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All Are Welcome in Greater Daytona, FL

The region's business community takes an intentional approach to diversity and inclusion.

By Teree Caruthers on May 2, 2023

Volusia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Cafe con Leche networking event at Back Alley Lanes VR-Cade in South Daytona.
Nathan Lambrecht

Studies show a diverse workplace is a more productive workplace and tends to lead to growth and innovation.

To that end, strides are being made in the Greater Daytona region’s business community to promote and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Leading the charge is the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce with the support of area partners, such as VyStar Credit Union and the Volusia Hispanic Chamber.

“Diverse groups of people bring diverse experiences and ideas to the table. When a business or a community has a thoroughly diverse team, it allows them to properly serve a larger customer base and community,” says Samantha Crouch, vice president of small business development for the Daytona Regional Chamber. “A welcoming and inclusive environment increases productivity and ideas, which all lead to a more successful economy.”

Crouch says that while many of the region’s businesses and organizations have been implementing DEI practices for years, the events of 2020 truly brought these conversations front and center, and rather than produce a DEI Statement and move on, the Daytona Chamber decided to dig in and lead by example.

Putting Words Into Action

Among the initiatives developed by the chamber is the Daytona Business United Program, which helps minority entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

“The Daytona Business United Program is about moving words into action. The objective is to provide opportunities for minority small businesses to grow through membership, education, mentorship and relationship building by participating in a comprehensive and custom scholarship program. These business owners are directly provided with the resources needed to be successful business owners,” Crouch says.

Most recently, the chamber launched a DEI Council, bringing together business leaders with different perspectives from across the region. The council plans to develop programming, which will feature panel discussions, guest speakers and training around DEI.

“The DEI Council will assist in the creation, implementation and growth of a digital DEI resource toolkit, which will serve as an asset for our small business owners, as many may not have the staff to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion in their own workspace.”

Samantha Crouch, Daytona Regional Chamber

Leading by Example

VyStar Credit Union, with locations across the region, also invests in the Daytona Business United program and focuses on DEI in its own workplace culture.

“VyStar’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are intentional and rooted in who we are as an organization. Our purpose is to do good. One way we live out that purpose is by creating a leading DEI model for our employees, members, peer institutions and community partners,” says Lysa Barbano, VyStar Credit Union’s senior vice president and Florida market president.

With more than 850,000 members spanning from Central Florida to Georgia and including military members around the world, VyStar’s membership is diverse, and Barbano says to best serve those members, “it is important we meet them where they are and find unique solutions to fit their individual financial needs.”

“We believe to be a strong community leader, it is our responsibility to reflect the communities we serve,” she says. “It is also critical we employ a diverse staff that serves every member with fairness, compassion and respect. This mindset drives the success of our credit union both in being a strong community leader and a trusted financial institution.”

The Volusia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also plays a role in increasing the number of minority-owned businesses. For example, the Hispanic Chamber hosts the iLatina Leadership Summit each year, which offers Latina entrepreneurs resources and information about business planning, finances and networking.

“The Hispanic population is growing tremendously in Volusia County. In order for businesses to make sure they have the necessary tools to be able to understand our culture and diversity, they have to build a bridge between non-Hispanic and Hispanic businesses,” says Lourdes Leon Power, president of the Volusia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “That’s where we come in, and we try to help them out to make sure that those bridges are crossed and also to make sure that American businesses know how to target Hispanics.”

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