Bella Vita launched a blog titled “Boss Lady” in March 2017 - after years of being inspired by the women that we are friends with, work with, or do business with, that are building their empire doing what they love. Running a business takes work, and getting started takes courage. At Bella Vita, we wanted to take this opportunity to praise and encourage some of the great female entrepreneurs we have met over the years and we hope to inspire more young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs.
My team and I are reaching out to the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive into the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between.
Hi, I’m Kerry McCoy, president of Flagandbanner.com. I was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas and attended Northeast High School. I attended one semester of college at UCA and realized it was not for me. Then, at my mother's suggestion, I attended a one year vo-tech school (Miss Wade’s Fashion Merchandising College), and received a diploma. Once I was grown up and look back I realize I was lucky to have such a normal family, with no alcoholism or other abuse of any kind. My father was a small entrepreneur and my mother was his book keeper. We were very middle class and thrifty. A series of bad luck led me to the path I'm on today (more on that later), but I think it has worked out pretty well!
- Give us your elevator pitch. I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner over 40 years ago, with just $400. Today it has over nearly $4 million in annual sales and over 20 employees. I am proud of the way I have successfully grown the business with integrity and the belief that people matter. If you will give me your business, I promise to take good care of you. I'm also the owner of the Historic Taborian Hall located in downtown Little Rock. The most impressive part of the building is Dreamland Ballroom located on the third floor. To see it, you must climb three flights of stairs, which limits who has access to this Arkansas gem…boy, do we need an elevator!
- What is your business? Arkansas Flag and Banner, Inc. is a retailer of flags, banners, pennants, flagpoles, and other related items.
- When did you start your business? 1975
What inspired you to make the leap? A series of bad luck….. I was not particularly good in high school, but I still felt I should try college. After one semester, I knew it was not for me. I came home and got a job as a telephone operator. I was 18 years old and tethered to a switch board for Ma Bell. I couldn’t image doing that the rest of my life.
This is when my mother suggested a one-year fashion merchandising school in Dallas, TX. I took her advice. A year later, upon graduation from Miss Wade’s Fashion Merchandising School, the recession of 1974 happened. I couldn’t find a job in my field so I took a job in Dallas selling flags for Betsy Ross Flag Girls. After 6 months, I became discouraged and moved home to North Little Rock, where with the encouragement of my parents, I began selling flags door to door again, only this time it was for my own company, Arkansas Flag and Banner.
- What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation?? I love coffee, so much, that I had to give it up. At least twice a week, I wake and go to the gym. The other mornings I make a fruit smoothie with yogurt, followed by a cup of just plain ole Lipton hot tea. Occasionally I have coffee.
- Tell us about a day in the life of running your business. My position at FlagandBanner is ever changing. I began as a lone employee, being my own salesperson, purchasing agent, shipping clerk and bookkeeper. When I opened the sewing department, I sewed. When I opened the retail store, I worked it. Today I like to say, “I work on the business rather than in the business”. I play more of a support role, solving problems, hiring and firing. I also work with the marketing department to keep the company relevant and moving forward. More recently I’ve become the spokesperson of FlagandBanner.
- What keeps you motivated? Creating and implementing new business ideas. Anybody that doesn’t think business is creative, hasn’t done business, at least not well.
Describe your dream day. I am a BIG dreamer, always have been. Besides dreaming about owning my own plane, I am dreaming of becoming a successful radio interviewer, publisher, and consolidating the flag industry. Not by buying up all the mom and pops but rather by creating affiliates who will use my expertise in advertising, training, hiring, and bookkeeping to help them and our market grow bigger.
- What is your greatest strength/super power? You probably need to ask someone else this besides me. I guess the ability to identify other people’s strengths and putting them in the right position so they can flourish.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Yep to all. Snapchat is not particularly good for business but I love it personally!
- What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) I listen to lots of music, love to read self-help books, play cards, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and my fav… spend time with my grandkids,
- If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? I would create an affiliate program to consolidate the flag business and grow our market shares. I would also buy a flag printing machine, and try some creative marketing strategies (that is fun).
What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go? Buying and renovating the Taborian Hall in Downtown Little Rock. The next was jumping into the internet business. They both almost bankrupted me in the beginning.
- Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable? Probably learning to fire people. Then I realized most people that I have to let go already want to go, they just don’t have the courage. So I am actually doing them a favor.
- How do you handle discouragement? Just get up and put one foot in front of the other until you get it behind you.
- Which iconic person inspires you? I am a biography nut. Some of the most amazing people come from a life of strife. Abe Lincoln is a good example of this. One of the first biographies I read was Lee Iococa’s book in the 1980’s and I think that is when I realized we all put our pants on one leg at a time. What separates us from others is often how hard we work.
Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote? There are so many. The one that seems to fit today is Voltaire’s “I may disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
- If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose? The Dean of Trinity Cathedral, Dr. Chris Keller
- Who are you in your next life? This is my last life.
- Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business? Don’t take anything personally, even if the persecutor or circumstance wants you to, don’t.
- What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs? Don’t over think it. Just do it. Every day just do something that will move you in a positive direction. You never know where you will end up.
Visit Arkansas Flag and Banner in person
at 800 West Ninth Street, Little Rock, AR 72201
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