High-Tech Learning Center Expands with Second SBA 504 Loan

Sarah Davis-Brazier, owner of Liberty Academy and Preschool

In 2004, with help from a U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan, Sarah Davis-Brazier purchased an abandoned property in Northwest Miami-Dade County Florida that was being used as a house of prostitution and illicit drug use.

 After overcoming numerous challenges and setbacks with the County’s Planning and Zoning Department, Hurricane Wilma, and neighborhood vandals, Mrs. Brazier converted the neighborhood eyesore into Liberty Academy Daycare and Preschool.

When the school opened its doors in April 2006 it welcomed 19 children and employed 5 full-time teachers and staffers. Using her skills as a 24-year former Assistant Vice President with AT&T/Lucent Technologies, Mrs. Brazier quickly grew Liberty Academy to over 91 children and 15 full-time employees who reside in the community it serves.

Building on that early success, Mrs. Brazier sought to expand Liberty Academy to the blighted and vacant property next door. She approached many lenders over the years, but because of caution and reticence brought on by the Recession, she was repeatedly denied funding. After several years of persistence, she finally found success with Mark Mayhew at the Florida Business Development Corp, SBA’s CDC and Regions Bank which partnered together to fund the expansion with an SBA 504 loan.

With the SBA guaranteed loan, Liberty Academy added 5,000 square feet of new learning space. The Academy also grew its customer base to 163 children, expanded from just serving infants, pre-school, and pre-kindergarten children to now offering high-quality education in Kindergarten, first and second grades as well.

Adding the grades also meant adding employees; Liberty Academy now has 28 full-time teachers and staffers. Nearly nine years to the date of their first grand opening, Liberty Academy celebrated its expansion grand opening in April 2015. In addition to serving more families through physical space expansion, Mrs. Brazier also desired to expand the horizons of the youngsters in her care, to show them life outside of their own neighborhoods. She organized and took the 1st and 2nd grade classes on a trip to the Nation’s Capital in 2016.

The trip was the first time these children and many of their parents had ever flown on an airplane. Parents participated in fundraising to offset the costs of the trip. Needless to say, there is another trip planned for next year as well as plans to take more local excursions, too. Because of her tireless commitment and dedication to her customers, Liberty Academy has a reputation of being one of the highest quality daycare centers in Miami-Dade County.

 In fact, Liberty Academy was named the 2015 Early Childhood Education Program of the Year by the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County. The Academy is known and respected as a safe, clean, beautiful and modern facility that creates a healthy learning environment for children. Mrs. Brazier has also been a strong advocate and volunteers for causes that affect the lives of children. In large part, Mrs. Brazier’s desire to continue her advocacy for children inspired her to establish the state-of-the-art childcare center in a predominantly African-American community that has been historically underserved.

“I am so glad to have the SBA as a partner in our efforts to improve the lives of children and their families.” Mrs. Brazier believes all childcare centers should provide children with a warm and nurturing atmosphere that encourages and supports a child's social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development. Equally important to her was to establish such a center in an underserved community and in the process, raise the standard of quality for daycare centers serving Empowerment Zones and other Historically Underutilized Business Zones.

Always with an eye toward the future, Mrs. Brazier is planning another 2,500 square-foot expansion of the Academy to open in January 2018 which will allow her to increase the number of families served. Mrs. Brazier plans to use the SBA’s 504 loan program again.

“My plan is to continue developing my business and the Liberty Academy brand to additional locations so as to have a positive impact on the lives of children and, in the process, create valuable jobs that strengthen our community.”

Company Name: 
Liberty Academy Daycare and Preschool
Location: 
Miami, Florida