WICHITA — Research shows that high-quality early childhood education can provide a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning and success. Andrea and Nick Felder were the parents of twins with a third child on the way while they both worked for a healthcare provider in Topeka. Andrea and Nick were passionate about ensuring their children were raised with the care and quality education they received from their families in rural Kansas.
When Andrea’s mother mentioned that the Hays community needed a quality child care center like the one the Felders sent their twins to in Topeka, her comment sparked the Felder’s entrepreneurial plan to start Bright Minds Academy — a new child care center in Hays, where Nick attended high school and in the same county where Andrea was raised.
“We asked each other which we would regret more in 15 years: playing it safe by staying where we were in comfortable careers or failing in our efforts to launch a childcare center that would benefit our children and young families in Hays. For us it was easy. We would always wonder what could have been if we had not at least tried,” said Nick Felder.
Having worked for a large healthcare company, both Andrea and Nick knew how and what to research to build a solid business plan for starting a new childcare business. Their vision was (and is) to provide the highest quality childcare to the next generation of bright minds to grow into educated, respectful, and caring individuals.
“We created a solid business and construction plan for Bright Minds Academy but had to navigate the conflicting regulations between the building code, fire marshal requirements and the KDHE regulations on childcare facilities,” said Nick. The Felders compared the planning to solving a big puzzle. State regulations require a minimum number of square feet of activity space per child, a bathroom plus washing stations in each room, and managing the enrollment age milestones to ensure each age group (room) were at or close to maximum capacity to support the staffing to keep the business going.
In 2019, Nick and Andrea presented their business plans to the Bank of Hays for SBA backed financing. The Bank of Hays worked with Mr. Wayne Symmonds of Frontier Financial Partners, Inc. to secure a SBA 504 loan for the construction and equipment. Andrea and Nick sold their home in Topeka and downsized into a small townhouse to provide the cash needed for the financing.
A Dream Come True
Andrea and Nick Felder opened the doors to Bright Minds Academy, LLC on January 8, 2020, with a licensed capacity of 59 children – from infants to 6 years of age. The childcare facility offers modern amenities such as online access for parents to monitor their child’s activities, and secure access to the building via phone app.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Bright Minds Academy and the families it serves. Nick and Andrea applied for and received SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in 2020 and 2021, along with a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. “The SBA COVID-19 disaster assistance provided the financial support we needed to keep our new staff employed and our cash flow stable through the rocky times of the pandemic,” said Andrea. “We realized how important it was for families to keep our doors open and provide a safe and clean place for their children to go,” continued Andrea.
Nick and Andrea Felder share duties to manage the center and its operations. Bright Minds Academy currently employs 34 staff including substitutes and have 59 children enrolled.
When asked to share any advice they would give to someone interested in starting a business, the Felders emphasized the importance of doing deep research and planning before leaping into a venture. “It’s easy to get caught up in an idea and impulsively dive into it. You really need to understand all of the facets of running the business and be prepared for obstacles,” concluded Nick Felder.