Business Births

Owner: Derek Johnson

Phone: (206) 334-4012

Startup date: Oct. 1

Web site:


Co-workers Jess Kenoyer and Andrew Dumont (left and center) sit with Derek Johnson, owner of, who started the text-messaging business in his parents’ Bellingham basement. They are currently looking for office space downtown.


It’s not often that a 23-year-old starts a company that receives national attention. But Bellingham native Derek Johnson did just that when he launched the Web site

As the name implies, the company is in the business of text messaging, and the service they offer is simple: bulk text messaging. Users can sign up for the free service on the Web site, where they enter their contacts into a group. Then when they need to send a text message to that group, they send the message to, which almost instantaneously sends the text to the entire group.

Johnson said he got the idea for the business while attending school at the University of Houston. He was part of a fraternity and was in charge of contacting everyone for group events.

“We had meetings and dinners and we couldn’t get ahold of everyone,” he said.

After many unsuccessful phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages, Johnson said that most of the fraternity members responded best to text messages.

In the three months since launching the service, the company now boasts more than 75,000 users nationwide and is sending out up to 35,000 text messages per day. They have also attracted several national advertisers, such as Chevrolet, NBC Universal, and Borders.

Since the service is free — though users are still charged their normal fees based on their cellular service plan — advertising is what brings in the money. Written at the bottom of each text message is a 30-character advertisement, usually directing users to a Web site or coupon offer, Johnson said.

The company has grown quickly in the last three months as more and more groups register on the Web site. Most groups have about 100 or so members, Johnson said, but there are a few groups that are as large as 5,000. Such growth has spurred Johnson to start looking to move the business out of his parents’ basement to a larger space downtown.

“We’re way farther than we ever thought,” Johnson said.

Since the service tailors to students, Johnson said he thought it fitting that all six of the current employees should be students too.

“We are students and we market to students,” Johnson said. “Everything is student driven.”

For Jess Kenoyer, vice president of marketing and a student at Western Washington University, the chance to gain experience in his field of study while going to school was something he couldn’t pass up.

“We realistically won’t have another opportunity to do this,” Kenoyer said.


Two Turtle Doves

Owners: Joseph Evans and Bonnie Donaghy

Address: 909 Harris Ave.

Phone: 671-7698

Startup date: Sept. 15

Square footage: 2,600


Joseph Evans shows off the fine bedroom linens available in his new shop, Two Turtle Doves.

It just feels natural that the new business venture of Joseph Evans and Bonnie Donaghy, owners of Three French Hens, should be called Two Turtle Doves.

In keeping with the feathery theme, their new store offers all sorts of plush bedroom accouterments, from Scandia down comforters to hand-made African throws.

The husband and wife entrepreneurs came up with the idea to branch out from their current retail store and start a new business while flying down to Los Angeles last year.

“Bonnie used to sell bedding [at Three French Hens] but she never had enough space,” Evans said.

They talked about all the details of the new store while on the plane and by the time they landed, a first draft of the business plan had been produced. A week later, they began doing market research and scoping out potential locations.

When a space opened up just a block down the road from Three French Hens, Evans said he jumped at the opportunity to lease the space. Once a lease was signed, Evans began doing all of the renovations himself. He scrubbed and painted the structural I-beams. He cleared one of the walls to showcase its brilliant underlying Fairhaven brick.

When it came time to fill the shop with merchandise, Evans and Donaghy said they chose only the best products.

“People always want quality,” Evans said. “Nobody ever complains that the product was excellent. Nobody ever complains that the product lasts too long.”

The store focuses on selling more than just fine linen, Evans said. They sell the whole bedroom package. Paintings, candles, pillows, you name it. And for the customers who are looking to redesign their entire bedroom, Evans struck deals with Parker Paint and Lorraine’s Window Coverings so that Two Turtle Dove customers will receive a discount on painting and window coverings.

The one thing you may not find at Two Turtle Doves is a partridge in a pear tree.


West Coast Fight Club

Owner: Cody Houston

Address: 1828 Franklin St.

Phone: 752-9232

Startup date: Aug. 10

Square footage: 3,000


Cody Houston said he wanted to start a gym that wasn’t formed around the traditional martial arts. West Coast Fight Club is just that. They offer classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Tai, mixed martial arts and yoga.


West Coast Fight Club is not your traditional martial arts gym. But then again, they don’t teach traditional martial arts.

Cody Houston opened the gym in August with the intent of creating something new, something unlike the studio he began training in 11 years ago.

“I wanted to start a gym that wasn’t formed around the traditional marital arts,” Houston said.

Instead of teaching karate or kung fu, WCFC focuses on more modern forms of martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Tai (also known as Thai kickboxing), and mixed martial arts, which is becoming popular through leagues such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is different from other combat sports in its focus on grappling and submission holds. “It’s all about a smaller man taking down a bigger man,” Houston said, adding that these self-defense skills are universal in their application. “It’s the best thing a woman can learn.”

Muay Tai is the national sport of Thailand and is quite popular among other Southeast Asian countries. The sport focuses on what is known as the art of the eight limbs — using hands, elbows, knees, and feet to strike your opponent.

Houston said he chose to focus on these forms of combat sports because they offer more than just great fighting skills; they also provide a great way to stay fit. More importantly, these disciplines help students focus and think.

“To be a fighter you have to be intelligent,” Houston said. “It’s kinetic chess.”

For those interested in learning these combat sports, WCFC has five instructors on staff who offer classes in each discipline as well as open mat times where you can come practice on your own. The club also offers a weekly yoga class and an evening youth class.

Split into two floors, the downstairs area includes a sparring mat, two heavy punching bags, and a small office where Vosco, Houston’s dog and the gym mascot, hangs out. The upstairs is entirely matted, minus a small nook in the corner where Houston said he would someday like to put weight equipment.

This is Houston’s first time opening a business. While working toward his bachelor’s degree in marketing at Portland State University, Houston began training at Straight Blast Gym, where he said he became hooked on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Now that he gets to live, eat and breathe martial arts everyday, Houston said he couldn’t be happier.

“The most successful people are doing what they love and I love going to work everyday,” Houston said. “This is the perfect job for me.”

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