Then & Now: Bartelt taps entrepreneurial spirit with children’s center

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 542 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the April 12 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Nick Bartelt recently left a career in consumer packaged goods to start a children’s center that offers after-school and summer programs.

Bartelt, 42, owns Mobius Bentonville. It’s a joint venture with his wife, Katie, a former educator at Bentonville High School.

They opened Mobius in August after seeing a need in the market. They received business planning support from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas. They also have four boys, all younger than 7 years old, and wanted to keep them together. Mobius focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) and offers a balance between mind and body, Bartelt said.

“We came up with this concept called Mobius, which is based on continuous learning,” Bartelt said. “We have eight distinct rooms at the facility, where four of them are curriculum-based rooms where there’s a fun project, an experiment that happens each day. Every time a child goes into the rooms, they’re always doing something unique and different. And then balanced with four rooms that are more free play, which is our playground, gymnasium, large outdoor soccer field and game room, where it gives them a chance to burn off a little bit of energy.”

Mobius has more than 90 children in kindergarten through sixth grade enrolled in the after-school program. The summer program recently reached capacity and was limited to 150 children because of COVID restrictions. It has a capacity of 200 children without restrictions.

The Bartelts designed and built the 9,000-square-foot facility, which is certified by the Department of Human Services. Applications for the after-school program in the fall are being accepted. Mobius has 24 employees, and it will add 10 more by summer. The Bartelts also own the Mathnasium franchises in Bentonville and Fayetteville.

Bartelt was retail operations manager for Kimberly-Clark in Rogers when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2009. Later that year, he was promoted to shopper marketing manager. He left Kimberly-Clark in September 2011 to work in shopper marketing for Starbucks. Before starting there, the company had acquired its consumer packaged goods line of products from Kraft and formed an area team. The opportunity offered him experience in the cafe side of the business. His office was at Bentonville Plaza, across from the Walmart Home Office.

He was promoted to account executive in September 2012 and to retail strategy and operations in November 2014. He led the company’s Walmart business, including packaged coffee and tea, and saw significant growth with the launch of K-Cups. He also worked on pairing Starbucks coffees with Walmart bakery items. His cafe experience showed him which coffee blends would go together with the bakery items. While with Starbucks, he also learned about how coffee is produced from bean to bag and became a coffee master, earning his black apron. Only a select number of employees can become coffee masters annually, he said.

In November 2016, he became director of sales, shopper marketing for startup technology company Yieldbot. His office was in Bentonville and then in Rogers before the company was dissolved. It had a proprietary technology that showed what consumers were searching for online and could serve them ads.

In January 2019, he joined the technology company Optimad Media in Rogers. He started as director of strategic partnerships and was promoted to senior vice president of planning and strategy in July 2019. He led the sales team, working with consumer packaged goods companies on their digital marketing.

The Winneconne, Wis., native was raised in an entrepreneurial family and worked with three generations at the family-owned clock store. The former pro water skier also operated a boat business on Beaver Lake before he was married.

Asked about opening Mobius amid the pandemic, Bartelt noted the importance of being flexible as parents had pivoted to working from home. Mobius has offered partial and full-week programs for children and would facilitate virtual learning if needed.

Bartelt would like to see the Mobius brand grow to become a franchise.

His hobbies include riding bicycles, spending time outdoors and watching his children play sports.

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