for the challenge.

In between papers, exams and sleeping, the budding entrepreneur says, “I’ll get it done.”

Pictured above

Stefanie Olesen and Jacqueline Laurita, star of the TV reality series, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Photo submitted by Stefanie Olesen