Bellingham Baby Company
Owners: Shelly and Jeremy Allen
Address: 2925 Newmarket St. Suite 108
Startup date: April 1
Square Footage: 750 square feet
They say having a baby changes everything.
No one knows this better than Shelly and Jeremy Allen. One minute the couple was working for Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in California’s Napa Valley and the next minute they were moving to Bellingham to start a new life with their baby girl, Kate.
After staying home with her daughter, Shelly’s mind started to wander toward everything she could do with her new life.
“I didn’t want to go back to work but then again I wanted to do something,” she said.
Shelly said she had always dabbled in sewing and entrepreneurial craftwork but it was inspiration from Coppola, who encouraged her to put that experience into action.
“He never wanted to hear the words, ‘I can’t’ or ‘No’,” she said. “Creativity and spirit are major things to him. He has tons of businesses that people don’t even know about.”
On April 1, the Allens started their own business in Barkley Village: Bellingham Baby Company, a baby boutique for children up to 1 year old, with fashionable and functional items difficult to find anywhere but the Internet.
The birth of their store began a bit earlier. While cruising the Internet one day, Shelly found a baby product she loved: a shopping cart cover that fits over the overused and under-cleaned baby seats in grocery carts.
“I loved the idea but I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked,” she said.
So she decided to use her sewing skills to make her own covers using bright, bold fabrics with colorful striped patterns that Shelly felt would appeal to the style-conscious parent.
“I sold them on eBay for a while and they sold immediately,” she said. “So I created a Web site just for them.”
In 2005, Kangaroodle.com was born. Shelly said she couldn’t keep up with demand, so she had to outsource fabrication to a factory. Later, Shelly said, she discovered that there were a lot of moms just like her who were marketing products for babies and new parents and selling them on the Internet.
“They don’t want to go back to the corporate world but they still need another creative outlet,” she said.
Eventually, Kangaroodle.com grew to more than 2,000 mom-made products.
“We’re supporting them to do their at-home work and they’re supporting our business,” she said.
Soon customers started noticing the site was based in Bellingham and local residents wanted to drop by to pick things up instead of having them shipped.
So the couple thought it only best to open a retail store that stays true to the company’s mission of providing fashionable and functional items made by parents for parents.
Jeremy Allen said he sometimes feels out of place in the store but has found that his background in retail logistics has helped the business.
“I am helping to support (Shelly’s) dream,” he said.
He said he has found his niche in helping fathers and other men who look a bit lost among the diaper cakes and baby booties.
“I understand them,” he said. “Those are my people.”
Cameo Shoe Shoppe
Owner: Jessenia Rodrigeuz
Address: 2 Prospect St.
Startup date: March 1
Square Footage: 300 square feet
Jessenia Rodriguez has a passion for fashion.
Throughout her life she has worked in different retail store but she has always had a hunger to dig deeper into the fashion industry. Rodriguez said she probably first became aware of the business end of fashion through her mother, who worked in fashion manufacturing in Portland in the early ‘90s.
Rodriguez has taken her love of fashion and opened Cameo Shoe Shoppe, an upscale shoe store with downscale prices.
In 1995, Rodriguez and her family moved to Whatcom County and a short time later, her mother started a company called Colima Design, which specializes in wedding and special occasion clothing and alterations.
“My mom would ask, ‘Are you going to take over company?’” Rodriguez said.
But Rodriguez said she had other dreams. So she hopped in a car and went on a road trip to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.
Soon after visiting the campus, she applied, was accepted and quickly began her study of apparel manufacturing, fashion design and merchandising.
Rodriguez graduated in 2005 and became the product development coordinator for a cashmere manufacturer. Her work experience showed her that she had more to learn.
“Once you get into your field, you learn a whole lot more like accounting and all the other business aspects of the field,” she said.
After being in the cashmere business for two years, Rodriguez couldn’t shake the idea of creating a store in Bellingham that brought the hot styles but at the low prices found in Los Angeles.
“In L.A. there are so many cute boutiques and they are all competing with each other so you can find lots of cute stuff for dirt cheap,” she said.
So Cameo Shoe Shoppe has now stepped onto the scene and Rodriguez said she hit the ground running.
“It all happened pretty fast,” Rodriguez said. “I networked and shopped a lot in L.A.”
She said Bellingham’s hip, younger college crowd is perfect for her store because they often don’t have much money.
Cameo is located next to Paris, Texas, which Rodriguez loves because a lot of their traffic also comes into her store.
Rodriguez is excited about her location at the confluence of Holly, Bay and Prospect streets, which she described as an up-and-coming arts district.
“I’m hoping that we can grow with the area,” she said.
Hometown Maintenance & Repair
Owners: Matt and Randi Woolsey
Address: 4200 Meridian St. Suite 216
Startup date: Feb. 29
Square Footage: 500 square feet
Matt Woolsey wants to make money by being nice.
Woolsey’s father was a general contractor, so he grew up around job sites and learned the ways of the maintenance and construction business.
But since then he has worked for several years in the maintenance and mechanical-systems repair fields and he has found that the customer wasn’t always treated the way he felt they should be treated.
“A lot of contractors are notorious for being late,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey thought he could do better. So he and his wife, Randi, started Hometown Maintenance & Repair, a jack-of-all-trades handyman service designed to take on jobs that might fall through the cracks of general contractors and other maintenance services not interested in a small home-repairs.
Woolsey, a Bellingham native, said he treats customers with respect and dignity and his tactics are simple: Be on time, be courteous, send thank-you notes and follow up with customers.
“As long as I can develop a personal relationship with the customer, why not work for myself and reap all the benefits,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey was a petty officer third class in the Coast Guard stationed in Ketchikan, Alaska. He was supposed to be a mechanic for the Coast Guard, but instead he was tasked with maintaining 36 barracks, seven industrial buildings and a medical center.
“I was pretty much a jack-of-all-trades, I worked on mechanical systems and did drywall—stuff like that,” he said.
Now he is ready to bring his maintenance knowledge to the people in his hometown.
He said that most general contractors don’t see enough money in smaller home jobs such as fixing a leaky toilet, replacing a piece of rotting fascia or repairing a squeaky staircase, but that’s the niche Woolsey hopes to fill.
For example, Woolsey helped a customer who had just purchased a new stove but it was too large to fit in the space left behind by the tiny, antiquated range. So Woolsey came and made some minor adjustments to the cabinetry and the stove slid in like a glove.
“When you have a minor issue like that, who do you call?” Woolsey asked.
Woolsey said Hometown could handle any issue large or small.
He is working with a couple of condo associations to deal with any and all maintenance needs and would eventually like to work with more property management companies looking to outsource their maintenance needs.