Stefanie Sheehan, WC '05 and BU '07, is the founder and CEO of Mastermind Your Launch. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Diaz Becomes Business Mastermind

Stefanie Diaz takes the stage in Pearce Auditorium. She has a tough act to follow, as the student-filled audience is still buzzing from the lively performance by Tau Sigma dancers. Little do they know, Diaz once danced in their shoes.

Diaz, founder of the company Mastermind Your Launch, graduated from the Women’s College in 2005 with a business degree and completed her master’s in business administration in 2007. Today, she’s an expert in launching businesses and connecting entrepreneurs, but she came to Brenau 15 years ago to study her first real passion: dance.

Diaz was the guest speaker at the Women’s College Convocation known as Grrrl PowHER Hour Thursday, Oct. 26, in Pearce Auditorium. “I am probably the last person that my mother would have ever thought would take the stage in such a big way,” she said. “When I was young, I was a painfully shy and awkward little girl.”

Stefanie Diaz, WC '05 and BU '07, founder of Mastermind Your Launch, delivers a convocation address entitled 'Taking Your Stage' during GRRRL PowHER HOUR. Diaz has continued to rely on her Brenau sisters to inspire her and hold her accountable in her career and life. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Stefanie Diaz, delivering a convocation address titled ‘Taking Your Stage’ during GRRRL PowHER HOUR. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A Place to Flourish

The daughter of two Puerto Rican immigrants, Diaz’s mother and father moved to Georgia when she was a child. Just a few years after the move, her parents divorced.

“I grew up with my mother and my brother in Douglasville, Georgia, and we did not have that village around us like so many people are blessed to have,” she said. “A lot of my childhood was spent taking care of my younger brother. It was spent helping my mother. And it was spent, a lot of times, by myself.”

Diaz says it was a recipe for insecurity and shyness. “I was socially awkward,” she said. “I was scared to jump in.”

But one thing gave her confidence, that made her comfortable stepping into the limelight. Somewhat surprisingly, that was her dance class. In dance, it didn’t matter where her clothes came from or how many friends she had. It only mattered that she was good.

Stefanie Diaz, WC '05 and BU '07, is the founder and CEO of Mastermind Your Launch. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Diaz working with a client to launch her business.

She came to Brenau in 2001 as a freshman in the dance program, but soon “fell in love with” the marketing program. In her business classes, she met a friend who would help shape her career and her future company.

“We’ve been best friends since microeconomics in the Jacobs building,” says Belinda Landers Jackson, WC ’05. “She changed majors to business with me, and we were just connected at the hip from that point forward.”

Jackson says the two were in Alpha Delta Pi sorority together at Brenau and were constant study partners until graduating together in 2005. “That idea of studying life and bouncing ideas off each other has never waivered for Stefanie and me,” she says.

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Diaz spent eight years working side-by-side with entrepreneurs and owners of businesses spanning from startups to a $100 million company. She always felt an entrepreneurial pull, and having a front-row seat to the inner workings of various businesses fed that fire.

“I started listening to podcasts,” she said. “I listened to interviews with different entrepreneurs, hearing about women with less education, less experience, less resources than me – a few even younger than I am – going out and taking their stage. I started to say, ‘What am I waiting for?’”

Masterminding Women

She turned to four friends, fellow Brenau women, for help. They included Jackson, Rhonda Patjens Francis, WC ’04, Laura Heinlein Lilly, WC ’04 and Alicia Pendleton Harris, WC ’05.

Stefanie Diaz, WC '05 and BU '07, is the founder and CEO of Mastermind Your Launch. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“Any time we had a career idea or change in mind, we’d call each other and ask, ‘What do you think about what I want to do here?’” Jackson says. “It’s not a question; every time something major comes up in our lives, we bounce it off each other. And the other women we were so close with made it really astronomical and powerful.”

Diaz founded Mastermind Your Launch last year, which helps entrepreneurs execute a successful business launch. It began with the Mastermind Your Launch podcast, for which she has interviewed more than 60 entrepreneurs, discussing the launches of their businesses. The podcast helped catapult Diaz and the company to success.

“What’s unique about Mastermind Your Launch is the powerful community of like-minded entrepreneurs and influencers that Stefanie makes available to each of her clients,” says Women’s College Dean Debra Dobkins.

Harris says Mastermind Your Launch started with women holding “Masterminds” together. They’d talk, brainstorm, narrow down and create ideas each Tuesday night over a glass of wine, after they’d put their children to bed. “It was, really, very fruitful.”

“I called upon my Brenau women to mastermind with me,” Diaz said. “I shared with them this silly idea of starting a podcast. I said, ‘Y’all are going to think I’m crazy, but I kind of think I can do this and it could be something really special.’”

A Recipe for Success

Diaz says she could not have founded the company without the help of her friends, and that they, in turn, experienced growth in their careers because of the lessons they learned through Mastermind Your Launch.

Harris founded her own pediatric occupational therapy practice Away We Go Pediatric LLC with the encouragement of Diaz. And Jackson experienced great growth in her career, today working as a professional sales coach and business consultant with Southwestern Consulting. “We don’t just want to be moms and wives,” Jackson says. “We want to make a difference in our profession and in what we’re doing.”

Harris says she truly cannot recognize the girl she was before starting at Brenau. She, like Diaz, dreamt of being an entrepreneur, and she credits the Women’s College and the support of her friends for her success. Jackson says Brenau pushed her out of her comfort zone, instilling confidence within her. “I look back on that time and know that’s why I am where I am today,” she says.

“Taking the stage can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people,” Diaz told the young women gathered in Pearce in October. “It can mean literally taking a stage, but for me it also means taking the lead in your own life, being in control, having the power to stand up for yourself and for what you believe and stepping into the spotlight, owning what you know is right and true and just.”

Stefanie Diaz, founder of Mastermind Your Launch, WC '05 and BU '07, delivers a convocation address titled 'Taking Your Stage' during GRRRL PowHER HOUR. Sheehan has continued to rely on her Brenau sisters to inspire her and hold her accountable in her career and life. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Diaz stresses the importance of her Brenau friendships and how they continue to support her.

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