Arkansas Flag and Banner celebrated its 30th Birthday in 2005, and in those 30 years, this homegrown startup has expanded from a one-woman operation to a diversified national and international competitor in its industry, all while keeping its roots in the community where it sprouted. Owner Kerry McCoy was 20 years old and had $400 to her name when she quit her job selling flags for Betsy Ross Flag Girls in Dallas, packed everything up into her yellow ’71 Chevy Camaro and drove home to Little Rock to start her own flag business. As luck would have it, no other local flag sellers existed in Little Rock at that time, and the country was preparing to celebrate its bicentennial, an occasion of rediscovered patriotism. To such a clear demand, she fed supply by cold calling and knocking on the doors of other businesses.
McCoy slowly expanded her sales methods, graduating from door-to-door sales to telemarketing, then to mailings and catalogs, and finally to the Internet in 1996, when she changed the name of the company to Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com. And as sales increased, she diversified her product line. To her sewing department, she added screen printing and eventually digital printing capabilities, widening the range of customized flag and banners the company offered. Along with national, state and historic flags, her company also started selling flag poles and other flag accessories. In 2001 she opened a retail store for patriotic gifts and accessories, boasting the most red, white and blue under one roof. What resulted wan an entirely new creature in her industry.
There is not really anybody like my company in the whole United States….There is no flag and banner company that is as full service as we are,” McCoy said. She pointed out that none of her competitors sells traditional flags, flag poles, flag accessories, patriotic gifts, and custom flags and banners.
“It’s a lot of balls in the air,’ Mccoy said. Yet Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com juggles them all. The company continues to grow 10 percent every year. It did $2.5 million in sales in 2005 and was named a finalist for the 2004 Arkansas Business of the Year Ward for businesses with 25 employees or fewer.
Most of the company’s sales – about 80 percent – are business to business. And with Internet sales earning 20 percent of revenue, Arkansas’ Flag and Banner.com has garnered big customers from coast to coast. For example, the company has sold custom banners as large as 20 ft. by 30 ft. to art expos in California and to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
While continuing to grow and improve its current business model, Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com is also working this year on reopening the Dreamland Ballroom located on the top floor of Taborian Hall, the historic building where the company is headquartered. McCoy hopes to restore th ballroom to the original glory it enjoyed during the ’20s and ’30s, when such music legends as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald played there. In its restored state, the Dreamland Ballroom will be open to the public as an event center for rent. McCoy is currently seeking additional financing for this effort.