As the old Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
For local businessman Teddy Gabbart, that statement sums up his entrepreneurial success story. Raised by parents who were educators in neighboring Atoka County, Teddy’s first job consisted of modernizing his mother’s grade book entry process. He married into a family of educators, creating an even stronger connection to the education field. His interest in technology grew over time, and led him to establishing several successful technology-related services, including network management. Teddy began to envision an opportunity to couple education with technology, forming what is now Gabbart Communications, a unique business connecting schools, parents, students and communities with purposefully-designed websites, e-notes and mobile apps.
Gabbart Communications began in November 2003 as a network management company. In July 2008, the 3-person operation grew to include school websites, necessitating a move into a 360 square feet workspace located within REI Oklahoma’s commercial facilities. As with most startup businesses, Teddy invested blood, sweat and tears into staying afloat in the beginning. At REI Oklahoma, he was able to manage overhead costs by taking advantage of all-inclusive lease rates, helping him avoid fluctuating lease and utility costs. The business eventually grew to 19 employees and 2,900 square feet of workspace.
“Keeping costs down is huge,” said Teddy when asked about the struggles for startup businesses. “I was able to hire more people faster by keeping overhead down and having everything bundled into one price.”
Realizing the success he only hoped for in the beginning, Teddy and his team needed room to grow the business. After a diligent search, he and wife Amy purchased Durant’s former First United Methodist Church, which had since been converted into a wedding venue. Built in the 1920’s, the structure offered Gabbart Communications plenty of room to grow, and the opportunity to revamp and continue operating the wedding venue. Today, Gabbart Communications serves more than 450 school districts in 10 states, providing services to more than 1,000,000 students and 60,000 teachers.
Increasing from 2,900 square feet to 25,000 has certainly had an impact on the team’s dynamic, all for good. It allows quiet areas for web developers to focus on projects, while still creating a welcoming and open environment for the business’ sales and marketing efforts. Though not intentionally, Gabbart’s product names have taken on a religious tone, including their new learning management system, Wisdom, and a content management system, Harmony. The move has been a win-win; more space for Gabbart’s, the continuation of a venue option for the area, and assurance that one of Bryan County’s sacred landmarks continues to serve the community.
With New Year’s resolutions now in full swing, now is the best time to start creating Bryan County’s next business success story. With business space available and business support resources available each step of the way, give REI Oklahoma a call today and begin planting that tree!