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Woman Finds Place for Flag Business in Little Rock

Kerry Thompson started Arkansas Flag and Banner, a mail-order business, in 1975 with only $400. Almost 10 years later, Ms. Thompson, 29, looks at the early days with disbelief. "I started with $400. I was so young and naive, but I was gungho," she said. "Sometimes being naive is an asset."

Originally from Little Rock, Ms. Thompson moved to Dallas, where she attended a merchandising school. In 1974, she said, she couldn't find a job she was skilled for, so she started work as a Betsy Ross Flag Girl. Ms. Thompson and two other women sold flags door-to-door to businesses. After a trip to Little Rock, Ms. Thompson, somewhat despondent over her situation in Dallas, checked the Yellow Pages to see how well flag businesses were represented in Little Rock. "Nobody did it here," she said.

Determined to make a go of it, Ms. Thompson returned to Dallas long enough to quit her job. When she arrived in Little Rock, she spent her meager funds on business cards and order sheets. She asked her first customer to pay her up front for an order, which the business did when she offered a 2 percent discount. Ms. Thompson said she began her business too late to place an advertisement in the Yellow Pages, so she spent many of the early days distributing her cards to Little Rock businesses.

Inventory, she said, was hard to acquire so close to the bicentennial celebration. As her business grew, Ms. Thompson decided to open a retail shop. In 1978, she opened one in North Little Rock. In 1979, she returned to strictly mail order. Now operating out of her home on Kavanaugh Boulevard, Ms. Thompson said she caters to businesses. She stocks American and Arkansas flags in her attic, but she can order any type flag desired. She said the most popular order is the 3 by 5 foot American flag. Nylon flags, which should be replaced about every six months, sell for about $30. All-weather American flags cost $36, but they only need replacing annually. Arkansas flags, Ms. Thompson said, are more expensive, with all-weathers selling for $75 and nylons for $33.

"All the states use the U.S. flag. Only Arkansas uses the Arkansas flag, so they are twice as much. It's supply and demand," Ms. Thompson said. She said American flags can now be flown 24 hours a day, except during wartime. Laws used to require that American flags be illuminated during the night, but Ms. Thompson said that's no longer the case. Ms. Thompson said that this has been a better year for her than 1976. She attributed increased business to the Olympics.

Ms. Thompson's heaviest business is from January through August. In the off months, she supplements her income with part-time jobs. She said she recently took a real estate course and may try that in the slow season. Ms. Thompson also is experienced in the kitchen, so she caters some special events.

She has expanded into Jackson, Miss., area and she wants to have a handle on Tennessee. She misses her retail shop, but she said until her business can support the overhead of a house and rental space, she will hold off on starting a retail business. Ms. Thompson employs one part-time worker who helps her with invoices and catalog mailings.

She said she has accumulated business sense from the years spent at her job. "I have a better attitude now. At one time, I was ready to get out. I thought it was a stupid business." Ms. Thompson said. "It's a great business," she quickly added.

West Little Rock Neighbor

Posted on August 8, 1984




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