FLAGS USA – Women-Owned, Family-Owned, and Black-Owned Company

by Region 5 Advocate, Darryl DePriest

There were roughly 12 million women-owned businesses in 2017. According to an Office of Advocacy study, the demands on women related to childbearing and home management affect the type of businesses that women start. A small business I recently visited provides evidence that supports the study. I traveled to Carol Stream, Illinois to meet the co-owners of a local small business, Flags USA, and their founder Judi Sklar, her daughter Kimberly Dacka, and Lyneé Urban at their new location. Flags USA uses materials that are 100% sourced, manufactured, and completed in the United States. Flags USA is the only women-owned, family-owned, and Black-owned flag company in the United States.

Judi worked with another flag company before starting Flags USA from her living room in 1987. This allowed her to work from home while raising her daughters. Judi’s experience at her previous job provided her familiarity with the industry. After only a few years managing Flags USA, she rented a storefront, bought a building, then another in Bartlett, Illinois, before moving to the new location in Carol Stream. The move to Carol Stream was to facilitate greater expansion and Flags USA currently has 15 employees.

Judi’s daughter Kim literally and figuratively grew up with the company. She was seven years old when Judi started Flags USA, and her earliest job was putting postage on catalogs. When Judi needed to replace a departing employee in 1999, Kim came on full-time at age 19. In addition to taking some of the load off her mother’s shoulders, Kim expressed that her biggest contribution has been helping Flags USA have a more online presence and be less reliant on catalog and mail order sales.

Shelves with boxes of various flags in the Flags USA warehouse in Carol Stream, IL

The increased reliance on internet commerce partly led to having Lyneé as the third co-owner. Lyneé was raised on Staten Island and came to the Midwest as a student at the University of Notre Dame. There she met her future husband, a fellow student from Arlington Heights, Illinois. After graduating, they settled in the suburbs of Chicago, where Lyneé developed a consulting firm to provide brand marketing services to small businesses. It was through her consulting business that she first made contact with Flags USA. After the Flags USA employee in charge of marketing left, Kim asked Lyneé if she knew someone she could recommend. Lyneé, who was looking for a way to become more involved with small business, decided to pursue the opportunity and became Flags USA’s marketing manager in June 2019.

After two years at Flags USA, Judi and Kim approached Lyneé about joining them as a co-owner. At first Lyneé declined, but Judi and Kim persisted. Eventually, Lyneé accepted the offer and became a co-owner two years ago.

The new facility in Carol Stream sets up Flags USA for continued growth. In addition to providing space to store merchandise, the new location also includes a studio for podcasts and video promotions. The company recently acquired another flag company and has continued searching for opportunities to supply corporations and government entities. Flags USA has secured a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to provide the Transportation Security Administration’s flag for its operations and has also planned to expand into producing promotional products.

Judi, Kim, and Lyneé are passionate about two things. First, that small, women-owned companies help support families and, by extension, communities. And second, if you are flying the American flag, it should be a flag that is 100% sourced, manufactured, and completed here in America.

Darryl DePriest serves as the Regional Advocate for Region 5 covering Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Please feel free to contact Darryl DePriest at darryl.depriest@sba.gov and our other regional advocates to share your small business regulatory burdens or concerns.