Frank Cafferty: Shamrock Ad Specialties

By: Andrea Neece

After working for an advertising specialties firm and gaining essential experience and knowledge of the industry, Frank Cafferty decided he wanted to have an independent source of income and become his own boss.  What began with imprinting logos and advertising on matchbooks for restaurants, bars, and car dealerships became an international business. Cafferty opened Shamrock Ad Specialties in 1982, a company focused on imprinted advertising, and has been providing his loyal customers with quality products, superior customer service, and trustworthy salesmanship ever since.  Imprinting anything and everything from pens and water bottles to calendars, clothing and more, Shamrock Ad Specialties sells imprinted advertising to businesses and firms throughout America and Canada. 

 As the multitalented entrepreneur and owner of Shamrock Ad Specialties, Cafferty has been honing his business skills since he was 10 years old, when he began selling all-occasion cards door to door.  In junior high school, he became the number one magazine sales representative, which further foreshadowed his successes to come. 

 Financing Shamrock Ad Specialties through money he had saved up provided Cafferty with the necessary resources to launch his business in 1982.  At the outset he had to buy all items upfront and pay in cash, which was risky because these items had the customers logo already printed on them—Cafferty had to be very cautious with both the product he was selling and who he was selling to.  If his customers were dissatisfied with the product or failed to follow through with payment, Cafferty would not only be left with useless product but out all the money he had paid upfront to produce the imprinted goods. 

Cafferty’s most unpleasant surprises with his venture has been when the product he ordered for his customer doesn’t come back the way they had envisioned it.  When these instances occurred, negotiations would have to be made between Cafferty’s customer and the manufacturer to ensure customer satisfaction, one of Cafferty’s firm business policies. As a contrary example, one pleasant surprise his business encountered has been the growth of order sizes, which has translated into much higher returns for Shamrock Ad Specialties.  Obtaining an order from 2,000 to 5,000 units is something Cafferty finds particularly pleasant since a typical order is only around 150 units.  Larger orders turn higher returns, thus creating further success, profitability, and growth for the business as well. 

Selling to a variety of businesses and firms of all sizes, Cafferty’s main source of marketing comes from his direct selling and customer referral.  His many years of experience in the industry has also paid off through his vast networking capabilities to reach new customers.  Word of mouth is extremely valuable to Shamrock Ad Specialties as years worth of satisfied customers have contributed to the development of numerous new accounts with companies from all over the U.S. and Canada.  For increased company awareness and communication, Cafferty also utilizes a website,, and he leaves pens and calendars with his own logo and contact information in places were potential customers can see first-hand the quality of his products. 

Unfortunately, while having a website promotes his business, the Internet has become Cafferty’s biggest competitive threat because anyone in need of imprinted advertising can go online and find a cornucopia of distributors offering similar products to Shamrock’s offerings.  Despite this problem, however, the superior quality, personal salesmanship, and Cafferty’s position to delivering top-quality goods to consumers represents their company in the best light and is something the Internet does not offer. Cafferty differentiates himself from the competition by staying true to his core competencies and operating under the same principals that Shamrock Ad Specialties was built upon: superior quality, outstanding customer relations, and trustworthy salesmanship to deliver both quality and affordability to the customer.  

When Cafferty was asked which skills he would recommend students develop if they wanted to start a similar business, he quickly responded with, “Customer relations and listening to your customer.”   Customer satisfaction is the number-one priority in this industry and vital to the profitability and sustainability of any business.  Being intuitive and having strong analytical skills are also necessary tools to provide customers with the appropriate guidance and expert opinions needed to select the best products to represent their own business. Having the experience of dealing with a variety of suppliers and being educated on who provides the best quality are essential components in Cafferty’s business operations; they enable him to select the best products for his customers while providing them with an enjoyable experience that creates satisfaction and confidence in their purchase.  The resource that got him to where he is today was the experience he gained from working for an established advertising specialties firm when he first began in the industry.  Cafferty noted the valuable experience not only prepared him for the launch of his own business but also gave him the opportunity to develop invaluable relationships that played a vital role in networking once he had launched his own business.  “The most valuable resource someone wanting to start their own business in this industry can acquire is to go practice and work for a business already established,” Cafferty said.

Not only has Frank Cafferty established a successful business for himself and run it for over 28 years but he has also enjoyed many opportunities to give back to his community.  He founded many friendships and relationships with local organizations in Sandpoint, Idaho, his home and location of Shamrock’s headquarters.  Cafferty has been an active member of both the Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis International Club, and has donated both time and money to many other local organizations.  Voted one of  “the friendliest men” in Sandpoint by the community, is further evidence of Cafferty’s positive presence and commitment to his those around him.  Using is own business and products to assists those in need, Cafferty is known throughout his community as a generous and kind man who is always willing to lend a helping hand—a true example of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur both within and outside of the business world.

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