At the start of every year Tacoma Trophy owners Judi and DJ Brown sit down to discuss their business goals.
“Goal number 1 is to give people a job every year,” DJ said. “We’re at 10 now.”
One day DJ would like to see that number at or near 50.
“I want to be able to give a lot of people jobs,” he said. “Two people here are bread winners for their families. That means a lot to me.”
Looking back at the beginnings of Tacoma Trophy – the couple started the business in their Mill Creek home in Snohomish County – Judi said she never imagined 12 years later they’d have a sizeable brick and mortar store offering everything from engraving to creating one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
“What’s exciting about this business is there is always something new,” Judi said.
The couple began their company – originally called Getting Personal Imprinting – in their home with a foil imprinter. That allowed them to make foil imprinted napkins, business cards, lettering on ribbons and other paper-based items.
The imprinter is still upstairs in their building, but it’s now joined by two laser engravers, a Diamond Drag engraver, three brand new pieces of equipment that the couple will bring online soon, and several other pieces of equipment they use to create custom awards and gifts.
Whether it’s the youth sports team looking to hand out recognition at the end of the season, or people requesting Fantasy Football trophies to rub their winning season in their friends’ faces, Tacoma Trophy has somet
hing for everyone.
A walk through the store shows just how far the Browns have come since those early days of customizing paper products in their spare room.
The walls of Tacoma Trophy are adorned with personalized plaques, photos engraved on wood and shadow boxes ready to display American flags and military awards for services.
Trophies of all shapes, sizes and colors sit stacked on shelving units throughout the store. Customized coins fill displays and glass engraved awards glint in sunlight streaming through the window.
Look around and it is evident Tacoma Trophy has a strong tie to the military. Judi estimates 70 percent of their business comes from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
In fact, that’s why the couple moved from Snohomish County to Lakewood in 2007 – to be closer to the base.
“We knew going into business that the military was going to be a focus of ours,” Judi said.
DJ served in the Navy for 20 years, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer in 2006. He spent 14 of the 20 years as a recruiter. His ties to the Navy are easily identifiable at Tacoma Trophy – the logo and shirts are navy blue and gold – and DJ likes to rib his Army customers about the friendly rivalry between their respective branches of the military.
“It’s really fun to mess with them,” DJ said. “I’ve grown to love the Army a lot. It’s not just business, it’s more personal.”
The pride he has in the personalized pieces he creates for his military customers is evident as DJ shows various engraved and customized display pieces around his shop. He enjoys when people come in with an idea of what they want and he can make their vision a reality.
“Some of the projects people bring us, it truly is an honor to do them,” Judi said. “It’s fun to be able to celebrate with people.”
Because of its one-of-a-kind pieces, its commitment to the military and its dedication to providing living-wage jobs in Lakewood the Lakewood City Council recognizes Tacoma Trophy as its April 2018 Business Showcase.