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Their Imported U.S. Flags Didn’t Last, So They Started Making Them Here

Image courtesy Allegiance Flag Supply

When Katie and Wes Lyon were married five years ago, one of their wedding gifts was an American flag. They were eager to fly it outside their new home together. They’re both patriotic, after all, and Wes is an Eagle Scout. “In Scouting, I learned good citizenship and how to be respectful,” he said, “and what a great country we live in. I was excited to fly our flag.”

But after just a few months of flying their new flag with pride, the couple noticed it was already deteriorating. So they went shopping and bought another one. That one quickly wore out too. Both had been imported flags. Comparing notes on their experience with friends, they heard that same story repeated again and again. So they wondered if there was a business opportunity there. “Our first run went to our family and friends,” Katie shared. “They were extremely popular, so we thought, ‘Maybe we have something here.’”

Partnering with their childhood friend Max Berry, they established Allegiance Flag Supply in Charleston, South Carolina, in August 2018. It’s a completely home-grown effort. “We’re 100% bootstrapped,” Max said. “We’re not taking outside money, even from friends and family. We don’t want to answer to anyone else. We’re in it for the American flag, for entrepreneurship, and to supply jobs to American workers.”

That American-made provenance is one key element of their business–but they have lots of company there. The good news during the annual “buy American-made flags!” hullabaloo that’s raised around this time every year, as we head toward that most patriotic of holidays, Independence Day, is that over 90% of U.S. flags are made at least in part domestically. There are dozens of U.S. companies making American flags. But there aren’t that many that are 100% American-made, which became a focus for Allegiance.

Wes and Katie Lyon and Max Berry. Image courtesy Allegiance Flag Supply

U.S. job creation is another company value. So as their Allegiance business grew, the couple and their pal looked for an industrial producer with a keen eye on keeping and creating jobs here in America. “We searched different places around the country, and landed at a textile plant in Vidalia, Georgia,” said Katie. “It’s a 3rd generation business,” added Wes. “They sort of lost wind in the 1990s when so much of the textile business went overseas. We saw they were making golf course pin flags, and figured they’d work to make our U.S. flags.” That estimation was right on target, and Allegiance now touts that their flags keep American seamstresses in Georgia sewing.

Similarly, when they went looking for a nylon supplier (most American flags these days are made from plastic fibers, so please don’t burn them when it comes time for a respectful retirement), they looked to another U.S. company, a family business founded in 1945 in Huntington, New York., that supplies the 200 denier nylon thread that’s the fundamental building block of Allegiance flags.

Top-quality construction is the other major focus for the Allegiance team. “We put bar tacks–zig-zag stitches–at all the stress points,” said Wes. “We use double needle lockstitching at the fly end. That prevents the fraying and separation you see on other flags.”

Business has been brisk–after a bit of a rough start. “When we first launched in 2018, we watched things not take off online,” said Katie. “We learned, and licked our wounds for six months or a year. None of us have a background in marketing or social media. But we’ve seen the fruits of our labor for the last six months, and things have really taken off in the last three months. Now we’ve hired our first employee, rented office space, and landed our first major retailer. We’re selling flags as fast as we can make them.”

Image courtesy Allegiance Flag Supply

“There’s been robust growth in the direct-to-consumer business,” said Max. “We’ve seen a couple companies like us go public. We’re going to stay bootstrapped and focus on getting profitable and staying profitable, and on pouring our dollars into more advertising to grow the business.”

The team sees ample opportunity ahead. “We’ve already expanded our offerings,” said Wes. “In addition to the basic 3’x5’ flag, we now offer two sizes of boat flags and a 4’x6’ industrial flag. We’ll continue to scale up our operations and hiring, and our manufacturing is scaling up too. We may have opportunities with other kinds of flags too, like logo flags for college or professional sports teams. We’ll continue to build the brand and see where it goes from here.”

They plan to grow with a purpose as well. “As we continue to hire, we plan to focus on hiring military veterans,” Wes said. “We intend to make that a corporate value.” Katie added, “The American flag is our symbol of freedom. Vets sacrifice to give that to America – what better way is there for us to give back than to focus on hiring them?”

The Allegiance team has an example in mind they’d like to emulate. “Look at the cooler,” said Wes. “It’s been around for decades and decades, but Yeti came along and built one that works better, that’s better quality and lasts longer. They beat Coleman and Igloo at their own game.” Katie agreed. “People are happy to have Yeti as an option – they probably got a cheaper cooler years ago that was bad, that didn’t last. Yeti comes along and offers something much better. We want to do the same with our flags. We have the emotion behind the American flag already–we just want to add our quality to that.”

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