Survivor’s Spirit Spreads Joy

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Photo by Wezz De La Rosa
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By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, ripped through Puerto Rico in September 2017. It brought island-wide damage, killed 3,000 people, and caused devastating and on-going flooding and power outages that lasted for months. It destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, including Heidy Estrella’s restaurant. With little to no support available to rebuild, her family looked at alternative living options. During the sparce times they had access to the Internet, Estrella scoured the web for locations that had a good reputation for families, particularly in education and job opportunities. Her search led to Iowa and the next year, after over six months of no electricity, she and her family relocated to Des Moines. Life wasn’t easy as they adapted to a different language, culture, and climate in a place where they didn’t know a soul. With few resources, Estrella took a job cleaning as she worked on her English. Less than two years later, Covid sent her home and cut off her income. With little money and lots of time, she turned to the Internet again. She watched hours of instructional videos detailing balloon decorations and found a few online courses. She invested the bit of savings she had from her job to buy some balloons and other supplies. “I started [Blessings Factory] during the pandemic making custom products and balloon decorations for small family gatherings.” Her friendly demeanor and vivid imagination helped her establish a following. As the pandemic let up, she began taking on larger events. Her work attracted the attention of everyone who saw the bright colors and cheerful landscapes. 

Estrella’s contagious energy and positive attitude attracts others who want to spread happiness through an event decorating business. Today, Blessings Factory has grown beyond local birthday celebrations. “I do a lot of decorations for corporations, transforming spaces into magical places, capturing memories that last forever. We also empower women with training and workshops so they too can live from their passion in this wonderful world of balloon decoration. I train women in Iowa and have also gone to Chicago and Puerto Rico to train.” 

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Photo by Wezz De La Rosa

With her husband as her right-hand who designs the structures that hold her designs together while they take shape, and her son, a senior in high school helping with graphic design and marketing, Estrella feels blessed to share this with her boys and help other women become their own boss. “We work together creating memories while building a family business. I love teaching my kids the value of teamwork. Even my seven-year-old helps blow up the balloons and clean up.” 

Take one look through the vibrant, playful scenes she creates, and the smiles on the faces of those who attend her workshops and classes, and there’s no doubt that Estrella has special gifts that others are lucky to experience. After great loss, devastation, and so many setbacks, Estrella still shines, a radiant example of the tenacity of the entrepreneurial spirit. It comes from deep within her Latina roots. “I love working with my hands, converting spaces; empowering and transforming women who also find their purpose in life with me. It is my favorite part of my business and so every day I get up ready to give my best. I am Puerto Rican, a mixture of Taino, African and Spanish cultures. I have the strength, determination, and courage of a warrior in my veins to move forward regardless of adversity.” Given all she has overcome, that seems like an understatement but shows the power of being persistent, resolute, and unwavering in the face of difficulties when pursuing a goal and taking control of your destiny, no matter what life throws at you.

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