Building a Headband Brand

A local maker finds success online and at pop-up shops throughout central Illinois.

by Emily Potts
Megan Ray
Megan Ray, founder of Hello Headband

As with many good things, Hello Headband started on a whim. Founder Megan Ray has always been a “maker,” teaching herself to sew at age nine, experimenting with fabrics and color, and keeping a close eye on fashion trends. On a lark in 2011, when she was 21 and still living in her parents’ home, she made a headband, put it on, and walked downstairs to show her mom and younger sister, Erin. 

“I thought it was kind of funny—at the time headbands weren’t super-popular,” Megan recalls. “I asked what they thought… and to my surprise my sister said, ‘That’s actually really cute. I would wear that.’” When she did, her friends loved it and asked where they could get one. Soon Megan was making headbands for friends and family; eventually, she was making so many they encouraged her to open an Etsy shop, which she did under the name Raydiant Apparel

Erin and Megan Ray
Hello Headband has a booth at the Peoria RiverFront Market every Saturday morning from May through September.

Sales took off and before she knew it, she was buying loads of fabric and spending all her free time making headbands. But free time was something Megan was running low on, given her full-time job while also attending nursing school. By 2013 she couldn’t sustain it all, so she quit her job and left school. “I thought if I’m going to pursue this, now is the time to do it. If it fails, I can always go back to school,” she explains. Turns out it was the best decision she ever made. 

From Hobby to Business
Today, Megan’s earliest supporter, her sister Erin, helps her run the business, which they rebranded Hello Headband in 2018—a pivotal turning point. “Raydiant Apparel never really felt like a business; it felt more like a hobby,” Megan explains. “I’ve always loved alliteration, and we wanted headband in the name so people knew what we were selling.” One night they were sitting around, tossing out possible names. When Erin said, “Hello Headband,” they looked at each other and knew that was it. “It just felt right, and once we started operating under Hello Headband, everything kind of blew up.” 

Erin runs all the social media and promotions for the company, when she isn’t working her full-time gig at a local ad agency. “She’s the brains behind all the deals and promotions and finding new markets to pursue,” Megan says. “I’d be lost without her.” They currently offer seven different styles—from BITTYbands and MINIbands for babies, to FITbands for working out, to more stylish bands that twist, tie and bend. Each is constructed with high-quality, soft, stretchy fabric that will comfortably fit all sizes.

You can find the sisters manning the Hello Headband booth on Saturday mornings at the Peoria Riverfront Market, as well as pop-ups at local businesses. “Although I’m usually pretty introverted, it’s really great to be able to connect with people face to face and help them find the style that suits their needs,” Megan notes, adding that Erin is the real powerhouse on the business side. “We’re a good team.” 

Hello Headband
A variety of colors, patterns and styles make up the Hello Headband collection, as displayed on founder Megan Ray’s studio wall.

The Business of Making
Megan runs the business out of her home and is constantly working, shipping 30 to 50 packages every day, often with multiple orders. To keep up with demand, she creates more than 100 headbands a day on her Industrial Serger Sewing Machine. “After I fulfill my online orders, I have to build my stock again for pop-ups. I never stop—I’m sewing until I go to bed,” she explains, quickly adding that she never tires of it. “It’s fun working with new patterns, new fabrics, new colors. I love every aspect of owning a business.” 

Besides making the headbands, the self-styled entrepreneur designed her own website and taught herself photography so she could shoot and edit all of her merchandise. Eventually she’d like to hire her sister full-time and perhaps open a brick-and-mortar store, as she’s quickly outgrowing her space at home. “I’d love to have a studio where front of house is retail and the back is where I’m making everything and shipping online orders,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and hopefully one day, I can have others work for me. That’s the dream, right?” 

Hello Headband recently achieved a new milestone, having gained 10,000 followers on Instagram. “Once you hit that mark, you get a ‘swipe up’ feature enabling customers to buy merchandise directly from your Instagram feed,” Megan notes. “That’s a gamechanger.”

It just goes to show that even a seemingly silly idea can spawn a great product. “If you had asked me 10 years ago where I thought I would be… this isn’t what I would have said,” she admits. But in 2019, at just 29 years old, she is excited for what the future holds—for herself and her growing business. PM

For more information, visit helloheadbandshop.com.

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