For most people, retirement means a lifetime of sleeping in, taking vacations, and lunches with friends or family. Not for Barbara Sargent.
Sargent had a prestigious career at Lambert Landscape Co. beginning in 1972 until the early 1990s. She rose to the position of vice president, where she was responsible for marketing, customer service and the retail division. It was during her tenure there that she was introduced to Epmar Corp.’s Kemiko stains and coatings and the idea of decorative concrete.
As part of retirement negotiations with Lambert, she agreed to stay three more years, and in turn, would be allowed to take on the company’s distributorship of Kemiko products.
Why would someone give up the retired life to distribute a product that somebody else manufactured?
“I was so intrigued by the trendless concept,” she says. “Back then, decorative concrete staining was extremely commercial. The backbone of my business plan was to expand the interest of everyone involved in the residential marketplace.”
So for years, Barbara and her husband “Sarge” worked tirelessly to expand Kemiko’s presence. Through advertising, trade events and home improvement shows, Kemiko achieved national recognition as a leading decorative concrete supplier in the residential sector.
Thanks in part to their leadership, decorative concrete was no longer used just for commercial applications.
“We worked relentlessly to promote the ‘concrete concept.’ We were challenging the old idea of traditional floor building materials and convincing people to think decorative concrete could be in the home,” she says.
Although she and Sarge were the only two working on the mission full time, she’s quick to note they didn’t do it alone. Barbara formed an alliance with Jim Peterson of the Concrete Network website to promote residental decorative concrete in 1999, which she says gave her, and her vision, credibility. In 2002, she teamed up with Bob Harris of the Decorative Concrete Institute, which led him to begin teaching classes focused on using Kemiko products. “The association with Bob was to the betterment of Kemiko and my success in the industry,” she says.
After leaving her mark on the industry, Barbara retired for good in 2008. She now spends her days relaxing in her rural Texas home and traveling with Sarge. “When all is said and done, I’m proud of my through-line, meaning my start to finish. I started with and finished with passion,” she says.