How supplier Scully finally found the promotional products industry

Dan Scully (third from left), his wife, Laney (second from left), their sons Brian (left), Dan IV (third from right) and Kevin (fourth from left) and their families celebrate the Fourth of July in Scully shirts from the company’s Patriot collection. Dan Scully (third from left), his wife, Laney (second from left), their sons Brian (left), Dan IV (third from right) and Kevin (fourth from left) and their families celebrate the Fourth of July in Scully shirts from the company’s Patriot collection.

If Dan Scully’s grandfather hadn’t lost a bet in 1906, Scully Inc. (UPIC: S174962) might never have come to be the successful apparel, accessory and Western wear company it is today.

“My grandfather had started his own glove manufacturing company in Napa, California, but there was another glove manufacturer in town and the two business owners quickly realized there wasn’t enough business for both of them,” Scully says. So they flipped a coin to see who would stay and who would go.

After being on the losing end of that coin flip, Scully’s grandfather relocated to Los Angeles, where he expanded his company’s product line to include leather jackets and flying helmets in addition to gloves, and his business thrived. The company outfitted Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s team for its famed 1928 expedition to Antarctica to establish a scientific research base camp on the Ross Ice Shelf—“I still have the original certificate of appreciation,” Scully says—and supplied aviator jackets and flying helmets for WWI and WWII pilots. Both items are on display at The Smithsonian Institute.

Fast forward to 1967. Scully was 24 when his father, who had taken over from his grandfather and who was in poor health, persuaded him to take over the family business. At first Scully expected to just close the business after his father died. But then he met up-and-coming fashion mogul Fred Segal, who asked if he’d be interested in manufacturing red, white and blue leather pants for Segal’s new concept store. Scully did, and the leather business took off.

Two of his sons, Brian and Dan IV, both work for the company as vice president of production and vice president of sales, respectively. Scully’s third son Kevin is a psychologist. As for Scully himself, “I like to say I’m the equivalent of Ronald Reagan in the second year of his presidency. He was 72 … . So I’ve got six more years before even thinking about retirement,” Scully says.

Through The Back Door

Scully added accessories and Western apparel soon after he took over the business, and in 1993 he acquired an Old West-style clothing company, Wahmaker, from bankruptcy. Wahmaker made turn-of-the-century cowboy apparel, and Scully expanded the line to appeal to the more mainstream Western market. It has become a major part of the business and its products are often chosen to outfit employees at themed casinos and restaurants.

The entrance into the promotional products arena came about organically rather than purposefully. “We came into the promotional products industry through the back door. Until recently, we weren’t seeking out that business. But because we were well known [in the retail industry], distributors came to us and asked us to design apparel or items for golf tournaments and other events,” Scully says. “We can make just about anything because we have both domestic and off-shore manufacturing, so we have the ability to do quick turnaround and can do proprietary manufacturing to accommodate anybody in the promotional products industry. We just weren’t being proactive about it beyond retail.”

Dynamic Duo

Multi-line reps Dale Jalovec and Sherry Maresh encouraged Scully to become more proactive in the industry. “They came to me about 18 months ago and said, ‘You’ve got a lot to offer. Why aren’t you actively soliciting in the promotional products industry? Let us do it.’ I agreed and left the door wide open for them. I told them I’d pay for any show they wanted to do. They were really excited,” Scully says.

“They do quite a few shows now. And they make sure we’re properly represented on all the industry websites. We should have done this much earlier.”

Even though they are now actively pursuing promotional products business, Scully is quick to point out that “we’re not doing anything different on the inside. We already had all the mechanics and the infrastructure, and the know-how, to make anything in leather—and fabric, too. It’s just that now we’re screaming, ‘Here we are!’ and within a short period of time, distributors in the promotional products industry were coming to us for quotes. We’ve had a tremendous response,” he says.

Full Circle

Scully sometimes accompanies his wife, Laney, on shopping excursions to thrift shops like Goodwill, where he invariably finds old Scully leather jackets that he was responsible for creating decades earlier.

“It’s fun to find things that I made, like a 48-year-old jacket. I buy them and bring them back to the office. Ten years ago I started buying old Scully flying helmets. I have quite a collection. I should probably stop now,” he jokes.

Scully’s Four Tips For Trade-Show Success

1. Be at the important trade shows.

2. Set up your display to tell your story.

3. Hire professional models for your catalogs.

4. Make sure your sales presentation is polished and professional.