“If a company has never thought about it, they should really, truly think about hiring somebody with a disability,” said Robb Anderson, co-owner of Northwest Trophy & Awards in Woodinville.
Last month the company won one of six Governor’s Employer Awards at this year’s annual ceremony put on by Washington’s Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment and the Washington State Business Leadership Network.
“Our award winners excel at using the diverse skills and abilities in the disability community,” Mandeep Kaundal, the Governor’s Committee chairman, said in a press release.
Anderson said Northwest Trophy & Awards got connected over a year ago with a program at Bellevue College that assists adults with disabilities in earning their associate degree and in finding subsequent employment.
Through that program, Anderson hired Joe Deng, a student at Bellevue College at the time, for a six-month internship.
Although at first, Anderson said, a lack of understanding made him a little apprehensive, Deng had an immediate and positive impact on the business.
“It’s great having him work for us,” he said. “He just brings so much to the company from a different perspective.”
After the internship, Anderson wanted to hire Yeng as a more permanent employee. While speaking at Deng’s Bellevue College graduation, Anderson asked Deng if he wanted a job. Yeng has now been with the company for about a year and a half.
“He’s our official proofreader,” Anderson said.
When asked about what winning the Governor’s Employer Award means to him, Anderson said he is just one of many businesses that hire people with disabilities. Northwest Trophy & Award’s neighbor—Minuteman Press—does the same, he added.
“It’s a little weird to be honored for something that just feels like the right thing to do.”
Northwest Trophy has been in business for 79 years, and it’s been in the same family for over 60. There are four owners. “Three brothers and a cousin,” Anderson said (the youngest of the three). “To us, we’re all brothers.”
The company makes a wide variety of trophies and awards for all different kinds of events. Kids sports trophies are especially popular.
“We’re just wrapping up soccer season,” Anderson said. “We’ll probably be close to 10,000 trophies just for soccer.”
They also do corporate awards in glass, acrylic, etched stone, and other materials. “We do a lot of fantasy football trophies this time of year,” he added. “Hundreds of those.”
One of Northwest Trophy & Awards’ most interesting pieces finds its home each year at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“It honors the top grounds crews of Major League Baseball,” Anderson said.
And speaking of baseball, the company has also made pieces for several players and others related to the Seattle Mariners organization, including a crystal microphone presented to Dave Niehaus upon his retirement and a gold plated crown and crystal baseball given to Felix Hernandez.
As for Deng, he is flourishing in his part-time position at the shop and has even found additional employment elsewhere.
“It’s really neat to see how much he has grown since he’s been here,” Anderson said. “I would tell other corporations, large or small, to definitely look into doing this.”
For more information about Northwest Trophy & Awards, visit www.nwtrophy.com. Additional locations are in Seattle and Bellevue.
For more information about the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment, visit esd.wa.gov/GCDE.