Hometown: Ocean Township, NJ
All great ideas have an “aha” moment, and Stefanie Olesen’s came during a brisk winter day in New York. 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.’ Well that was a nice surprise. On a whim, she had whipped up the hair accessory the night before to keep her locks back and ears warm. But more compliments followed, and in no time a business was born. Since then, Stefanie has sold hundreds of handmade headbands through her company, S.O. Glam Headbands.
As a high school student, Stefanie knew she wanted to study marketing, and URI’s College of Business Administration was a perfect fit. 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 the best thing I’ve learned in college is that it’s all about networking. It’s important to meet with lots of different people and connect with them,’’ she said.
Sure, she took a sewing course and bought a sewing machine, because after all, sewing is a required skill in her line of work. But what really distinguishes Stefanie from the crowd is her ability to get the word out about her business. For example, through a friend of a friend she connected with Jacqueline Laurita, the raven-haired star of the hugely popular reality TV series, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.’’ Laurita auctioned off two baskets of Stefanie’s headbands at a dinner to raise money for autism awareness.
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.
You’ve probably got a big idea for a product or a business too. “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.’’