DELAND — The West Volusia chapter of the NAACP and DeLand Pride have come together to create a Black business directory.
The goal is to increase awareness of Black businesses on the west side of the county, and also to dispel historic racial and other divisions.
“Last year when George Floyd was murdered I represented DeLand Pride with the Orlando Alliance. The director at that site, Jennifer Foster, made a major push to try to deal with anti-racism,” said Desiree Sylvester, a member of DeLand Pride which advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
“As a result of that I got connected with the Central Florida Foundation who was handing out micro-grants. I had a discussion with people in the community about Black people not feeling comfortable going downtown (in DeLand). We want to make sure that everybody feels welcome.”
Sylvester said there were a lot of people willing to come together to work on a solution that made everyone feel a part of the community. Among those steps was to create Black businesses directory.
“It was Barbara Girtman (Volusia County Councilwoman) who said what we should be working on is trying to get white people to spend in Black businesses,” said Sylvester. “We met with some community leaders and we decided that a Black business directory would be the best way to go.”
Girtman herself is a businesswoman; she works as a Realtor with Bee Realty Corp. in DeLand.
Sylvester said a $500 grant was received to move forward with creating the online directory.
“A lot of people contributed a lot of their own time and energy,” said Sylvester. “I think we only spent $200 towards the actual website. The rest was used to promote it.”
Kimberly Cline, communications and publicity committee chair for the West Volusia NAACP, said an email newsletter from DeLand Pride about the grant to create the Black business directory piqued her interest.
“I reached out to our economic development chair and I said, ‘Hey! Look what they’re doing. Can I reach out? We need to collaborate.’ So apparently there’s been a couple lists (businesses) roaming 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 website for the directory took about two months from start to inception.
“We have 50 (businesses uploaded on the website),” said Cline. “I wanted 100. We actually had a list of 140 but that list was pre-COVID. So we painstakingly were emailing, Facebook messaging and calling trying to contact people on that list. We also had people contact us. So out of 140, we got 50 businesses.”
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, has been convicted of his murder.
“When the George Floyd incident happened a lot of white folks were like, ‘What can we do?’ Everyone was trying to find ways to support Black businesses, but there wasn’t a place to go and find Black businesses.
“This is a great way for Black businesses to support one another. But for a community of people that want to help make a difference and want to make a better effort to support those businesses, this is a great resource to find out who you can do business with.”
Cline said managing the online directory is her top priority.
“We don’t know how many more inquiries we’re going to get,” said Cline. “I’m going to be responsive and get those businesses loaded within 24 hours from when I receive them.”
Cline and others also have been working overtime to spread the word about the new directory.
“So social media was a great way to start putting it out there and sharing it,” she said. “We’re also printing up some postcards to have to be distributed to different businesses and community members.”
The directory includes businesses outside DeLand.
“We already have all kinds of businesses on there. We didn’t want to restrict it to just DeLand. Right now we have people from Daytona Beach, Deltona. I’d like to see all of Volusia County on it. Right now it is Black biz DeLand. But Dec. 1 is going to flip over to Black biz Volusia.”
Cline said advertising options can be limited for small business owners.
“We have social media, which is wonderful,” said Cline. “Some small business (owners) can’t afford to target people through print media. If you’re up to your eyeballs in your business and you don’t have time to go to chamber meetings and network, how are people learning about you? It’s by word of mouth. Having that online resource 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,” said Girtman. “I did that on purpose so that people could see me in the community doing business and for others to recognize that opportunity is there for them as well on whatever level.
“I’ve sought to be that model throughout our community of ‘yes you can.’ Whether it’s on the political level, if you want to be in business, whatever, it is it’s all available to you.”
For more information or to request that your business be added to the directory visit: https://blackbizdeland.com/