Jaclyn Heupel had a gut feeling early in the pandemic that she would eventually get furloughed from her job as a flight attendant with American Airlines.
Brainstorming ideas for a side gig to help her pass the time led Heupel to a sewing machine and fabric. Watching YouTube videos brought experimentation with materials. She settled on an accessory she knew well: headbands with a hand-sewn twist.
Soon, Heupel formally launched Heavy Head, her very own headwear and clothing line.
“They always say find a problem and solve it, and then you’ll find a business,” said Heupel, describing her journey to the venture, which debuted in December 2020. “I just never knew I would turn my obsession for headbands into a business.”
Heupel, a Kansas City self-starter, has so far handled every aspect of the business herself — from filing the LLC to creating her website and logo to hand-sewing each headband.
But despite the extra work on top of her flight attendant job, which has picked back up since Heavy Head launched, she’s loved all the learning that comes with being an entrepreneur and making products she’ll actually wear, Heupel said.
Click here to shop Heavy Head.
Her obsession with headbands dates back to growing up playing volleyball.
“A really weird fact about me is I’m insecure about my hairline when I wear my hair up,” she said. “I just always wore headbands. That was just my accessory of choice.”
Not just any stretchy fabric will suffice though. Heupel discovered a polyester-spandex blend called peach skin that doesn’t slip off her head like many other headbands on the market. She sources her fabric from suppliers in Los Angeles and Miami, and while she currently sews every headband by hand when she’s on a break from flying and home in Kansas City, she’s exploring small-batch manufacturing to make the process more efficient.
“I know people really really love that aspect of my business, but I can only sew so much in an hour,” she said.
If she signs a contract with a manufacturer, Heupel plans to produce the staple products and continue sewing limited edition products by hand. One of her products — the Elastic Tie Headband, a cross between a headscarf and a headband — is patent pending.
Heupel is adamant that Heavy Head headbands are for every occasion and every identity, not just bad hair days or female-identifying buyers.
“If it’s a lazy day, I have a headband on,” she said. “If I’m going out, I have a headband on.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.