Cherise Czaban, Diane Sears and Donna Duda can all be described as storytellers in their own right. Each of us is shaped by stories, both our own and those we have been told. What sets these three apart, however, is how their passion for listening to, cultivating and sharing the unique histories of our community has led them to join forces as the new team behind i4 Business magazine.
As part of the original team that introduced i4 Business, Czaban has always been passionate about the publication and its impact. “I continue to see i4 Business as a vehicle for empowerment and mentorship, promoting the entrepreneurial spirit, and celebrating the success of others,” said Czaban, who has served as the magazine’s director of business development and has now become the publisher and CEO.
Sears, on the other hand, has been a fan and reader of the magazine. She is stepping into the role of editor-in-chief. As founder and president of DiVerse Media in Orlando, as well as a writer and editor with an extensive list of publications including Florida Trend and the Orlando Sentinel, Sears describes her lifelong career in print and digital media as a calling. Women’s experiences hold a particularly special place in her heart, as evidenced by her community involvement as Orlando Chapter chair for the Women Presidents’ Organization, Central Florida director for the Women’s Business Development Center of Florida, and co-founder of the Go for the Greens Foundation, which produces an annual conference for women business owners.
Duda serves as director of corporate communications for A. Duda & Sons Inc. (DUDA), participating in a legacy that began in 1926. As one of the original investors in i4 Business, she is taking on the role of director of encouragement. “I love to read about real people, how they think, the experiences that shaped them, and what helped them be successful,” she said.
In addition to her work in the professional realm, she works alongside other members of the community to give back, even co-initiating a fundraising committee for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. Her work has always focused on connecting those around her and fostering positive impacts in her community.
Serving Others – Cherise Czaban
With a strong background in sales and marketing, it may come as a surprise to those who have not met Czaban that her mind for business is matched only by her gracious and empathetic approach to others. It is clear that her drive comes from a desire to give, in whatever work she does. It is an attitude she attributes to the influence of her grandfather, who was an entrepreneur himself.
“We had a special bond when I was growing up, and I was able to spend a lot of time with him. I saw firsthand the relationships with his customers and learned invaluable lessons about serving others.”
Currently, she serves on the boards of both the Founders Forum and Athena PowerLink and recently joined 100 Women Strong, a giving circle affiliated with the Central Florida Foundation.
Her years of experience getting to know entrepreneurs in the community have served as a kind of inspiration for Czaban to embark on this new venture, instilling confidence in her team. After all, who could better understand the power of the platform than someone who has helped to build it, and who has, in turn, been shaped by it.
Did you know?
Personal philosophy? “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” by Eleanor Roosevelt. Also, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want,” by Zig Ziglar.
A Calling – Diane Sears
“I joke that I’ve been a journalist since I popped out of the womb,” Sears said. “I’ve had a long career in print and digital media.”
Since her first job as a salesclerk at a gift shop in St. Petersburg, where she learned the ropes of client relations by means of customer service, she has cultivated a rich portfolio. Her work as founder of DiVerse Media includes content marketing strategy projects that include more than 100 nonfiction books as well as white papers, TED Talks, executive speeches, events and online marketing.
She has often been described as a “champion of women-owned business”, devoting much of her personal and professional time to the cause. In addition to her other nonprofit work with women-owned businesses, Sears serves on the board of the Athena PowerLink program and was named to the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame in 2015 by the American Institute of Diversity & Commerce.
Her work in this arena means she is no stranger to the challenges women face in business. “Some of it is about a lack of access — to things like capital for women business owners, role models of other women who have been where we want to go, and mentors who can reach back and pull us up,” she said. “The other piece is about our belief that this lack of access can stop us. We just have to keep pressing forward.”
Did you know?
Personal philosophy? “What are you waiting for?” One of my bosses said this to me long ago, and I wrote it on a Post-It and stuck it on my computer screen for a long time. It was a fun alternative to carpe diem.”
A Supporting Role
Duda is most at ease helping others and improving channels of communication. When she joined the family business in 1991 while pursuing her degree at the University of Central Florida, she found her true calling. She took on a job in the corporate communications department, where she was able to apply her love of writing and find her place supporting communications efforts for the business and its leaders.
Today, as a team leader, she believes part of leadership is supporting and encouraging. In fact, it is what she most admires about her partners. “I love how much Cherise and Diane care about helping our business community succeed,” she said. “They’re both leaders with integrity who aren’t afraid to share their success with others.”
Like Czaban and Sears, she has found ways to apply her passions and skills to projects designed to create a positive impact in the community. “I helped initiate a fundraising committee for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which I continue to serve on,” she said. “We use art drawn by kids at RCMA schools across Florida to develop Christmas cards, which are sold for a profit and qualify for matching state funds. Beyond the funds we raise, our project also increases awareness about RCMA.”
Duda is excited about her supporting role with i4 Business. “As an investor partner, I will not be involved in the day-to-day management, but you can bet I’ll be encouraging and supporting Cherise and Diane all along the way.”
At the core of their stories, both their own and the ones they get to tell, is the connection and empathy it takes to listen. And luckily, this extends to their relationships with each other. At the core of their partnership, they are learning to understand each other’s strengths, respect each one’s unique talents and trust each other enough to share their ideas and goals.
Their collective vision involves sharing the stories of business leaders in the community to better understand the vast talent that makes Central Florida a special place, to inspire entrepreneurs and people who think entrepreneurially, and to foster connections. With a strong foundation, an inspiring community, a supportive team and a million more stories to tell, the three are looking forward to the future.
As Sears explained: “I’ve seen i4 Business magazine make a difference in the community already, after just five years, and it’s really just getting started. There’s so much more we can do as we build on that base. The next five years will be fun.”
Did you know?
• Favorite movie? From this year’s offerings, I loved “The Shape of Water” and “The Big Sick.” I also enjoyed “Jumanji” and “I Feel Pretty” – both funny with great underlying themes.
• Currently reading? I am reading a book by Anne Bogel called “Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything.” I am also enjoying several podcasts (since I can’t read while driving). At the top of my list are “Boss Files” with Poppy Harlow, “How to be Amazing” with Michael Ian Black, “Typology” with Ian Morgan Cron, and “TED Worklife” with Adam Grant.
• Favorite foods? I love a really good, creamy risotto, and if I lived in Maine I would eat fresh steamed lobster every day.
• Personal philosophy? “Multiply life by the power of two,” from the Indigo Girls; and “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken,” by Oscar Wilde.