The Idea Center Helps Entrepreneurs Turn Concepts into Reality After being crowned the 2017 Miss Black Florida USA, Leyanis Diaz had the opportunity to visit a great number of Miami’s minority-owned businesses. Throughout these tours, Diaz saw the struggles that small business owners were facing and that’s when the proverbial lightbulb lit up inside her brain. Why not start a business to help entrepreneurs succeed? That was the start of Major Marketplace, an online platform that sells items created by minority- owned businesses. But coming up with the vision was only a small part of the battle. Once she had her inspiration, Diaz did exhaustive research as she tried to figure out who could help her take her idea to market. As it turned out, The Idea Center at MDC had everything she needed. “They believed in me and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity they gave to me,” said Diaz, a 25-year-old native of Cuba. “They gave me the support I needed.” Gustavo Grande, program manager at The Idea Center, said MDC’s center for innovation and entrepreneurship walked Diaz through the process, step by step. First, Grande said, The Idea Center’s Startup Challenge, which Diaz won, helped take her vision from idea to prototype. Step two, which is called Create, took it from prototype to go-to-market. “We were able to identify what was the purpose of her business and identify who her customers would be by creating a profile,” Grande said. From there, Diaz defined what would differentiate her from the competition and created what would be her “unique competitive advantage.” Along the way, Diaz was paired with different mentors – successful entrepreneurs from the community who work in a similar or related field. She was also the recipient of the American Entrepreneurship Award, where she won $25,000 to build her business. “I knew I had an idea to help people, but MDC gave me all the tools,” Diaz said. “The people at The Idea Center have become my big brothers and my big sisters.” – WV
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