Little Stars autism therapy center to move to expanded space

Little Stars autism therapy center to move to expanded space


Nicole McArthur (formerly McLain), left, and Kimberly Becker are moving the Little Stars autism therapy center to this building at 1319 W. May just south of Seneca Bowl. The move is a big jump to 45,000 square feet for the business.

The Wichita Eagle

Three short years after using $1,000 to start Little Stars, a therapy-based business for children with autism spectrum disorder, Nicole McArthur said she’s grown it 650% and now is moving it into a new 45,000-square-foot space.

“It does need an extensive amount of work, but we’re really excited about what we’re going to be able to do with that building,” said McArthur, who some know by her previous last name, McLain.

Initially, Little Stars offered in-home services. Then in 2019, it moved to 700 square feet at 301 S. Meridian. Eventually, it expanded to 9,600 square feet.

The new space, which is at 1319 W. May just south of Seneca Bowl, is a big jump to 45,000 square feet. It’s a 1928 facility that once was a county detention center for boys and later was home to the DCCCA center for women’s substance abuse recovery.

“It’s ideal,” McArthur said. “It’s set up with classroom-sized space already.”

She’s going to reconfigure some of those rooms and do a general remodel as well.

McArthur said she’s adding a lounge for parents, sensory rooms for the children and a giant playground along with security features “and just kind of making it our ideal building.”

Her goal is to open the new space next summer.

Jake Ramstack of InSite Real Estate Group and Patrick Ahern and Ryan Hubbard of NAI Martens handled the deal.

Little Stars offers up to 40 hours a week of intensive treatment that focuses on a variety of things, such as language, motor skills and social skills.

“It’s (a) very all-encompassing type of therapy,” said McArthur, who gets referrals from physicians and psychologists.

She’s been working in the field of autism for almost 20 years diagnosing the condition and acting as a behavior consultant and analyst.

When McArthur started Little Stars in 2018, she didn’t pay herself a salary beyond what her rent and basic bills cost for an entire year. At one point, she said, she had to borrow $13,000 from the man she eventually married just to meet payroll.

Now, though, it’s a profitable business, and while McArthur won’t talk numbers, she said she pays almost 80 employees more than $250,000 a month.

Though Little Stars is a for-profit business, McArthur said it’s not about making money.

“It’s more we don’t have a board telling us what to do,” she said of not going the nonprofit route.

She said she and her CEO, Kimberly Becker, “had our own ideas about how we wanted to manage our business.”

McArthur said a big part of that is “really focusing on our team and making sure they’re cared for, and I think people miss that in business. I think a lot of times we get stuck on revenue or numbers.”

By using her own approach instead of one dictated to her, McArthur said she can grow the business faster and serve children more quickly, too.

McArthur said there are more than 3,000 children diagnosed with autism in the Wichita area.

“And I would say probably only 150 of them are receiving the care they need.”

She said she hopes to continue to grow the business, and McArthur said she’s got a proven strategy for doing it.

“Really, the beef of it is taking care of your team and making sure they feel valued and supported.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for more than three decades, including almost 20 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.