Barbara Kent, 42, a supermom from Springfield, Virginia (
Birdy Boutique, a baby and kids brand which offers uniquely designed and branded products such as safety car seat ponchos and birthday outfits, selling online retail with sales platform direct and on Amazon and Walmart.
I was medically retired from the Army after 16 years of service but I knew I wasn’t done with a career. My husband is still an active-duty Soldier so we move to a new location every 2-3 years. I needed something that I could do from basically anywhere the Army would send us, work that allowed a flexible schedule and something that made me happy! I also had to be able to make it all work while I took care of the kids and the household or while my husband was deployed overseas or on long work trips. This was a perfect fit! I loved sewing and designing, so this flowed and worked naturally..
My goal was to generate extra income so that I could travel with my kids, show them amazing places and expose them to different cultures; all things that my family didn’t have the resources to do when I was a child. It is so extremely satisfying to be able to take a trip and, one, not worry about expenses, but, two, to know that I just earned that trip! In addition, we use the funds for retirement savings.
The main emotional benefit of starting this business in retirement is satisfaction; satisfaction of being able to do so much in a very short period of time, satisfaction of using my brain again to think, analyze, develop, and satisfaction that I’ve still got the drive, intelligence, and grit to do what I want. The other benefits are the super flexible schedule, extra money, working closely with my sister/business partner, setting a great example for my kids and teaching them about entrepreneurship, and having all the freedom and independence of decision making.
Our business only required us to invest about $1,000 and it could have been done with less. Anyone can start a business at any point in their lives. I love to create, sew and make physical items so I started with a couple of items; not much investment needed. The best thing is that you learn as you go and adapt when you need to. Also, you have to believe in yourself and use your knowledge and experience to just take the leap.
My sister and I tiptoed around the idea of a business for too long before jumping into it. Deciding to start it was the hardest part. Sometimes, it’s better to have everything 90% ready and to go for it, versus waiting until you have every detail worked out and lengthen the time it takes to open up. Each year, our business has grown incredibly and I am so proud to see the products I designed and ideas I created on large platforms such as Amazon and Walmart. I am also incredibly proud to be a certified disabled-veteran owned business through NaVOBA, which holds the highest standards for certification.
History of Business
Joanna Jozwik Serra and Barbara Jozwik Kent immigrated to the United States from Poland as children in 1988. Watching their mother perform hard physical work to put food on the table, they learned that hard work and determination can equal success. Education was of utmost importance and both sisters pursued college degrees and began conventional jobs immediately after graduation.
Barbara Kent is a retired Army officer, a mom to two extremely lively children, and a wife to an active duty Army officer stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The family currently resides in Springfield, Virginia after a recent move from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Barbara graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. She went on to honourably serve in the US Army Military Police Corps for 13 years, after which she was medically retired and disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. She consequently pursued work in government contracting but eventually turned to form and developing Birdy Boutique in order to work for herself.
Joanna Serra is a mom of two toddlers and a wife to Dominic Serra, an entrepreneur who started and runs a proprietary network ISP. The family resides in a farming community in Michigan.
Joanna graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education; she also began her Master of Art in Educational Leadership at the University of Michigan. She taught elementary-aged children and during this tenure, she earned some of the highest and most distinguished awards in her field at the state level. Her initiative and determination, combined with a love for her field, allowed her to be a leader in every working environment she took part in. She now runs two businesses; an ISP business with her husband and Birdy Boutique with her sister.
Both sisters faced an uphill battle growing up in very underprivileged circumstances. The grit and determination that allowed them to move up and away from that environment have become an extremely useful tool in achieving many life goals. After each sister faced a massive life change, they both decided to work for themselves and start a business together. Birdy Boutique officially came to life in February of 2014 after months of brainstorming and planning; the name came from the sisters’ love for birds! The first product was created from Barbara’s passion for sewing and Joanna’s desire to keep kids safe while travelling; designing, sewing and later mass producing a product called a “car seat poncho” which allows children to be buckled into car seats safely with the belt snug against their bodies versus allowing for gaps with traditional puffy winter coats. Slowly, their variety of self-designed and printed items started to sell to local moms and quickly grew to be solid sellers on platforms such as Amazon. The company has now expanded to sell not only car seat ponchos in a variety of designs but also crowns, bow ties, and birthday outfits with accessories. As many children’s clothing companies simply resell other designs and products, Birdy Boutique uniquely designs, prints and creates their products from choosing patterns all the way to the type of stitching decisions, making it a true brand.
Currently, the company is run as an e-commerce business selling on multiple online platforms including its own website, Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Walmart and Jet. The headquarters and warehouse are in Madison Heights, MI, and working space is in Armada, MI, in a renovated 3,000 sq ft museum.
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