The West Orange Chamber of Commerce was in a financial crisis when Stina D’Uva arrived in 2001 and hiring her was the last effort of the organization to turn it around and create something three other chamber leaders were unable to do.
D’Uva accepted the challenge, and she continued to successfully guide and build the chamber for more than two decades.
D’Uva is relinquishing her title as president and CEO of the West Orange Chamber after 22 years at the helm in favor of retirement. She has led the organization through many changes and built a chamber that has garnered many local and statewide certifications and honors, including Florida Association of Chamber Professionals Chamber of the Year in 2009, 2012 and 2015.
Individually, D’Uva has received recognition as this year’s Florida Association of Chamber Professionals Executive of the Year.
SAVING A FLEDGLING CHAMBER
Prior to D’Uva’s arrival, the organization struggled to find successful leadership and financial stability.
“The first thing we did was to secure the financing of the chamber building which had just been purchased several years before and renovated,” she said. “Financing was definitely a problem; we had some of the funders that were reneging on the commitments because of the struggles of the chamber. So, that was the most important thing; the securing of that. The other focus was ensuring the members we had understood that they were valued and that the chamber was rebuilding.”
The membership roster was at 800, but closer to 600 had actually paid.
“It truly was a time of resetting, getting back to the basics, getting our members together so that they could partner with one another, discuss the challenges in the community and lead on those issues,” she said.
In 2003, the chamber began a yearlong process for the community called Visioning a Greater West Orange: 2015.
“The document that was created because of that process helped me guide the chamber in what we should be involved in in regard to community efforts for West Orange County,” D’Uva said. “It wasn’t something we created and put on a shelf. If we say we’re going to do something, we do it until it’s completed.”
Under D’Uva’s leadership, the chamber organized a number of events for members and the community. Best Fest — The Taste of West Orange was started in 2002, Celebrating Extraordinary Women was created in 2016, the Tour de Chamber bicycle event began in 2022, and Brewing Up Business was started this year.
Members take turns hosting the monthly Business After Hours to showcase their products and services, and the top businesses are recognized at the annual Big Orange Awards program. Networking groups continue to meet.
D’Uva said one of her favorite memories is participating in the chamber’s Karaoke Clash, a sing-off of elected officials either individually or in groups. She sang with Karen Ardaman and Theresa Jacobs one year and with Krista Carter another.
For 21 years, she and Carter laughed their way through their jobs, especially while recording the “Stina Says” videos.
“Krista and I were inseparable for 21 years,” she said. “We spent more time together than we did with our husbands. She could truly complete my sentences because we spent so much time together. … We did have some fun times.”
A TRUSTED RESOURCE
D’Uva said she has accomplished everything she set out to do in her role — the most important were to grow the reputation of the chamber as a trusted resource for local businesses, make the West Orange the best chamber anywhere and leave the chamber with a renovated building that is debt-free.
She said this is the right year to leave the chamber to “a new, dynamic leader.” After a monthlong, nationwide search, the organization hired Stephen Lewis as the new president and CEO. Lewis joined the chamber Oct. 2 and is working alongside D’Uva this month.
On Oct. 27, he officially will assume his new title.
“In the very short time that I’ve had the opportunity to work with Stephen, I know that he is the right successor to lead the chamber into its future,” D’Uva said. “He is a young man of good character, ethics, accountability and genuine kindness. I will look back in decades and marvel at Stephen’s accomplishments at the chamber and community.”
“Through her unwavering commitment and tireless efforts, Stina has not only been a guiding light but also a source of inspiration to us all,” said Fiorella Perlloni, marketing and communications manager for the chamber. “Her passion for the West Orange Chamber of Commerce has driven our organization's growth and success, making a lasting impact in our community.”
“I have had the pleasure of seeing this chamber grow and thrive during my 22 years at the chamber; just a short time in the nearly 52 years of its existence,” D’Uva said. “This chamber has been able to thrive because of its members, its leaders and its core mission of serving our business community. When a business community thrives, the overall community thrives.”
With retirement on the horizon, D’Uva and her husband, Nick, are ready to spend time with family in other parts of the country and world, and they have plans to travel to Europe and take extensive cruises.
She currently serves as vice president of the MetroWest Master Association. She plans to ride her bicycle even more on the West Orange Trail and will continue her monthly Women’s Executive Rides. She wants to read more.
“I still plan on being involved in the community, participating and attending community events and engaging with the community in a volunteer capacity, which I remained over the years but will be able to re-engage them on a greater level with much more time on my hands,” she said.