I am Stefanie Diaz and I am a proud Partner of Zane Venture Fund, an Atlanta-based fund focused on bridging the gap between Seed and Series A for underrepresented founders building tech-enabled solutions in the Southeast.
My story and powerful conversations with the women and allies impacting the flow of capital can be found on my podcast, She Conquers Capital.
What led me to Zane? Years of work focused on helping underrepresented entrepreneurs find their voices and including them at the table, underscored by my expertise in entrepreneurship and investing.
Since 2007, I’ve been scaling organizations to massive success, beginning with a pharmaceutical startup that we grew to over $100 million in 4 years.
I’ve also been galvanizing unstoppable female founders since 2017 when I launched one of Atlanta’s most dynamic and diverse communities for women, The Women Only Experience (WOE).
And, as Head of Investor Relations in a FinTech company, I’ve raised capital.
I also run screening and due diligence for a globally-recognized angel investor group.
These experiences earned me the distinction of being named an Atlanta Startup Wonder Woman by Hypepotamus.
My personal journey has been one of claiming all facets of my voice - including being Latina, a mom, an entrepreneur, a dancer, and a financial whiz - even when others were determined to keep me small. My life's work is empowering others to do the same.
This is the voice I bring to the women's empowerment and capital markets.
Keep scrolling to see the story behind the story...
When I graduated with my MBA in 2007, I landed in sales in a pharmaceutical startup. During my time there, I wore multiple hats, developed high-level marketing strategies, and reported directly to the owner/entrepreneur. I helped grow that company to over $100 MM in annual revenue and gained confidence in my ability to run my own business.
Although I didn’t know what that business would be, I was determined to find out.
While I enjoyed success in my pharmaceutical career, it never felt like my forever path. I vividly remember attending an industry conference with a fancy, seated dinner. As a highly-influential, Fortune 100, C-suite, female executive took the stage, I wondered why I had no desire to follow in her footsteps. I realized climbing the ladder in that industry would not feed my soul. Still, since my salary was well above where I ever imagined it would be in my 20’s, I stuck it out, telling myself that fulfilling work would emerge later in my career.
Then, in 2011, the company fell on hard times. I survived several rounds of layoffs and was the last person standing from the sales team. I’ll never forget the August day when the owners abruptly announced their plans to close the company and open a new one. I was offered the same salary and similar role. All I had to do was return my signed employee agreement by Friday.
When Friday morning came, I took my time getting ready. There was no rush to be there by 8:30am because I knew I wouldn’t be sticking around. When I arrived in the office, I went to the president’s office, thanked him for the invaluable experience I’d received during my time there, and shared that I would not be joining them in their new venture.
I’ll never forget how I felt getting in my car after that meeting. I drove in the sunlight of that day with a weight lifted off my shoulders. I vowed to never again work that hard to put money in someone else’s pocket.
So I took a $40,000 pay cut in order to work in my father’s medical practice. Even though Dad lived and worked 5 hours away from me, I commuted to his office several weeks out of each month to help run his operations and revamp his marketing.
It was exhilarating to feel ownership in the success of the business. My brothers worked there, too, so it was a family affair. It was extra special because our family was not close growing up. We would all spend the day in the office, grab dinner out, and go to Dad’s house to strategize over coffee at the dining room table. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Once I found out that I was going to have a baby, I knew the 5 hour commute wasn’t going to work. Around the same time, a former colleague connected me to an opportunity to return to the pharmaceutical industry as an account manager with a company based in California. I would be able to work from home. While I knew it wasn’t the job, I was grateful for the opportunity to work from home when my baby arrived.
You know, you have a whole lot of time to think when you’re a new mother. During late-night feedings, rocking back and forth, I would look at my precious little angel and wonder what kind of example I was setting for him. What would Eli learn from my life? What did I need to do in order to find my purpose and follow my true path?
I had no clue at the time, but Eli was another important piece of my journey to reclaim my power. It didn’t happen overnight, but brick by brick, I laid a new foundation for a fresh new life.
In 2014, I started listening to a podcast series featuring interviews with entrepreneurs. As I immersed myself in listening to this community of trailblazers and their stories, two feelings emerged: (1) a need to figure out my unique gift and start doing work that would light me up, and (2) the realization that launching a podcast would be part of my journey.
I refused to let this idea turn into a dream I never pursued. While listening to the interviews, I learned about the power of creating a Mastermind group – a small group that meets regularly to provide accountability and exchange ideas. I needed one.
I asked a small group of friends to hold me accountable to my vision by checking in with me over a Google Hangout every other week. And it worked! First, I launched my blog and then, on April 21, 2015, I debuted the Mastermind Your Launch Podcast on iTunes.
I could never have foreseen what happened next!
Connections rolled in as people shared the show and recommended trailblazers for me to feature. I found myself recording 30 minute conversations with serial entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The invitations I emailed to entrepreneurs I admired, but had no connection to, came back with enthusiastic yeses. It was a whirlwind.
