This is the story of Hairstrong. A story of an entrepreneur’s perseverance, determination, and inspiration. A story of London’s admirable community support.
Photo: Nicole Baranowski Facebook
Women shouldn’t feel frustrated with their hair. Be in Control, Be Confident, and Be Comfortable. That’s the motto and Hairstrong has proven it time and time again. Hairstrong is a new business in London that manufactures the world’s first adjustable athletic scrunchie – called the Strongband. Made in London and founded by Nicole Baranowski, Ivey Master of Science in International Business 2021 candidate, Western University Undergraduate, and varsity rowing athlete. The business is young but has seen rapid growth because of its scalability. Recently, the founder won one of the top prizes - $15,000 in funding -at the Ivey MBA Business Plan Competition at Western in Graduate Category.
Photo: Propel - Western's Entrepreneurship Centre Facebook page.
Started to provide women with full control over their hair while they work-out or exercise, Hairstrong bands are now liked by women in athletics and fitness across the world.
“I have experience of training for long hours along with a full post-secondary workload and part-time jobs. Every training session I had needed to be efficient; I had no extra time to make up for a bad training session because my hair could not cooperate. I was frustrated, I started dreading to train as I knew my hair would fail me. It got to the point where I would blame my hair as the problem. Then I started to realize, it’s not my hair, it’s the product” - Nicole Baranowski, Founder, Hairstrong.
Let’s start from the beginning: Hairstrong started out in Nicole’s entrepreneurship classroom when her professor asked her to think of a problem and develop a business plan around it, which was her final project for the class. When she presented her business plan-final project, one of the judges loved her idea and gave her the go-ahead to run with the idea.
“I had never thought that I would ever be an entrepreneur until I received that go-ahead,” said Baranowski.
Hairstrong started selling products less than a year ago in July 2019 and the journey hasn’t been easy, she said. It was countless hours of work – testing products, doing research, and making improvements to find the right band to solve the problem for women while staying on top of her school work and rowing practice. Nicole credits Propel at Western University for helping her start her business, providing mentorship and training leading up to her starting production.
She sold over 700 strongbands within six months of its launch and received a great amount of support from National and University sports teams.
"I'm incredibly impressed with this hair tie! As an elite athlete, I want to know my hair will stay pulled back and out of my face with little hassle while training. This product exceeded my expectations and held my hair back in place well without it feeling too tight on my head. Being able to adjust it to my preferred tightness is a game-changer” - Susanne Grainger, Rowing World Champion & Olympian.
She also credits the amount of support she received from the athletic community in London with helping her scale the business toward success. “I was able to improve the products with feedback from peers, which has not only helped me develop better products but also solve the problem more efficiently,” she added.
With this additional funding, Nicole has been able to scale her business and has moved in to a new manufacturing facility with LEDC’s help to ramp up production and expand into other markets in Canada and the United States.