Women-owned businesses bring trillions of dollars to the American economy and employ millions. Yet, these entrepreneurs continue to face unique challenges, including earning respect in a male-dominated industry, and balancing family life and business. That’s why the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is doing its work. This charitable organization has been leveling the playing field for women with a burning entrepreneurial spirit since 1997.

One of its beneficiaries is Birdy Boutique. The partnership between the two began on March 8, 2019 — International Women’s Day — when the Romeo, Michigan-based veteran textile manufacturing company specializing in fun educational products announced that it officially became a WBENC-Certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise. This watershed moment marked Birdy Boutique’s admission to an international community of business owners from diverse backgrounds sharing similar struggles and aspirations.

From Sisters to Business Partners

Sisters Barbara Kent and Joanna Serra co-founded Birdy Boutique in 2014. The enterprise was born out of necessity — fate prematurely took the siblings out of the labor force. Barbara medically retired due to a disability after serving in the United States Army Military Police Corps for 13 years. Joanna’s decade-long teaching career ended abruptly after she experienced a nerve injury when having her firstborn.

These setbacks compelled Barbara and Joanna to pursue entrepreneurship. With Barbara’s sewing skills, the sisters decided to start a shop, turn their passion for birds into a business and sell avian-inspired goods. After their original idea misfired, Joanna formed a new plan by tapping into her experience in education and designing learning products instead.

The siblings’ upbringings helped inspire this winning idea. When they were young, their family immigrated to the U.S. from Poland and enrolled them in schools with meager resources. They wanted to give children an educational leg up with learning garments so they don’t miss out the way they did as young students.

Birdy Boutique’s first product was double-sided blankets adorned with facts about various subjects. The startup eventually began selling learning tapestries, car seat ponchos, and infant outfits through wholesale and private labeling. As of 2024, Birdy Boutique employs a team of more than 20 women, and has partnered with Harris Teeter, Meijer and Walgreens.

Receiving the coveted WBENC certification has taken Bird Boutique to new heights. It entitles the brand to bear the Women Owned logo, and be on the radar of the nonprofit’s network of 1,000 corporations and government entities dedicated to supplier diversity. Being certified has enabled the sisters to attend prestigious national conferences and make meaningful connections.

A Champion of Female Entrepreneurship

WBENC is the respected third-party certifier of women-owned enterprises in the U.S. Private and public entities intentionally want to join its network to foster growth mindsets by directly doing business with female-led companies. Through its Women Owned initiative, it certifies enterprises at least 51% owned by one or multiple women, satisfying its members’ supplier diversity program requirements.

This nonprofit maintains national databases of corporation and government organizations at federal, state, and local levels and of certified women-owned business enterprises, serving as a matchmaker for a socially conscious ecosystem. WBENC impartially audits certification applicants to streamline its members’ procurement processes.

Furthermore, the certifying body hosts various events and programs where certified companies can network with prospective clients. They can also build deep business relationships with other legitimate women-owned organizations to compare notes.

WBENC leverages its resources to provide procurement opportunities, mentorship, executive education and business tools to advocate for girl power. It also organizes awards ceremonies to recognize and honor outstanding enterprises and the women behind them.

WBENC — Opening Doors for Female Entrepreneurs

Birdy Boutique’s co-founders are battle-tested, but there’s no denying being WBENC-certified has allowed them to avoid more adversities and find more opportunities. With the nonprofit’s stamp of approval, more women-owned ventures can get chances to realize their potential.

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About Author

Mia Barnes is a lifestyle and wellness writer and the Editor in Chief at BodyMind.com. When Mia isn't writing, she can usually be found reading, jogging or volunteering at one of her local animal shelters.

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