Flying Through a Dream

The Vinson Family opened their first storefront in Liberty Center of 2021


Marin Jones, Writer



Jason Vinson grew up around the military. His father was an active member throughout most of his childhood. He was born in Hawaii and was constantly moving. Every two years, his home was in a new city. Within the next six years, he had moved from Japan to Virginia, then finally settled in Ohio.


Despite moving around, Vinson was an active child. He liked climbing trees, which would become an important element of his story. He was climbing up a tree on one of the Marine Corps and lost his balance. He fell out of the tree and hit the ground with a bang, resulting in a broken arm. This was the origin of his childhood nickname, “Bird.”


While “Bird” recovered from his injury, his family was always at the center of his life. They helped him recover and supported his dream of becoming a person in charge of his own destiny. His father was the real motivation behind every action. Jason Vinson Sr. served 21 years in the military as a Master Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He also has two master’s degrees, one in business and one in social work. His words have made an impact on the decisions made by the family. Everyone listens when he speaks. 


While on the long road to becoming a successful local entrepreneur, there were marathon sessions devoted to brainstorming for their business. The brand this family has come to build has moved from a small kiosk in the Towne Mall in Middletown to a large storefront in Liberty Center. Their decisions have produced a new look and style in apparel. In one of their brainstorming sessions, they had to produce a name they felt encompassed who they were as a family. This was the birth of BirdBrain Apparel. 


January 2016 was when the idea sparked. The original idea was devised by Jason, Troy,  and his Middletown High School friends. They wanted to start a T-shirt business. After a few meetings, this group didn’t think Jason and Troy would be the best fit to be a part of their business idea. 


“I didn’t think that this was going to happen. But then, I went back home and spoke with my mom,” Jason told Spark. Sarah Jason’s mother said, “ You can’t split a $15.00 T-shirt five ways if you want to do it we will support you.”  


After confirming the idea of starting a business, their first steps were to develop the product. Regarding the shirts, mass production was not their strategy. 


“We didn’t start with 5,000 pieces. We started super small, like 20 T-shirts and 20 hoodies,” Vinson says. Their first T-shirts were sold at $15 each, and sweatshirts were sold at $25.

First, sales were made at Middletown High School, where Jason and his brother Troy attended. They would go before and after school selling products from their backpacks. Anywhere they went provided a storefront opportunity to promote their products.


“We would go to random places and set up shop,” Troy Vinson told Spark. 


Jason’s mom, Sarah Vinson, was the one who pushed to get things done. She helped get in contact with their first distributor. She traveled to pick up their products from different distributors. She has been there from day one, motivating and keeping everyone on track, and she was there trying to make sure Jason and Troy still had a high school experience. 


“A lot of the time, they had show choir competitions on a Saturday. Or they wanted to go to the Friday night basketball game or a football game, so I was like, alright, I’ll come to work. It was just a family effort of always trying to allow them to still be kids,” Sarah told Spark.


Their first big milestone was in December 2016. A kiosk in the Towne Mall was officially theirs. They used the kiosk for two years until they moved to Liberty Center in November 2019. Being a part of Liberty Center was harder than the Vinsons thought. They tried in February of 2017 to get a kiosk in Liberty Center and were turned down. Then in June 2017, they tried again and were turned down again. Then finally, in October 2019, they signed the lease. 


The first products were funded by the parents, and then the profits were just cycled back to the business. 


“We would just put the money right back into the business and kept doing that until we got to Liberty [Center]. We weren’t paying ourselves for anything. All the money we were making was put right back into the dream,” Troy says. 


When Liberty Center was in their view, the youngest brother, Donovan Vinson, stepped into the light. 


“I didn’t come into the business until I was in middle school, and I would barely get into it. Then, sophomore year, I decided to be a part of the brand,” Donovan told Spark.


Donovan was not a very social person during his beginning time at BirdBrain. After becoming a part of the business, everyone came together and worked with him on the social aspect of selling products. He was taught how to sell and how to treat customers with respect. 


“I used to be antisocial. So, [his family] taught me how to talk to people and how to sell and treat them with respect. I always treat people with respect, but I was very shy,” Donovan says. Now, he is seen as the face of the Liberty Center kiosk. 


After two years of being up and running in Liberty Center, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Coronavirus was a big obstacle, but it didn’t hit their business as hard as other small businesses. During Covid, BirdBrain shut down their kiosk from mid-March until June 1. This was a time for all sales to be online, which presented some complications. 


“People didn’t want to order online because they didn’t know what was going on with everything. So I’ll probably say our biggest obstacle was just pushing ourselves to do better,” Jason says. 


After pushing through, there was a family decision to open up a storefront. On June 11, 2022, the official BirdBrain store opened. The store features a street kind of vibe. There is a basketball hoop on one of the walls with a buzzer. Another wall is completely filled with sneakers. The colors serve as a draw as well. Behind the cash registers, there is a mural with the BirdBrain logo and many vibrant colors. The prices at the store are between $50 – $75 for sweatshirts, and T-shirts are $28 – $40. 


Moving from the kiosk to a storefront BirdBrain has increased their earnings by 30%. At the kiosk there was a lot less space and the expenses were lower. At the store front, expenses are higher but the store allows the Vinson’s to showcase more of their products.


“They’re doing great things, and to see young men doing something so monumental and having a full store front in Liberty is beautiful to see and I am so proud,” Shaumia Turner, a long-time supporter of BirdBrain, told Spark.


Within the past two and a half years, BirdBrain has incorporated shoes into their business. The start of sneaker culture was in 1985 when Nike Air Jordans entered the scene. The shoe phenomenon hasn’t stopped. More and more people are willing to invest in sneakers as a fashion item. The recent increase in shoe culture has been the increase in comfort. Each month, Nike releases new shoes. Some are the same as shoes from the past, with slight differences, including comfort. 


“We’ve always had a passion for shoes. I think that anytime that you can add something to your brand to bring more eyes is always a plus. So we seemed to like the trajectory of shoes and how it was popularized,” Jason says.


“I feel there is not a different crowd; it just made more people aware of BirdBrain. I think it just opens up for more people to know about it,” Sarah says. 


The shoes have caught the eyes of many, but in the end, the shirts and sweatshirts are their main hit. 


“With the clothing, there’s always something for someone. So if you don’t like the bright colors, you can go with something simple with a small embroidery.” Sarah says. 


Every day this family only focuses on making their customers understand they mean something. During the week, they have family meetings to discuss how the weekend went and what they could do to be better. 


“One thing that BirdBrain is good at is when you come in, we always greet you. We always make you feel like you’re a part of something,” Sarah says. In the past seven years, BirdBrain has only gotten two negative comments. One of them was because a customer said they walked in and weren’t greeted after being made aware the Vinsons had a family meeting to rewind the footage and see what happened and how they could respond better.


“I’ve seen them at the kiosk, and they were extremely inviting and hilarious. My son seemed to connect with them as well. I bought my son’s first pair of shoes from them,” Turner says.


 The story of BirdBrain doesn’t end here. Each of the brothers has a different idea of what the future will look like. Each of them has a different aspiration for their life. 


“I would love to collaborate with other brands down the line,” Jason says. 


“I might branch off and do something with the business. Maybe incorporate BirdBrain into something else other than just a clothing line. Just something that keeps the name going further and further,” Donovan says. 


“I would definitely say that I’m open in the future to working on other things, but my number one priority would be with BirdBrain and doing things within the business,” Troy says. 


“I think it’s going to be forever,” Donovan says.