West Volusia NAACP and DeLand Pride Launch Black Business Directory
DELAND — The West Volusia Chapter of the NAACP and DeLand Pride have come together to create a directory of black businesses.
The goal is to raise awareness of black businesses on the west side of the county, as well as to dispel historical racial and other divisions.
“Last year when George Floyd was murdered, I represented DeLand Pride with the Orlando Alliance. The director of this site, Jennifer Foster, made a major effort to try to fight racism,” said Desiree Sylvester, member of DeLand Pride who champions the cause of the LGBTQ community.
“As a result of this, I was put in contact with the Central Florida Foundation which distributed micro-grants. I had a discussion with people in the community about black people not feeling comfortable going downtown (to DeLand). We want to make sure everyone feels welcome.
Sylvester said many people were ready to come together to work on a solution that would make everyone feel part of the community. Among these steps was the creation of a directory of black businesses.
“It was Barbara Girtman (Councillor for Volusia County) who said we should work on trying to get white people to spend on black businesses,” Sylvester said. “We met with community leaders and decided that a directory of black businesses would be the best solution.”
Girtman herself is a businesswoman; she works as a real estate agent at Bee Realty Corp. at DeLand.
Sylvester said a $500 grant was received to move forward with the creation of the online directory.
“A lot of people gave a lot of their time and energy,” Sylvester said. “I think we only spent $200 on the current website. The rest was used to promote it.
Kimberly Cline, chair of the West Volusia NAACP communications and publicity committee, said an email newsletter from DeLand Pride about the grant to create the black business directory piqued her interest.
“I contacted our economic development chair and said, ‘Hey! Look what they are doing. Can I reach out? We must collaborate. So apparently there have been a few listings (of businesses) that have been wandering around the community for quite some time. I reached out to Desiree (Sylvester with DeLand Pride) and learned about all the groundwork she had done.
Cline said the directory website took about two months from inception to creation.
“We have 50 (companies uploaded to the website),” Cline said. “I wanted 100. We actually had a list of 140 but that list was pre-COVID. So we painstakingly sent out emails, Facebook messages and calls to try to contact the people on this list. We also had people who contacted us. So out of 140, we have 50 companies.
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Cline said the directory was a way to bring everyone in the community together after George Floyd died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck as a crowd watched. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of her murder.
“When the George Floyd incident happened, a lot of white people were like, ‘What can we do?’ Everyone was trying to find ways to support black businesses, but there was no place to go to find black businesses.
“It’s a great way for black businesses to support each other. But for a community of people who want to help make a difference and want to do a better effort to support these businesses, it’s a great resource to find out who you can do business with.
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Cline said managing the online repertoire was her top priority.
“We don’t know how many more inquiries we’re going to get,” Cline said. “I will be responsive and load these companies within 24 hours of receiving them.”
Cline and others also worked overtime to publicize the new repertoire.
“So social media was a great way to start spreading it and sharing it,” she said. “We also print postcards to distribute to different businesses and community members.”
The directory includes companies outside of DeLand.
“We already have all kinds of businesses there. We didn’t want to limit it to DeLand. Right now we have people from Daytona Beach, Deltona. I would like to see all of Volusia County on it. Right now it’s Black biz DeLand. But December 1 will switch to Black biz Volusia.
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Cline said advertising options may be limited for small business owners.
“We have social media, which is wonderful,” Cline said. “Some small businesses (owners) can’t afford to target people through the print media. If you’re at eye level in your business and don’t have time to go to chamber meetings and network, how do people know you? It’s word of mouth. Having this resource online really makes it much easier for people to find you.
DeLand Pride and the West Volusia NAACP hope people will use the directory to increase local economic equality.
“I’m a realtor in downtown DeLand,” Girtman said. “I did this on purpose so people could see me in the community doing business and for others to recognize that the opportunity is there for them too at whatever level.
“I have sought to be that role model throughout our ‘yes you can’ community. Whether it’s political, if you want to be in business, whatever, it’s all there for you.
For more information or to request that your business be added to the directory, visit: https://blackbizdeland.com/