Articles

Marketing Professor Diana Hechavarria Helps Everyone Succeed in Entrepreneurships

By Keith Morelli

Diana Hechavarria

TAMPA (October 4, 2018) -- Making successful entrepreneurs out of everyone is what gets Diana Hechavarria stoked. That's why the assistant professor in the Muma College of Business's Marketing Department focuses her research on why some entrepreneurships create opportunities while others choke in bottlenecks.

Some of her work involves Latinos entering the business-building process, and it was that work that led to Hechavarria's recognition with a Hispanic Pathways Award at USF for her achievements in better understanding the dynamics of entrepreneurships in the Latino community. She was awarded the honor at a luncheon sponsored by the USF Latin Community Advisory Committee at the Marshall Student Center.

"It means so much to me that my research has a tangible impact on people and society," she said. "I want my research to matter and not just be research for research's sake. If I can help just one entrepreneur be successful, I feel fulfilled in what I do."

She is a first-generation Cuban-American who is the first in her family to attend and complete college. It was her upbringing, she said, that molded her interests.

"I grew up in Miami, where there was a huge Cuban-American ethnic entrepreneurship enclave," she said. "They operated outside the boundaries of the established local economy to reclaim their power.

"Many immigrants lost everything moving to Miami. Many lost credentials, too, for their jobs, so they started businesses to survive. It showed me, at a very early age, how business ownership was an avenue to increased social mobility and economic status."

"Often, nascent entrepreneurs – those in the earliest stages of creating a firm – feel they have the least power in a system," Hechavarria said. "So, my goal is to help inform minorities, women and other social groups that have traditionally felt disenfranchised, how to reclaim their power or create alternate spaces of action to facilitate their venturing initiatives."

Hechavarria was nominated by Muma College of Business Associate Dean Jackie Reck, who said Hechavarria's research is shedding light on the dynamics faced by business startup companies.

"She is particularly interested in understanding how intersectionality, such as race, class and gender, affects the process and outcomes of business creation among entrepreneurs," Reck wrote in her nomination paperwork. "As a Hispanic woman, Diana has witnessed first-hand the opportunities that business ownership can create for Hispanic immigrants. Her experiences in this community influenced her to pursue a career in higher education dedicated to teaching and researching entrepreneurship."

Since coming to Tampa five years ago, Hechavarria has studied all facets of the dynamics and collaborates with various Tampa Bay entrepreneurial support organizations, community partners and researchers in the region. All are involved to create a roadmap to reach entrepreneurial success.

Her research findings have been presented to Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa, and other stakeholders, including investors and business angel networks.

"As part of this ongoing work, she (has found) that Hispanic entrepreneurs felt the most disenfranchised in the local ecosystem,"  said the nomination letter. "Diana is currently working on an academic paper targeted to entrepreneurship theory and practice as well as a practical piece targeted to the Harvard Business Review to discuss how minorities can maneuver successfully in entrepreneurial ecosystems when they feel powerless.

"The goal of this research," the letter said, "is to advance and create a plan to foster entrepreneurship here in Tampa Bay through cross-communality partnerships."

Hechavarria also has mentored and supported local Hispanic entrepreneurs in the community and at USF. She has consulted with several Hispanic-owned businesses in USF's Student Incubator and other entrepreneurial support organizations in the city.

She also is a member of the Junior League of Tampa and currently serves as the grants chair for the league, helping to secure national and local grant funding for the organization.