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Flag Crafters Inc., a flag, banner, and signage manufacturer, began as a contract manufacturing company in 1981 that produced stuffed toys and similar products for schools and universities. In 1983, the company started cutting and sewing custom flags. As the flag and banner industry expanded, Flag Crafters President Robert Crowe decided to focus on that industry. The company invested in screen-printing technology in 1987, then went to dye-sublimation in 1997, and in 2000 upgraded to digital printing. Flag Crafters still produces everything in-house at its Chula Vista facility.

Flag Crafters has been working with the San Diego Padres for the past five years, including making the flags and banners for opening day. They have also produced flags and banners for other special events such as the past 14 Super Bowls, NBA All-Star weekends, the 1998 World Series, and various NHL Championships, the Fiesta Bowl, Comdex, the World Cup, and Rotary International conventions.

Current and previous clients include Reebok, Microsoft, General Motors, the San Diego Zoo, the Chula Vista Downtown Business Association, the San Diego Downtown Partnership, the Eastlake Community Development and the Linda Vista Building Association.

The company’s chief competitor is AAA Signs of Los Angeles.


Name: Robert E. Crowe

Title: President

Company: Flag Crafters Inc.

Address: 1095 Bay Blvd., Chula Vista.

Phone: (619) 585-1044

Founded: 1981

Prior experience: Vice president of marketing and sales, Celanese Corp.

Source of start-up capital: Self-financed, $50,000.

2003 revenue: $3.3 million.

Number of employees: 35.

Web site: (www.flagcrafters.com)


Born: Bloomington, Ind.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics; M.B.A. in business administration, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.

Residence: Coronado.

Family: Wife Janet; daughter Whitney; and son Robert.

Hobbies: Golf and jogging.


Reason for getting into the business: Desire to own my own company. I did not have the freedom I desired in corporate America. I chose to leave because my desire to own my own company overcame the fear of failure. I always knew it was the best

decision because even on my worst days, I never had any regrets about starting this company.

How I plan to grow the business: More aggressive positioning with our newly re-formed marketing department, aggressive outside sales force, and excellent customer service.

Biggest plus of business ownership: The freedom to make decisions and follow through.

Biggest drawback: No safety net.

Biggest business strength: The employees involved are very dedicated.

Biggest business weakness: People can be the biggest strength and the greatest weakness. Finding and keeping good people who are truly dedicated to growing and moving the company forward can be a difficult task.

Biggest risk: Events and problems that are out of our control.

Smartest business decision: Investing in modern equipment and digital technology. Digital technology increased our client base, brought in larger clients, increased revenue, and helped us to produce more with less labor. Before digital technology, sales per employee were $50,000. Since the introduction of digital technology in 2000, sales per employee have doubled to $100,000. We doubled our productivity.

Biggest business mistake: Not buying into the digital technology sooner then we did.

Toughest career decision: Moving on from a well-paid corporate job and venturing out on my own to start a new company in order to find something more creative and personally fulfilling.

Biggest ongoing challenge: We are in a great market, (and) we have the technology, but the biggest ongoing challenge is attracting the right people in each of the positions within this company.


Goals yet to be achieved: $10 million dollars in sales.

My five-year business plan: To expand through retail accounts and pursue various new markets. We are in the process of adding representation in different areas of the country. Nothing is definite at this point; it is in the works.

I would sell my business only if: It wasn’t fun anymore, which isn’t likely to happen.


The most important part of my business: Dedicated and talented employees. Also, great clients who have been with us a long time are an important aspect of my business.


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