Initially our meeting was a bit of a disaster. We tried to meet at The Mud House but it was closed for renovation, next we tried Sump Coffee but they were closed on this particular day of the week. Finally, we followed each other over to Park Avenue Coffee in the Lafayette area and had success. After sitting down with a black tea and an Americano, Scott told me he used to work in politics.
For 11 years he ran political campaigns of all levels. In 1996 he ran 2 campaigns, one during the main election cycle and another during the special election cycle. That year had been difficult for him in a number of respects, so when his brother approached him about going into business together he had some serious thinking to do. He took a month off to weigh his options. The new business, a manufacturer of small duct, high velocity heating and cooling systems for architecturally unique homes, had its challenges. Sales hadn’t been great and the factory was “a dump”. But, after working about 60 political campaigns he thought, “I’ve had a pretty good run, maybe it’s time to go do something else.”
So, in June 1997 Scott, his brother, and a few other partners bought Unico Systems, Inc. When they made the purchase, sales were fairly small, but in time they have managed to increase business by 1,000%. Then things got difficult for awhile. “In 2007 with almost stunningly bad timing, right before the recession hit, we built this brand new building in Jefferson County,” he told me. They slogged through some difficult years, but things turned out ok. The new space ended up being very good for the company, and it now houses 140,000 square feet of manufacturing and testing labs for their equipment.
His career wasn’t the only thing that changed when he was a bit farther along in life. In 2001 he married his wife, whom he had known for years and they moved to the UK to expand this new business internationally. When his wife was about 36 they had their daugher and at 40 they had their son. Reflecting on their ages, Scott said emphatically, “I tell you there is absolutely nothing wrong as far as I can see, with having children later in life. I mean, you have a lot more patience, you have a lot of tensions in your life resolved, you kind of, I think, have a better understanding of who you are, you have a few more bucks in your pocket, which helps a lot. Make no mistake about that.” But he does admit it was “kind of pushing the envelope”.
Life also handed him another exciting opportunity several years ago when he and his wife became partial owners (along with artist Julie Malone) of an art gallery called Soha in the Central West End. “My wife and I collected art wherever we went, traveled, that sort of thing. We would bring art back and we bought a lot local. We got to know Julie very well, the two of them are very good friends and Kat, my wife is Kat, she used to do a lot of art projects with kids and things like that so it just kind of all fell into place.” He and Kat regularly visit artist studios to meet the artists and see how they work, “It’s exciting to us. You get a real sense of the production side of it.”
Being part owner of an international company has its perks. As he listed a few of the 28 countries that Unico Systems sells in, including India, Ireland, and France, I became curious, “So you’ve traveled to a lot of these places?” He paused and appeared to be doing some mental math before he answered, “Yea, I think last count, 73 countries?” Wow. As for his favorite and least favorite places to visit, “Anytime I can spend a weekend in Paris, I’m up for it. But Pakistan, is a place I’d never go back to, quite frankly.”
At 8:30am Scott had to dash off to an important meeting, so we said our farewells over the sound of baristas calling out orders and parted ways with the promise to stay in touch.