Meet the Growing Room Leadership

Franchise Owner

Laura Smith
Franchise Owner and CEO of Growing Room of Auburn and Growing Room Opelika

Laura grew up in Columbus, GA where she graduated Cum Laude from Columbus State University with a BBA in 1991, an MBA in 1995, and ultimately obtaining her Professional of Human Resource Certification in 1999. Her early career was focused in Human Resources and Business Management, in which she held various management positions. In 1999, her desire to significantly impact the lives of children and families led her to join Growing Room, Inc. in Columbus, GA as the Senior VP of Business Affairs. This executive position allowed her to gain experience in almost every aspect of the Growing Room organization.

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She and her husband, Mark, were able to experience Growing Room in a new way after the birth of her daughter in 2001, as parents. Now more than ever, they understood how important quality child care was to working parents. They saw firsthand how their daughter flourished at Growing Room and how well-prepared she was going to be for Kindergarten.

After Growing Room, Inc. was recognized as the 2004 “National Small Business of the Year”, Laura began developing and forming the Growing Room Franchise System with the Growing Room founder, Sheree Mitchell. As the franchise model took shape, she had the idea that would lead to her to becoming a franchisee herself. Since Laura previously worked in Auburn/Opelika, she and Mark knew there was a need for quality childcare in the area. Thus they decided to give the children of Auburn the Growing Room experience and opened the first Growing Room franchise there in January 2008!

Since its inception, Growing Room Auburn has received praise, recognition and compliments from parents and the community alike. Laura and Mark’s passion about Growing Room and the lifelong impact that the center has on children’s lives has led to the opening of a second location: Growing Room of Opelika.

Growing Room of Auburn’s Leadership Team

Ashley Daniels
Senior Director of Growing Room of Auburn

Ashley grew up in Birmingham, AL, a lonely Auburn fan in a land full of ’Bammers. After high school, she made her way to the “loveliest village on the plains” to attend Auburn University. She ultimately transferred to the University of Montevallo where she graduated with a Communications degree with honors. Ashley spent a few years in Atlanta selling airtime for a marketing firm and then moved to Destin, FL to work in advertising for two local radio stations.

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It was at one of these stations’ events that she met her husband, Bryan, another Auburn fan in Florida. Ashley then began working in property management, her “dream job”, but once their child, Walker, was born, the couple decided to move back to Auburn to be near family (and football).

After an exhausting search for “the” job back home, Ashley realized that dropping off and picking up Walker at Growing Room and developing relationships with the staff was the highlight of her day. On a whim, she asked if Growing Room was hiring and, in 2011, joined our team as a Paraprofessional. She was a natural in the classroom and it didn’t take long for her to be promoted to Lead Teacher. From there, her prior experience and customer service skills led to her promotion to Office Manager, Assistant Director, and now Senior Director.

By her own admission, Ashley entered the profession a bit naïve, not knowing how hard early childhood education could be. In fact, she left the first day crying – a story she tells all future employees because she wants them to understand it’s not always “rainbows and butterflies.” Despite this being the hardest job she’s ever had, it’s absolutely the most rewarding one, too. She never thought she would have a job where she could laugh so hard and feel so strongly about what she does every day. She truly feels honored to know these parents have chosen Growing Room, to care for their children, and to work with the incredible teachers that are changing lives every day.

Consuela Guice
Assistant Director of Growing Room of Auburn

Consuela is originally from Phenix City, Alabama, but moved to Auburn to attend Auburn University; she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences (Pre-Med). This is where she met her husband D’Wayne and Auburn quickly became their home. They are the proud parents of four children, Christian, Trinity, D’Wayne Jr., and Ethan.

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Prior to joining the Growing Room team, Consuela had many years of experience in the restaurant industry where she worked her way up from server and cook to management. She began her career with Growing Room Auburn in 2010 as a Paraprofessional, but she excelled in the classroom and was soon promoted to Lead Teacher.

In addition to her studies at Auburn, she has earned multiple training certificates in various early childhood education courses including: Alabama Early Learning Guidelines, Problem Solving for Our Youngest Learners, Essentials of High Quality Early Child Care, and STEM for the Preschool Classroom. Consuela is always in search of new ideas and activities to better Growing Room Auburn, and she is committed to providing a safe, happy environment where any child can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them.

Growing Room of Opelika’s Leadership Team

Hollie Autrey
Area Director of Growing Room of Auburn and Opelika
Senior Director of Growing Room of Opelika

An Auburn native, Hollie has laid roots with Growing Room Auburn for the past 10 years as an integral part of the franchise’s success. She began her career with Growing Room Auburn when they opened their doors in 2008, but she discovered her passion for children early on, while involved with the AmeriCorps program. She is a true example of how Growing Room promotes from within: she started as a Lead Teacher, but was promoted to Assistant Director, and finally to Senior Director in only a year’s time. With the opening of a second location in Opelika coming in 2018, she is now our Area Director.

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Hollie acquired her expertise in child development through a conduit of studying and research, as well as attending early childhood education classes and conferences. Her most valuable instrument, however, is her experience. She built her management style upon the importance of communication and partnership, and this can be seen through her deep connections with the families of Growing Room Auburn. Hollie believes children learn best through engagement in positive, loving and consistent environments with a well-trained staff, and that parents should feel comfortable going to work each day with their children in great hands. This, coupled with the belief that all children deserve a quality, exciting environment to learn in, is conducive to creating equal opportunities for every child to grow up to be a positive member of the community.

Aside from Growing Room, Hollie enjoys being involved in the community. She has participated in Junior League of Lee County and Dancing Stars of East Alabama (which benefits the Child Advocacy Center). She also actively encourages children of Growing Room to volunteer with a variety of community resources, such as the humane society, food banks, and nursing homes.  Hollie and her husband, Will, enjoy spending time with their two children (ages 12 and 10) and their dogs, and cheering on the Auburn Tigers.

Brittney James
Assistant Director, Growing Room Opelika
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Brittney is originally from the small town of Dadeville, Al. There, she grew up in a home daycare which laid the foundation for her love and passion to work with children. After graduating high school, she moved to Carrollton, Ga to attend the University of West Georgia where she is finishing her bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

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While attending the University of West Georgia, she has completed courses such as Exploring Sociocultural Perspectives on Diversity in Educational Contexts, Investigating Critical and Contemporary Issues in Education, Inclusive Classroom: Differentiating Instruction, and Exploring Teaching and Learning.

In 2010, Brittney began her career in childcare as Lead Teacher in a small childcare facility. She was able to fulfill her passion for working with children by leading, teaching, and helping mold the children in her classroom. From there she went to another facility where she was an Assistant Director then Director, and even assisted with the opening of a second location. During her experience there, she was able to excel in her leadership role by learning all aspects of the center management.

In 2018, after 10 years of living in the metro Atlanta area, she decided to come back “home” to Alabama to be closer to her family. Before returning, she knew she only wanted to be with the best, so she did some research and heard nothing but awesome things about Growing Room Auburn. Brittney was very fortunate to start her career at Growing Room after only being back in Alabama for a few weeks. Since Brittney had been in administration for the past four years, she was a little nervous about going back into the classroom but immediately felt at home once she started working with the Growing Room team. She is now tremendously excited to be the Assistant Director of Growing Room Opelika and looks forward to all the future excitement and success of the Growing Room team.