Happy Employees make great Employee Culture


Employee Culture and having everybody getting along is of utmost importance to running an embroidery shop for over 45 years, says Erik Mickelson. Employees and coworkers you can trust and come to work with a great attitude make managing an embroidery shop a breeze. Let me show you how we create a great workplace with happy employees that come to work daily and give their best effort.

Say thank you to your employees.

You won’t believe how well a genuine “Thank you” boosts employee morale and employee culture. I look for staff members that come to work with a cheerful and willing-to-do-anything attitude and make it a habit to say “Thank you.” Our direct-to-garment printer operator is always upbeat, so on Friday, I surprise him with some beef jerky or a select Northwest IPA beer. The beer is to be sipped after 5 pm in the confines of the operator’s home.

New Employee Welcome Postcards

Hiring a new employee is difficult in this current state of the economy with inflation and a large job market, so you want to ensure you keep your new staff members. The first day of work is stressful, so I take measures to welcome them and make them feel part of our family. I always mail a “welcome to the team” postcard signed by our staff members to the new employee. I physically send a postcard since many people don’t get physical mail; a postcard is a nice touch than receiving an email.

Ice Cream Stunners

Working in our factory in August can be toasty even in the cool and rainy Northwest. When we have a warm Friday, I bring ice cream bars and Popsicle for the factory and office staff. It’s an excellent way to show the team you care and cool down for the factory staff.

Staff BBQs

There isn’t a person that doesn’t enjoy a summertime Friday BBQ during a workday. Having a monthly BBQ during the summer with the staff builds employee culture. Equally important is having charcoal briquette BBQs on your back patio. Try to keep the food simple and go to Costco to purchase your fixings in bulk to save money. We like hamburgers, potato salad, fruit salad, macaroni salad, and some Coke zero.

Weekly Meetings

Meetings bring team members together to discuss what each department is doing. I discovered that if you don’t have weekly team meetings, communication between departments breaks down, causing confusion and frustration. We use ZOOM meetings, which are more accessible than getting everybody into our conference room. Zoom makes it easy for the employee to pop in and out of the meeting if necessary. I start the discussion with a company overview and sales report. I am transparent with sales numbers with all our staff members so they feel they contribute to the company’s success.

Employee Salary and Benefits

In addition to salary, benefits, and opportunities to grow professionally, many employees consider employee culture necessary when looking for a new job. In fact, according to an Indeed survey, 56% of embroidery job seekers who considered an embroidery experience but did not apply to it said they ultimately chose not to apply because they didn’t feel it would be a good employee culture place.

Understanding different employee cultures can help you develop a positive one for your workplace that centres on your company’s values, mission, and goals and helps your employees be productive, satisfied, and engaged.

Embroidery Operators provide Employee Culture.

Owners of embroidery companies have a role in creating a strong employee culture by starting embroidery recruiting in Seattle with the embroidery companies’ core beliefs and values. A strong employee culture includes employee training and orientation, making it viable for an embroidery operation to live in Seattle. Embroidery shop owners must reinforce the company’s values and reward embroidery operators for the strong employee culture. Northwest Custom Apparel follows the culture and its core values.

An embroidery shop worker culture defines the proper way to behave within the organization. This culture consists of shared views and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions on embroidery in Seattle, behaviors, and understanding. Managerial culture sets the context for everything an enterprise does. Because apparel industries in Seattle and situations vary significantly, there is not a one-size-fits-all culture template that meets the needs of all embroidery shops.

Who is Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson has been the 2nd generation embroiderer with his family’s embroidery shop, Northwest Custom Apparel, since 1996. Erik is a Washington State University business graduate with an MBA in business management from Western Governors University. Please reach out to Erik with any questions at [email protected].

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Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.



Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.


Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.


Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.



Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
152 Google reviews
Janice Herron
Janice Herron
Love their amazing customer service! From ordering over the phone, through email, or in person at Northwest Custom Apparel, everyone is very helpful, and very nice! Always! We have been ordering our apparel for our local small business through them for many years! Thank you Thank you!
Morgan Pero
Morgan Pero
Excellent people, products and customer service!
Drew Halverson
Drew Halverson
Great product offerings/results, swift communication, and helpful staff. Highly recommend!
Tim s
Tim s
Northwest Custom apparel always does great work! We have been a customer for over 25 years and are always satisfied with the products we get!!
NW Custom Apparel treats us like we’re their only customer! Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They’re great!
Randy Birch
Randy Birch
We us Northwest Custom Apparel for our work shirts and they are incredible. The staff is super friendly, the quality of workmanship is outstanding and they stand by the work they do. I love this place.
Heidi Christiansen
Heidi Christiansen
The company I work for has been buying custom apparel for the team members for years now. We love working with NW Custom Apparel because the process is easy, delivery is timely, and materials are high quality. Anytime I’ve ever had an issue, they’re quick to resolve it. We’ve purchased both embroidered items and DTG graphic tees. We’ve purchased blankets, shirts, jackets, hoodies, etc. Everything ends up looking super professional, and our team members always have positive things to say. Ally is always there at the warehouse with a smile and a friendly greeting when I pick up materials. She is so helpful and respectful. Taylar is a wonderful customer service rep. I’ve sent her some complicated orders—like 20 different items with all different colorways and styles or 150 items with three different styles—and she is so good at getting everything just right. I plan to continue purchasing from NW Custom for high-quality custom apparel.
Hoa DeBusk
Hoa DeBusk
Have used them for years. Knowledgeable team that is always so helpful in recommending options or creating designs. Great quality too for embroidery or digital prints. Very happy with them as a vendor.
Stacey Perez
Stacey Perez
We use Northwest Custom Apparel for all of our professional embroidery needs for the orthodontic office I work at. They do great work, are quick and have never missed a deadline. Highly recommend if you need any custom apparel needs.