“Anna said you’re a skeptic,” said Judy Beyerle, the chief executive of Ponya Bands, after she introduced herself. Anna is the marketing director and Beyerle’s daughter.
It’s true. Ponya Brands creates headbands and sweatbands that are guaranteed not to slip off and to be totally comfortable, and I didn’t believe it. I have never once found a headband that didn’t slip right out of my fine, thin hair, or didn’t pinch me behind the ears.
During our conversation, Beyerle repeated this promise again and again. “One hundred percent guaranteed,” she said. “Don’t keep it, if you don’t like it.” Beyerle said that her company has had only one or two returns in the four years since she started making the bands.
She said a customer described the headband’s comfort was “like walking around in your pajamas all day.”
As a woman with obviously slippery hair, this sounded nuts to me. How can a band stay on and stay put without pinching your head?
But some 24 hours after agreeing to test drive a headband, I am a believer. Not only has the thin, black band not budged a centimeter since I put it back on this morning, I don’t even feel like I have a headband on.
Beyerle was working at Fleet Feet in the Highlands to keep her track team son in running shoes, she jokes. An avid fitness buff herself, she noticed a lot of women complaining about the options for keeping sweat and hair out of their eyes when working out. She too had had that issue. Cotton, often found in headbands, is great at absorbing sweat, but really bad at evaporating it. Once a cotton headband reaches saturation point, the sweat will just run on out of it.
Beyerle first started experimenting with different fabrics in 2012. Luckily for her, she worked at a running store with several running groups, so she was able to give out the sweatbands and get feedback on what worked and what didn’t.
Ponya Bands are made entirely in Louisville by a production manager and eight seamstresses. Beyerle repeatedly heaps praise on her team. She doesn’t sew. “Without them, there literally would be no Ponya.”
Beyerle has self-funded this venture from the start. She sold her house and bought a smaller condo in the Highlands and used the earning from the sale to start the business. She did recently vest her production manager, selling her a few shares as a stake in the business.
The sweatbands layer colorful swimsuit material over a fabric that is 90 percent made of the fibers that are inside a stalk of bamboo. The headbands, which are thinner than the sweatbands, layer swimsuit material over crushed velvet. Both the bamboo material and the crush velvet offer a nap that works a little like Velcro to keep the bands from slipping around. For the sweatbands, the bamboo has tiny channels in it that wick sweat away to the outer layer — swimsuit material is designed to dry quickly.
Bamboo also has anti-microbial agent that prevents bacteria from cultivating, so it is odor-resistant and safe for sensitive skin. It’s also a thermal regulating fabric, so it can help keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Beyerle sells at sporting events and conferences. She has bands in a number of local schools’ spirit shops. She sells a bunch over the internet and recently started selling the sweatbands on Amazon. Getting on Amazon was no easy feat. She said that the steps she had to go through was like “dealing with the government.”
The product is also in sporting good chains in more than a dozen states, including around 20 Fleet Feet stores.
Bands can be bought in bulk and personalized with logos, team names or event names.
Ponya Bands is now her full-time job. Before she worked at Fleet Feet as a clothes buyer, she flipped homes for a living and was a stay-at-home mom.
Beyerle grew her brand slowly on purpose, not targeting big chain stores. She didn’t seek placement in stores at all, unless they came to her. But things have been picking up over the summer, and now Poyna Bands is moving around $1,000 in inventory daily.
A reviewer on Amazon, Michelle Rauch, raved about the sweatbands and said that Beyerle should be marketing them to menopausal women. She writes: “You have saved my life. Seriously. You need to market these headbands to other menopausal/pre-menopausal women because it will change their world… I am not scary anymore, nor am I embarrassed to be in public!”
Another reviewer said after buying one, she’s already ordered five more.
Locally, Beyerle said, she has the lock on the high school girl market. Lots of school sports teams buy from her. You can pick them up at Barre3, Louisville Indoor Racquet Club, Louisville Tennis Center, Louisville Strength & Endurance and Ohio Valley Volleyball Center.