Business Observer 40-Under-40: Elizabeth McDaniel-Garcia

Founder, Head of School, Discovery Day Academy

Discovery Day Academy in Bonita Springs has 100 students, but Elizabeth McDaniel-Garcia has three times that many on the private school’s waiting list.

“We’ve built a good reputation,” McDaniel-Garcia says.

The school recently broke ground on an expansion that will have room for another 292 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade next year. Tuition runs about $10,000. “This expansion in Bonita is our largest project,” says McDaniel-Garcia. “We had to wait out the economic storm.”

Indeed, McDaniel-Garcia opened the first Discovery Day Academy in her hometown of Clewiston in 2007. “When the economy tanked in 2008, I had to learn how to run it efficiently and grow it in a very difficult time,” McDaniel-Garcia says.

McDaniel-Garcia taught in a Miami-Dade charter school after earning a degree in philosophy, and she obtained an M.B.A., giving her both the practical teaching experience and the understanding to run a business. “My degrees have been very advantageous,” she says.

McDaniel-Garcia also is a mother to 6- and 1-year-old children who attend her school in Bonita Springs. “You can have it all if you run a business efficiently,” she says. “I’m a great delegator. I do not have a top-down leadership style.”

— Jean Gruss

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