Danny began his “American Dream” journey before he left India. While a political science major at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara, he announced to his fellow students that he would someday have his picture taken with an American president.
His fellow students found his dream quite amusing and laughed at what seemed to be a far-fetched ambition. To date, Danny has met and been photographed with three American presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
Danny and his wife Manisha realized their dream to become Americans when they landed in the United States in 1987. It wasn’t an easy path. Danny soon learned that hard work was the only way to establish your name in the United States. Learning the language and culture of his new country was a challenge that he overcame after a period of struggle in New Jersey, then New York, and finally in Orlando, where he could not find employment for over eight months.
Danny read a book about Walmart’s famed Sam Walton, and was tremendously inspired by it. Soon after, he started his maiden entrepreneurial venture, a convenience store in Orlando, with $5000 borrowed from friends. He grew one store to a chain of 26 across Florida, and sold the chain eight years later. He then launched his next venture, NDS USA, a medical billing and transcription company. In five years it grew to become the largest medical billing and transcription business in the world.
Danny entered the hospitality industry and real estate development in 1997. His flagship business, Danny Gaekwad Developing and Investments, is the parent company overseeing his real estate investments and other subsidiaries. Over the last three decades, Danny has built over a dozen small- and medium-sized entities including convenience stores, real estate development, hotels, restaurants and IT consulting companies located throughout the country and internationally.
Today, Danny owns more than a dozen properties within the hospitality sector, including premium brands such as Intercontinental Hotel Group, Carlson Hotel Group and Hilton Hotel Worldwide. His hotels and restaurants have won many accolades, establishing him as a trendsetter within the industry. He also owns and operates DG Hospitality, a hotel and restaurant management consulting company that handles sales and marketing for hotels and restaurants from inception to operation.
Danny recently purchased downtown Orlando’s historic Church Street Exchange building for $14.2 million. He intends to revitalize the once vibrant and lively tourist attraction that had fallen on hard times with the 1989 opening of Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island. Today, Church Street is home to more than 70 tech-related companies and serves as a hub for start-ups. Danny’s vision is to build a new accelerator in downtown Orlando. The accelerator will host a program offering start-up businesses the opportunity to present their business plan to venture capitalists to get investment funding, similar to the ever popular “Shark Tank” show.
Another of Danny’s ventures in Ocala is “The Villages,” a 350-acre mixed-use development that includes 1,100 residential lots, 300 apartments and a four-acre commercial site. It’s one of the fastest growing communities in the United States. Additionally, Danny owns thousands of residential lots in Florida and Kentucky, and dozens of residential rental condos across Florida.
Other projects in the pipeline include Tru by Hilton in Gainesville, Florida, a new Holiday Inn Express Hotel, and his latest project that is dear to his heart: the new Hilton Garden Hotel, a premium property under construction in downtown Ocala at a site where the historic Ocala House Hotel once stood. It will feature three restaurants that includes a rooftop venue offering scenic views of downtown Ocala, 10 residential apartments on the second floor, and retail shops on the ground level. Due to open in Jan 2020, it promises to forever change the face of downtown Ocala.
Over the years, Danny’s companies have generated thousands of jobs in Florida and other parts of the United States and contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy. In 2016, Governor Rick Scott awarded Danny with the “One Million Jobs” certificate of appreciation for his contribution in helping Florida job creators add 1 million jobs between December 2010 and December 2015.
Not only is Danny truly living the “American Dream,” he’s also creating opportunities for others to pursue their dreams.