Donna Browning was a fitness teacher with an annoying problem: hair in her face and headbands that would not stay put. Today, she’s selling her solution to that problem, dubbed “Sweaty Bands
,” to women who’ve embraced her company’s tagline: “OMG…they don’t slip!”
An endorphin addict—she’s taught everything from Pilates and yoga to sculpting classes and cardio sessions—Browning loved to exercise but hated hair accessories that didn’t work with the microphone she wore to teach.
Sure she could solve the problem, she borrowed a sewing machine from a friend, grabbed supplies from a craft store and churned out headband after headband until she found an adjustable, elastic band that stayed in place.
Soon, she was toting a bag full of the headbands in her gym bag and selling them to friends at the gym. After driving up to Cleveland for some training from Ladies Who Launch
, an organization that helps women become entrepreneurs, she launched Sweaty Bands.
“I didn’t want it to be a preppy ribbon-in-the-hair thing," Browning says. "I wanted it to be a kick your butt, sporty accessory." With a range of styles, including custom options, she says the company’s product has become so popular that now they’re noticing knockoffs popping up.
Still, Browning says, few competitors rival her team of in-house designers: “We’re constantly meeting, looking at magazines, going to the mall, and checking out upcoming trends so that what we have, nobody else will have.” These days, she’s focusing on custom orders for clients as large as John Freida, Pantene and Skinny Girl—or as small as a single headband.
By Robin Donovan