Passing Down a Legacy: SBA Resources Prepare Entrepreneur to Take Over & Expand Mom’s Business


  • When Mary Watson’s son deployed in support of the First Gulf War in December 1980, she had trouble finding an American flag to display. At a time when American flags were only sold in the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day at hardware stores, she convinced a local flag manufacturer to provide her with a bulk order of flags.


  • She began selling the surplus flags out of the trunk of her car, and was dubbed “The Flag Lady” by the local press for her patriotic spirit. In 1984, she moved operations to a brick and mortar store in Columbus, Ohio.


  • For 25 years, she and her daughter, Lori Watson, worked side by side on the business. In 2017, Lori took over the business, wanting to continue her mother’s legacy.


  • In 2017, Lori participated in and graduated from SBA’ Emerging Leader’s program, an executive-level training program that helps small businesses with high growth potential through mentorship, workshops and networking opportunities.


  • “Emerging Leaders gave me the confidence to take over the business and come up with a strategy to put my vision into place,” Lori said. “The networking was invaluable and I still use those connections to help me make decisions about my business.”




  • The loan helped Lori expand into another building and hire seven additional employees, with 18 employees overall. “We had some growing pains with communication and coordination between the two buildings, but Emerging Leaders taught me how to train and empower my employees,” Lori said. “With the right people in the right positions, we can focus on the customer.”


  • Lori is expanding the Flag Lady business to create flags for other sports teams, corporations and other occasions.


  • Since taking over her mother’s business, Lori has increased online sales by 30 percent and overall sales by 13 percent.
Company Name: 
The Flag Lady's Flag Store