A Family’s Entrepreneurial Journey Began in Cuba

Diaz Foods
The legacy of this Latino entrepreneurial spirit was passed down to Domingo’s grandson and Juilo René’s son, René.
 

Many years before Díaz Foods became the largest distributor of Hispanic products in the United States, the Díaz family patriarch, Domingo Díaz, was a successful entrepreneur in Cuba. Domingo owned a great deal of land and two large cattle ranches and the family enjoyed their success and their beautiful country.

Cuba-Latiino-entrepreneur-Diaz

Cuba

In 1966, several years after the Cuban Revolution Domingo left Cuba and headed to the US alone to get settled and establish a life for him and his family. Domingo settled in Atlanta where he worked as a janitor. A year or so after he arrived in the US, Domingo’s family arrived in Atlanta.

The drive to give his Hispanic family a wonderful life pushed Domingo to look for new opportunities. The start of Díaz Foods began in 1970 when Domingo, after much saving and sacrifice, bought the first of several small grocery stores.

Recognizing opportunities

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Don Rene

The entrepreneurial spirit that leads a family to start over again in the US with that first, single grocery store didn’t stop with Domingo. As the business grew Domingo’s son Julio René saw opportunities in expanding the business to new markets. With their business solidly in Atlanta Julio René identified an opportunity to expand their food product line to appeal to the large African American population in Atlanta. The shared food culture between Latinos and descendants from the West Caribbean nations led to the addition of palm oil, stockfish, cassava and ginger beer within the Díaz grocery aisles.

In the years leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, the city experienced an increase in its Mexican population. Several Mexican restaurants began popping up all over Atlanta. And once again, Julio René, saw the opportunity to grow the business by selling their products to these restaurants. Díaz Foods expanded to include an institutional food service division.

The legacy of this entrepreneurial spirit was further passed down to Domingo’s grandson and Juilo René’s son, René. René began working in the family grocery business at the age of ten, where René would stand at the cash register, side by side with his grandfather Domingo, and father, Julio René. At fourteen, René was driving the produce truck and by fifteen he was driving to Miami with his dad on buying trips to purchase American products. Today René is the CEO of Díaz Foods.

Bigger plans and dreams for the Grandson of one Cuban Entrepreneur

Growing up in Atlanta, headquarters to the Coca Cola Company, René was determined to go to college, get an MBA and become an employee at Coca Cola Company.

Latino-entrepreneur-Diaz

Diaz family

René worked long days at the stores and attended college at night. He never skipped a semester and although he was often late for class, he always “showed up”.

As the semesters went on, and the long hours continued at the stores, René decided it was time to set his own course. His grandfather and father were getting older, but still very involved in the operations and decisions of the business.

“The business was not mine, I had to make a change” René said. In 1988, he did make a change. He borrowed money from his aunt to buy his grandfather and father’s portion of the business. René worked with his vendors to arrange invoicing and payment schedules. He struck a deal with his grandfather and father that if he couldn’t grow the business to where he believed it could be in a year’s time, he would sell the business back to them.

Next page Becoming the Owner of a Family Business

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About the author

Pam Sclafani

Accomplished Marketing, Communications and Business Development professional helping businesses and organizations translate their goals and ideas to operational reality. Team building leader cultivating strategic B2B and B2C partnerships and alliances that have played key roles in generating millions of dollars in revenue. Successfully drives message creation, event planning, campaign and program execution across digital, print and eMarketing channels. Currently Pam is Director of Development & Community Engagement, Strategic Partnerships, Corporate Partnerships at IAHD. Her prior position was Strategic Channel Marketing Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Corporate Partnerships at IBM.