DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One Daytona Beach woman, who is a co-business owner, is making strides to help out her community one graphic flyer at a time.
Carmen Ruiz and her team at the FASTSIGNS Daytona Beach location are focusing on a Community Give Back project about women facing domestic violence — an issue Ruiz is personally connected to.
“As a group, we’re currently working on, you know, how can we expand on that effort and help greater awareness around domestic violence ... making it a community issue more than just a home issue,” Ruiz said.
Every year, FASTSIGNS International selects stores to give a $1,000 donation to help carry out their local initiative. Ruiz and her group will continue to create digital assets such as posters that businesses can download for free and hang in work break rooms, bathrooms, churches and medical facilities. She said finding appropriate places for women to see these resources is a big outreach project, since they started in 2021.
This is the second year that FASTSIGNS Daytona Beach will help advocate for domestic violence resources for the Beacon Center/Domestic Violence Council in Volusia County. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Ruiz said she wanted to help spread awareness about a community issue that needed to be highlighted.
“All of this cultivates from our first year going into that FASTSIGNS project,” Ruiz said. “I had just come off of a mission trip. And I was on this high because I felt like I had impacted people in such a big way. And then we went into quarantine and I (said), ‘How do we do this again? ... How do we, like, make that kind of impact locally?’”
Ruiz also sits on the board of directors for the Beacon Center — the only certified domestic shelter in the area, Ruiz said. She feels passionate about advocating for domestic violence assistance and said it’s a tough conversation people should have.
“I want to advocate on behalf of women that may not feel as comfortable as I do, having this very uncomfortable conversation,” Ruiz said. “A lot of people, you know, just don’t feel like there’s a space to talk about violence in the workplace. But the reality is, there’s a space to talk about violence when we’re talking about people’s lives and their health in any platform.”
But the impact of the social advocacy signs goes beyond profits — and that’s the message Ruiz wants to drive home to their customers.
“We’re making a statement for your business, we’re making a statement for our business, but we also want to make a statement in our community,” Ruiz said. “So this lines up perfectly with what we’re set out to do, and it’s impacted our business in a great way.”
Ruiz’s involvement with other local diversity, equity and inclusion efforts has also opened her eyes to what she can do with her work.
“We’ve started to create some initiatives that are really cultivating some purposeful, intentional and necessary conversations. So I feel proud to get to be a part of both of those organizations with other colleagues that fit the minority, you know, descriptions of all sorts and just get to ... be part of those conversations that we know are super necessary but are often very uncomfortable,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz wants to promote visual communication with profitable and efficient strategies while inspiring the community.
“One of our key objectives is to be an impactful community partner,” Ruiz said. “How do we do that without taking away what we’re doing every single day, or allowing people to see what we do every single day? And that can be impactful work.”
When it comes to getting down to business, Ruiz said her job does not feel like work. Under the mentorship of now-business partner Rod Quick, she gained a lot of knowledge.
“I’ve been in this FASTSIGNS network for almost 14 years, but my franchisee and I opened this one in 2017,” Ruiz said. “So, we’re just getting ready to make five years of business here in the Daytona Beach area.”
And Ruiz said the trend of women entering the business world has been on an upward trajectory, especially with more flexible workplaces during the pandemic.
“I think the pandemic, while it brought up so many challenges, it also opened up a lot of conversations, and I think it kind of made us all stop and realize what’s really important,” Ruiz said. “We’ve measured success by numbers for a really long time. And while that’s still important because we’re running businesses, I think it’s important to really kind of look at when it’s all said and done, what did you leave behind, you know, how big was your impact?”
She said being a female franchisee is not an easy role to navigate.
“There’s always challenges, right? It’s a male-dominated industry,” Ruiz said. “And sometimes it feels like the business world is a male-dominated industry but you know, the visual communications world definitely is.”
However, Ruiz said every experience has been a way for her to see what she is capable of doing.
“I’m a product of mentorship of a man. I mean, if he didn’t, if he wouldn’t have seen my potential, then I possibly may have never taken that leap,” Ruiz said. “Men need to continue to just ... open those opportunities for women and realize that we’re really capable of anything. There are no limitations. It’s a mindset.”
As for the advice she has for women wanting to start their own business, Ruiz said it’s important to find a purpose for what you do every day.
“I would say that every single day is going to be a challenge,” Ruiz said. “Every single day, you’re going to have something that you’re going to need to learn in particular to your industry, to the business world, to networking, to growing your business, to marketing. It’s challenging, and it’s hard, but it’s worth it.”