June 2016, Volume 20, Number 3

Powerful Partnerships

Alumni Return to MDC for Career Boost

With innovative partnerships and programs that mirror the community’s needs, Miami Dade College supports students’ enduring success, well past graduation and into the peaks of their careers. Two alumnae who recently took part in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program at MDC are shining examples of how the College stands by its alumni every step of the way along their path to success.

Giving Back After Growing Revenue

For MDC alumna Otmara “Omi” Diaz-Cooper, success has its roots in humanity – and quite literally in the humanities courses she took at MDC as an undergrad.

“I was already in advertising when I went to obtain my degree, and I had a wonderful time studying at MDC” she said. “Anthropology was a passion of mine, and I felt that it was complementary to my work in that. If I could understand society and culture, I would be a much better marketer.”

This intelligent perspective paid off in the field. After both working in agencies and freelancing, Diaz-Cooper founded her own advertising agency, Diaz & Cooper, with her husband, Todd Cooper, 15 years ago. “We saw that big agencies would all too often send work straight down to their junior people,” said Diaz-Cooper. “We felt that there was a need for clients to have access to top-level, experienced executives.”

Right off the bat, they landed a large client: Roadhouse Grill. Others quickly followed and the ever-growing agency now boasts a client list that includes such giants as TransUnion, Ryder and Davis Vision, among others.

To boost her business edge, Diaz-Cooper came back to MDC in 2014 as a 10KSB participant. Since completing the program, Diaz & Cooper’s revenue has increased 80 percent and is on track to double next year.

The results were transformational not only from a business perspective but also a personal one. “Outside of learning about our growth opportunity, we also learned how important small businesses are to the community and how important it is to give back,” she said. “My main priority is growing the business to use it as a vehicle to do greater good in the world. One of our goals is to open a school for girls in a third-world country.”

In addition to crediting 10KSB with giving her the confidence to take her agency further, Diaz-Cooper marvels at MDC’s own innovative business model. “It’s such an accessible and nimble organization to be able to add exciting and updated curricula that really help change students’ lives at every stage.”

Adding Business Acumen to Architectural Expertise

When architect Daphne Gurri enrolled at MDC out of high school, she couldn’t have predicted that 30 years and three degrees later she would return to sharpen her business acumen.

A founding partner and principal of architecture/planning firm Gurri Matute PA, she returned to her alma mater in 2014 as part of the first cohort of the 10KSB program, which gives small business owners tools and guidance needed to take their ventures to the next level.

“MDC has always had something valuable for me,” Gurri said. “It touched my life when I was 18, and again when I needed to improve my business.”

After graduating with an MDC associate degree, Gurri received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. She went on to work for major architecture and construction firms before deciding to launch her own in 1996 alongside her husband, José G. Matute, a well-respected architect in his own right.

The couple built a successful full-service design/build firm with an impressive array of clients, including state and county agencies, corporations and municipalities.

But for Gurri, something was missing. “When you pursue a professional degree, you don’t get exposed to business classes unless you minor in business,” Gurri said. “I became a very good architect, but I didn’t know enough about business.”

Between 10KSB and accounting classes at Wolfson Campus, MDC helped her turn that weakness into strength. “We have more than doubled revenue and employees, and increased our market share.”

The cycle extends to future generations, with two of her three children having attended MDC. “It’s incredible how much this institution can do for different people at different stages of their lives. MDC is an amazing success.”

– MR


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