Bright Minds Academy daycare in Hays is an SBA success story

Bright Minds Academy, 2106 Wheatland, is owned by Andrea and Nick Felder. (Courtesy picture)


WICHITA — Research shows that a 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 that their children were raised with the quality care and education they received from their families in rural Kansas.

When Andrea’s mother mentioned that the Hays community needed a quality daycare like the one the Felders had sent their twins to Topeka, her comment sparked the Felders’ entrepreneurial plan to begin. Academy of Brilliant Minds – a new daycare center in Hays, where Nick attended high school and in the same county where Andrea grew up.

“We asked ourselves what we would regret more in 15 years: playing it safe by staying where we were in comfortable careers or failing in our efforts to start a child care 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 hadn’t at least tried,” said Nick Felder.

Having worked for a large healthcare company, Andrea and Nick knew how and what to look for when developing a solid business plan for starting a new childcare business. Their vision was (and still is) to provide the highest quality child care services 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 conflicting regulations between building code, fire marshal requirements, and KDHE child care regulations,” said Nick. The Felders likened planning to solving a big puzzle. State regulations require a minimum number of square feet of activity space per child, bathroom and laundry stations in every bedroom, and management of enrollment age milestones to ensure that each age group (room) was at or near maximum capacity to sustain staffing to continue the business.

In 2019, Nick and Andrea presented their business plans to the Hay Bank for Financing supported by the SBA. The Bank of Hays worked with Mr Wayne Symmonds of Frontier Financial Partners, Inc. to secure a SBA 504 loan for construction and equipment. Andrea and Nick sold their home in Topeka and downsized to a small townhouse to provide cash for financing.

A dream come true

Andrea and Nick Felder opened the doors of Bright Minds Academy, LLC on January 8, 2020, with a licensed capacity of 59 children – infants to 6 years old. The daycare offers modern amenities such as online access for parents to monitor their child’s activities and secure access to the building via a phone app.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Bright Minds Academy and the families it serves. Nick and Andrea asked for and received SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in 2020 and 2021, as well as a SBA Economic Disaster Loan. “The SBA’s COVID-19 Disaster Assistance provided the financial support we needed to keep our newly employed staff and our cash flow stable during the difficult times of the pandemic,” Andrea said. “We realized how important it was for families to keep our doors open and provide a safe and clean place for their children,” Andrea continued.

Nick and Andrea Felder share the duties of managing the center and its operations. Bright Minds Academy currently employs 34 people, including substitutes, and has 59 children enrolled.

When asked to share advice they would give someone interested in starting a business, the Felders stressed the importance of doing thorough research and planning before embarking on a business. “It’s easy to get caught up in an idea and jump into it impulsively. You really need to understand all facets of running the business and be prepared for the obstacles,” concluded Nick Felder.

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