My Dad, Jim Mickelson, started Northwest Custom Apparel in 1977 with some customers, employees, vendors, and raw determination. Finding clients was easy back then when you were one of Seattle’s first and only embroidery shops.
Hiring employees was also easy, with the unemployment rate in Tacoma at 9%. The most challenging task was locating loyal and reliable vendors since the decorated apparel industry was in its infancy.
Loyal Vendors For Many Years
Having loyal vendors is a huge reason we are still in business after 45 years. Earnie Allen (CH Holderby) sold us our first multi-head embroidery machine. Marty Lott (Sanmar) supplied us with t-shirts, caps, and jackets. We sold thousands of Daniel Tsai’s Mountaineer Jackets from Tri-Mountain. Unfortunately, Tri-Mountain went out of business in 2022 due to the pandemic. We purchased containers worth of caps from Kelly Richardson (Richardson Caps) and Jeff Hoch (Century 21). Our Tajima embroidery machines are from Kris Janowski (Hirsch Embroidery Machine Supplier).
As the apparel legends pass their baton to their kids, I enjoy working with them. Jeremy Lott (Sanmar) is steering his father’s company to great (or more tremendous) success.
Other Vendors, We Recognize
I would like to recognize our other secondary vendors. Jay Malanga (Shopworks), JP Hunt (Inksoft), Steve Freeman (Qdigitizing), Richard Narine (Kornit), Rob Headlee (Cutter & Buck), and Ed Lacey (L &P Printing).
Special Shout Out to our industry consultants: Mark Coudray, Marshall Atkinson, and Tom Rauen (Envision Tees) and 1-800 T-shirts.
Thank Your Cutter and Buck for being an Awesome Vendor
How Your Vendors Make You Money
The easiest way they will make you money is by giving you volume pricing discounts and rebates. Sanmar and Jeremy Lott has Northwest Custom Apparel on an end-of-the-year rebate program. It is a great program and adds up. Free samples, advertising dollars, and a dedicated Sanmar Support Staff.
However, in 2023, Sanmar is canceling Northwest Custom Apparel’s PSST program. They claim we don’t sell enough contract embroidery business. We will probably lose $200,000 worth of contract embroidery business by not having the PSST program. That is fine because we love Sanmar and understand their business reasoning behind it.
Moreover, Sanmar has a great rebate program for our direct sales. We feel a vendor is a partnership and is a two-way street. It would be best if you didn’t make your profit on the back of your vendor. Be nice and treat your vendor right.