At the age of 17, Emily Waldon is already a business veteran earning about $100,000 over the past 11 years selling flagpoles, a business she began at age six after wanting to do something patriotic after 9/11.
“It has truly been great,” Waldon said, whose business is called Flagpole Express. “I’ve had so many9/11 opportunities that normal 17-year-olds could never dream of. Just being able to socialize with adults and know how to converse with them is something I’ve learned from this. I’ve also gained business skills that other 17-year-olds aren’t very often exposed to.”
Waldon, who will enter her senior year of high school this fall, was interviewed recently while she was at Ole Miss taking a summer school marketing class. She said she discovered her business hasn’t been doing enough marketing and advertising, and she is excited to be able to go back home and apply what she has learned.
“I’m actually turning in a presentation next week about my advertising, what I can do better, and what I’ve learned in my class,” Waldon said.
“We understand times are hard,” Waldon said. “That shouldn’t keep people from getting a flagpole. We have always tried to keep prices as low as possible. We’ve had only one change in price over 11 years.”
The business started after 9-11 when her parents, Bryon and Ginger Waldon, sat down to talk to her about what the terrorist event meant. She wanted a way to show love for her country, and asked if they could put up a flagpole. Her father had some poles left over from a fence business he used to own. After the flagpole was installed and they began flying the American flag, a neighbor asked if he could buy a flagpole. That first sale thrilled Waldon, and it wasn’t long until they made another sale to a local service station. They started advertising the flagpoles with a sign in their front yard, and demand grew steadily.
The most popular poles, which are manufactured at their home, are 21-foot and 24-foot tall. In addition to American flags, they also sell other flags such as service flags for police and fireman, military flags for POWs and MIAs, the Mississippi State flag, and custom flags. They also sell flagpole supplies like halyards for raising the flags.
With the $100,000 the business has earned in the past 11 years, Waldon first invested in horses and a horse trailer. Later on she has taken some great trips, including taking her family to Disney World, visiting Ground Zero in New York, and spending time in England and Europe.
She is considering studying international business when she goes to college.
Waldon, who is well known in the area as “the flagpole kid,” at eight years old was the youngest member of the Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce. She has also given talks about her business and other topics such as the challenges facing youth today before groups like the Hernando Optimist Club and the Horn Lake Rotary Club.
Her dad says while he has helped her a lot in the business, she is the driving force behind it.
“She has really evolved from a girl with an idea to an extraordinary woman who knows she can make her way in the business world,” Bryon Waldon said. “She was a different kind of kid. As she became older and more mature, we introduced her to how to do Quick Books, and different aspects of running a business. She is now going out and making sales calls on her own. She also sells and installs commercial poles, and that is where she makes her big money.”
Her advice to other young entrepreneurs is don’t let people underestimate your capabilities.
“And stick to it,” she said. “There were times when I was growing up that I would rather have been hanging out with my friends than doing the business. But I knew it was important to keep up with it.”
>>MORE AT MBJ-TV Stephen McDill talks with Emily and Bryan Waldon about Flagpole Express.