Fast-forward to 2017 when the Mastermind Your Launch Podcast first aired as Mastermind Your Launch Radio on the Business Radio X syndicated platform. Over the next 10 months, listenership climbed to over 130,000 listeners per episode.
My growing visibility through the podcast led me to live events, a growing community, and invitations for interviews, speaking, and emceeing entrepreneur events around Atlanta.
I niched down my content and services to focus on and feature technology startups and entrepreneurs. Before long, I was invited to train and mentor startups on marketing concepts and go-to-market strategies.
I embraced the Atlanta startup community and it embraced me. Everything looked beautiful on the surface…. At the same time, deep within, a transformation had been set into motion.
I often remark, “While I was building it, it was rebuilding me.” I had claimed so much power over my career, that every aspect of my life shifted.
I could no longer ignore or accept areas of my life that were disempowering. They had to either raise their vibration or disappear.
In July 2017, with a 3 year old son, I left my marriage and quit my nearly 6-figure job. With a little savings and my last 2 paystubs to secure an apartment, I embarked on building a new life from the ground up.
I began my personal journey to restore my own power, self-love, and worthiness. As I healed, I connected to new and profound truths about the unique dynamics we women experience along both our personal and professional journeys.
I knew instinctively that my experiences and epiphanies required a new mission in my work, but jumping from the male-dominated tech industry to women-only seemed like a shift that would take time. (Are you noticing a trend here?)
I wish I could say that WOE | The Women Only Experience was part of some master business plan that I mapped out deliberately.
The opposite is true. WOE exists because I surrendered to what life put in front of me and took a massive leap of faith. I trusted in life's plan and magic found me.
While I’d hosted over 50 events for Atlanta entrepreneurs under the Mastermind Your Launch brand, my pivot around my “deep clearing” led to me taking a pause from the action. I didn’t host an event for over 6 months.
At the same time, I was feeling called to jump in and work with women. Again, it’s something I thought would happen further down the line.
Until one day I someone asked me “What would you have to put into an event to help women experience the same transformation you’ve had?”
GREAT question. This was my response.
I said that there would have to be an interview with an amazing female founder. One who would inspire us with her story of success, but one who would also be honest and transparent about the struggles and woes of her own journey.
I said that there would be dancing. I’ve been a dancer since I was 3. It’s not only my go-to form of soul expression; it’s also been a huge part of my healing and self-discovery process. I was determined to create a safe space where female founders, who spend so much time in their masculine energy as they hustle and build, could feel soft and feminine.
I said there would have to be affirmations. My soul-work and expanding mindset have been critical to surviving the challenges in both my life and career. I wanted a moment for each woman to close her eyes and lock in her intention.
And, finally, I said there would have to be champagne.
I’ll never forget walking off the stage at the very first WOE Main Event on April 25, 2017 – nearly two years to the day since launching the podcast. A woman came up to me and said, “I feel like I’m home.” Her comment and the comments of other women that night showed me that WOE was something special – something critical to the growth of the women there that night. And, it was my responsibility to keep it going for the countless other women it’s meant to serve.
Since the launch of WOE, I have been named an Atlanta Startup Wonder Woman, been recognized as Brenau University Women’s College’s Young Alumnae of the Year, invited to keynote women’s leadership conferences like She Runs the World and Grrrl PowHer Hour, and so much more.
And then things changed again. It’s amazing how doors you once knocked on to no avail suddenly open when you are in motion on another path.
WOE and my public speaking career were in full swing by late-2018 when I was approached to join a rapidly growing FinTech company as their Chief of Staff. My mind (ego) wanted to keep plugging away at WOE full-time. I’d become attached to the identity of an entrepreneur. Even so, I knew intuitively that this new role was a manifestation of both old and new desires. The Universe brought it to me, so I felt guided to accept it.
The role evolved to Head of Investor Relations and running screening and due diligence for a globally recognized angel investor group. I soon found myself with a seat at a new table facilitating 6 and 7-figure investment deals. I loved everything about the experience. Well, almost everything.
Somewhere in the world of capital, I lost my voice.
I knew that to keep my seat at the table, I had to reclaim my voice. So I reclaimed it the best way I could – as an entrepreneur.
In 2019, I founded Powered by Verve, an investor relations firm whose mission is to help female and minority founders capitalize their ventures. And, I jumped back into the world of podcasting with the She Conquers Capital podcast.
In reclaiming my power in the world of capital, I connected with a new depth and authenticity to both my voice and message. A reclamation that led me to Shila Nieves Burney and Zane Venture Fund where I am now a Partner. And loving every minute.
It’s been a journey... and as I continue to reclaim my power and reveal my voice, I feel blessed to also offer this community where women can find their village, own their voices, and embrace the vulnerability that comes with stepping outside our comfort zones.
It’s all encompassing. Our outward experiences reveal the truth of who we are deep within.
If you’ve read this far, you undoubtedly have a powerful story of your own and you’re probably still writing it. I’d be honored to support you in any way that gets you where you want to go faster. Click below to explore the powerful ways WOE can propel you.
To claiming your power and voice with wild abandon,