Marnie Forestieri, co-founder of Amazing Explorers Academy, which was named a GrowFL Company To Watch for 2017, illustrates the courage needed to successfully launch an innovative startup.
“I came to this country as an EB-5 immigrant investor,” she said. “My first project was a preschool franchise where I learned the weaknesses of competitors and opportunities to develop a program focused on the needs of 21st century learners. One opportunity was to serve as a bridge between educators and the business community to bring a solution to the challenges facing our industry. Even though I had the most successful franchise unit and was making a lot of money from it, I sold it to buy a preschool that was underperforming and a couple of months away from closing its doors. To build the Amazing Explorers concept, I collaborated with UCF Incubator and worked closely with professors from the UCF department of education, technology experts, partners and advisors who provided a lot of guidance. Our concept was developed as a community effort in Oviedo, Florida.”
Forestieri turned around that first preschool, opened a second and is set to open nine more by the end of 2018.
“We will have 300 employees by then thanks to my co-founder Fabrizio Spinelli, and partners Marcello Spinelli and Eric Koesser” she explained. “I couldn’t do this without my partners.”
Amazing Explorers Academy focuses on providing preschool children the learning skills and passion to prepare them for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
“We are next generation early education centers where little minds open up to develop lifelong learning skills designed to inspire, connect and engage the great minds of the 21st century using our proprietary curriculum that promotes STEM thinking skills,” Forestieri said. “We have a proper methodology that promotes STEM and technology skills. Our biggest differentiator is our methodology, proprietary curriculum and the integration of technology in every aspect of operations including curriculum, enrollment, operations and portfolio assessment. Our competition lacks that.”
Forestieri is honored the company has been recognized by GrowFL as a Florida Company To Watch in 2017 and uses it as further motivation to improve.
“For us, it’s a commitment to grow and to scale,” she said. “It’s a commitment to provide more opportunities for employees who are passionate about our industry and for real educators who didn’t have the platform or resources to pursue their true passion in education.”
Forestieri’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to balance passion with practicality.
“Pursue your passion and dream but always be objective with your limitations in terms of scalability,” she said. “Before you scale, make sure all your departments are working properly. Don’t scale too soon. Work with a good team. Know your market. Never get into an industry you don’t know. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and have the same work ethic.”