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Athlete, innovator and entrepreneur | TechAlliance

Like many of us, Nicole Baranowski, Founder and CEO of Hairstrong has a strong connection to her hair, “I believe that my long hair defines my personality and gives me a unique individual identity.” However, she was often disappointed with the available options for ‘one-size-fits-all’ scrunchies and hair ties in the market. Nothing seemed to hold her hair in place in a bun or ponytail for long duration or during her rowing practice as a member of the celebrated varsity team at Western University. In one of her classes during her bachelor’s degree, Baranowski shared her frustration and was astonished by the large number of classmates who agreed with her, these affirmations were enough for Baranowski to devise a solution to the problem and introduce the world to the concept of adjustable scrunchies.

Revolutionizing the hair accessories industry, Hairstrong is an inclusive scrunchie brand offering adjustable hair ties for different types of hair to support high-impact women making a difference, every step of the way. As the name suggests, the Strongbands are made with one-of-a-kind clasp and lock mechanism which helps to hold the elastic and provide a strong grip leading to worriless workouts. Inspired by the variety of knots used in hiking, camping or trekking, Baranowski created the initial prototype aiming to help in avoiding hair readjustments, breakage and falling of elastics, with a broader vision of instilling empowerment and confidence among women. Baranowski truly believes  Hairstrong is fueled by the passion of supporting women in taking challenges and discovering self-love, “When I started creating this business, I wanted to stop people from settling for what’s already out there. If a product doesn’t fit, the product should be modified to fit instead of us fitting the products,” says Baranowski.  

After a few great features from reputable publications and magazines such as Allure and Global News, Hairstrong soon achieved one of its many huge milestones when packages of adjustable scrunchies traveled across the border. Debuting on 40boxes, an e-commerce shop curated by Tory Johnson, ‘deals and steals’ host on Good Morning America, Strongbands were available to customers in the USA. Striking similar deals with Goodlife Fitness and winning Western University’s Seed Your Startup People’s Choice Awards, Baranowski reminisces about how she is constantly looking for the ‘next big thing’, “As someone who is very goal oriented, I often don’t take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the milestones and constantly look forward to the next thing or goal to be achieved. I tend to glamorize the systems and processes that I have built over time in this business more often and I believe that’s what keeps me going.” 

Being a varsity rowing athlete at Western University, Baranowski has drawn and adapted various learnings and insights from her experience as a rower to her life as an entrepreneur. A determined, goal-oriented and hardworking individual, Baranowski envisioned herself as a member of the varsity team and started training towards achieving this goal with a thorough training plan that included small and consistent actions over a set time period to achieve defined targets. “Relating this to business, I believe everything is a result of repeated smaller activities or tasks leading up to the bigger goal and eventually you will see progress, in terms of where you began and where you are now, and that’s why it’s important to write down your goals, reassess them and test yourself every month,” says Baranowski. “Rowing has also benefited me in understanding the difference between teamwork and running solo. With people cheering, coaches guiding and teammates working together towards the same goal, it is easier to stay on track and be accountable. However, when you are managing your own business, you are the one that is pushing yourself and it gets very hard to be brutally honest with yourself to grow and take yourself to the next level.”

Moving forward, Baranowski plans to solely focus on Hairstrong full-time starting this September. Ending her part-time role as a business advisor at Ivey Business School, Baranowski’s dedication and time to the business in a wider capacity will help to take Hairstrong to its next phase of growth, with stronger collaborations and greater awareness about the brand while building a community of empowered and goal-crushing women.  

Actively seeking partnership with local gyms and fitness facilities across the region, Baranowski aims to see Strongbands on shelves and e-commerce platforms of these facilities in the future. To learn more about Hairstrong, explore potential partnership opportunities or to get your hands on these innovative scrunchies, go to https://hairstrong.ca 

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