UPDATED — Less than a decade after starting Optometric Billing Solutions in a home basement, sisters Branda Barton and Brooke Armstrong are making their third move to a new building.
At 21,000 square feet, this one should last a while. The sisters are in negotiations to buy the former SecureNet building at 10501 W. Hampton Lakes in Maize.
Though they say the space is nice and that the $1.6 million in industrial revenue bonds the city is giving them in the next three years will be helpful, Armstrong says they would have had the same things in Wichita.
“To be honest, it really was the city of Maize,” she says of the decision to locate there.
“The sense of community in that place was amazing,” Armstrong says. “Branda and I … really left there with the sense and impression of community and values. Their whole culture just seemed really in line with what we value as a corporation.”
City Administrator Richard LaMunyon says the city felt the same about them.
“We just really kind of hit it off,” he says. “They were just excited about their business. You could tell that they were professional in what they were doing.”
He says that’s important because the company will be one of the larger private ones in Maize, and he expects it to be there for some time to come.
“It has great potential for growth.”
Barton was working at a company helping optometrists use new practice-management software “and kind of saw this need out there,” Armstrong says.
Armstrong was moving to Wichita around the time, and in 2005 the two decided to start their own firm to help optometrists with billing.
“It really has been an underserved niche,” Armstrong says.
By 2007, they moved to a 1,500-square-foot building on West Maple. In 2010, they moved to their current 5,000-square-foot space at 4510 W. Central, which is between West Street and I-235. At the time, they had about 20 employees.
“We never thought we would fill this building up,” Armstrong says.
She says they actually knew they probably would, but she says, “It felt so big.”
Now, the company has 45 employees and is out of space.
“We’re out of even a meeting room now,” Armstrong says.
She says the conference room had to be converted to offices, and monthly meetings are now held off-site.
“We actually just started four employees – the last four we can start in this building – last week,” Armstrong says.
The company is looking to hire seven to 10 employees a year for the next three years.
“That’s what we’re on track to do right now,” Armstrong says. “That’s extremely feasible and doable.”
She says they most likely will be hiring more than that.
Initially, the company will use about 12,000 square feet of the building. Two expansion phases will follow, the first of which should be within a year.
“We’re hoping to make it last,” Armstrong says of staying there for a while.
She says she expects the space will suit the company for at least seven to 10 years. Armstrong says she thinks there are properties to expand to around the building as well.
Farha Construction will begin work on the building in June, and it will be ready in July.
Marty Gilchrist and Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons are handling the deal.
Armstrong says Optometric Billing Solutions is succeeding with very little marketing.
“Most of our doctors are referrals and word of mouth,” she says.
“Part of it is our dedication to our quality,” Armstrong says. “We’re really making sure that (employees) are doing the right things for these doctors.”
It’s similar to the treatment Armstrong says she and Barton have experienced in Maize.
“They have just been phenomenal and inviting.”