Arkansas Flag and Banner

City: Little Rock
Category: Category I (1-25 Employees)
Year: 2004

Since 1975, Kerry McCoy has grown Arkansas Flag and Banner at near-bankrupting speed.

Her last two business expansions — $200,000 to buy and renovate the red-brick, historic building at 800 W. Ninth St. in 1992 and $500,000 for equipment and technology up-grades in 2000 — almost put her out of business. Almost. Instead, McCoy, the company’s sole owner, and 21 employees managed to increase sales by 20 percent every year.

“I’d like to grow 20 percent every quarter,” McCoy said, typical of her need to go full speed.

It’s that frantic pace that has allowed her to keep up with a business that’s seen quite a bit of change in the 30 years since McCoy first started selling flags door-to-door by day while waiting tables at night.

“In the ’80s it went to telemarketing because gas was so high,” McCoy said. “In the ’90s it went to catalog sales, and in 1995 I heard about the Internet and bought Flagandbanner.com.”

Every decade or so there seems to be a national event that gives business a boost. In the 1970s it was the nation’s bicentennial. In the ’80s, President Reagan and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” inspired newfound patriotism. The 1990s brought the Persian Gulf War.

Most recently the country went flag crazy after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Arkansas Flag and Banner was shipping an average of 30 packages of flags a day before September 11; immediately afterward, that went to more than 100 packages a day.

Surging demand, however, has also brought surging competition.

“The U.S. flag is becoming a commodity product,” McCoy said. “You can go to Wal-Mart and get a U.S. flag.”

About 80 percent of the company’s business comes from repeat customers. McCoy takes pride in having not only flags, poles, banners and bunting but all the unheralded equipment that goes with it.

“If anybody comes to me that has a product that’s good and reliable, I’ll sell it,” McCoy said.

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