Emily Smith, fund development coordinator at Halifax Health – Hospice, a second-generation New Smyrna Beach local and current president of Volusia Young Professional’s Group (VYPG), took some time to tell us about VYPG and their work in the area.
Tell us about YPG.
The mission of VYPG is to attract and retain young professional talent in our community. As part of this mission, VYPG seeks to create a platform for young professionals to build relationships and develop professionally. VYPG also seeks to encourage young professionals to become active in our community and contribute to its economic development.
How has the organization evolved over the years?
The organization was started in 2004 by a group of young professionals who recognized a void existed for people their age to network, socialize, develop meaningful relationships and contribute to the betterment of our community. They were originally called the Daytona Young Professionals but rebranded in 2015 to include the entire county as the Volusia Young Professionals Group. Our organization currently has about 500 members and has been seeing a great deal of growth over the last six months. We are finding that many young people moved to our area during the pandemic and are working remote jobs. Although their jobs may not be local, they are still looking to meet other professionals and are seeking ways to get involved in the community. It was hard during the pandemic when we were unable to do much in-person, but that pause on events gave us a chance to really think outside the box to engage our members. Now that we are back to having events in person, it is exciting to see so many new faces who want to become more involved and become members.
What role does YPG play in supporting the business community?
I think our biggest role and responsibility with YPG is to show young professionals that Volusia County is a great place to live, work and thrive. I’ve heard from quite a few young people who have taken corporate jobs here that there is nothing to do in the area, which is not true at all!
We currently have six committees as part of our board; membership, socials, community service, marketing, local government, athletics and leadership development. Besides marketing, each committee essentially plays a role in helping connect our members with things in our community that may interest them.
The leadership development committee has really chosen to emphasize educating our members on things to do in our community through a summer lunch and learn series. The theme is “Explore Volusia, Experience Volusia.” The first luncheon focused on arts in the community, the next luncheon focused on the coast and included speakers from the Marine Science Center, Beach Safety, Marine Discovery Center and the Volusia County Coastal Division. The third luncheon will have speakers from local parks and will include a tour of the new Riverfront Esplanade.
Our community service committee plans various service projects and donation drives throughout the year. That is another great way we can introduce members to non-profits and ways they can give back. If someone isn’t into that, they can play on our kickball team or join us for 5Ks or other events that pop up throughout the year. If you like checking out new restaurants, join us at a monthly social! We always try to rotate to different cities and locations each month.
What are YPG’s key performance indicators and how are you and your leadership team measuring your progress?
I would say our performance indicators are looking at membership numbers, which include renewals, new members joining and sponsor retention. Now that we are fully back in person and bringing back events, we have also heard great feedback from members attending our events. This all comes from the hard work of our 40 board members, though! As President and a six-year member of the organization, it is great to see new leaders emerge on our board and to see the dedication and creativity they bring to the organization.
How can local businesses partner with YPG?
We currently have 10 sponsors, many of which are large companies in the area that employ young professionals. These are all very successful partnerships that we appreciate. As a sponsor, there is no cap on the number of employees who can be members of VYPG. That helps us share our mission, but we also want to do our part in helping them retain their talent by getting them involved in the community. We are also open to the idea of smaller businesses sponsoring our socials or luncheons. Central Florida Eye Specialists sponsored our July monthly social by providing the appetizers that were served. This is a great way for smaller businesses to get involved if they cannot commit to becoming an annual sponsor.
What’s your elevator pitch to prospective members?
Although I was born and raised in the area, I never knew how many opportunities were right here in Volusia County and how great our community is. VYPG has not only opened so many doors for me professionally and personally but has also taught me how much Volusia County has to offer and how much there is to do here. I encourage everyone to connect with us so we can help connect you with the community. No matter your passion or interest, we can help you find out where you fit in.