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Ormond Beach Observer: Idea Dinners with Whitney Barnard and Lacey McLaughlin

From the Ormond Beach Observer:

Two local women recently launched Idea Dinners, an event planning company that brings together creative entrepreneurs and professionals to talk about furthering the community.

by: Emily Blackwood News Editor

Idea Dinners started with, well, an idea. Whenever Whitney Taylor-Barnard and Lacey McLaughlin got together, their hangouts always turned into brainstorming sessions— usually over food and cocktails — and the two started throwing everything in their brains out on a dart board.

"When we get together ideas are just spewing out everywhere," McLaughlin smiled. "It's kind of crazy." Inspired by early 1900s salons where creative minds like Gertrude Stein would gather and connect, the women wanted to create something similar for Volusia County.

"It's just really hard to find those people here in our area," McLaughlin said. "It's not that they're not there. Volusia County as a whole is kind of a spread out place. We don't really have a core downtown or a unifying factor like a sports team or anything like that. So we just thought, 'What if we had dinner parties?'"

"There's a lot of innovative energy here," Taylor-Barnard agreed. "And a lot of those people aren't well known. So we're trying to give those people a seat at the table and put them in front of people who can bring their ideas to life."

The other super cool thing about Idea Dinners Not only are you discussing how to make your community better with people who have similar ideas as you, but you also get to enjoy and discover local chefs, restaurants, breweries and venues.

"All of these people who have done our food for the dinner so far," said Whitney Taylor-Barnard, "they're all so excited for their product and their process and how they got started. We give them a seat at the table too."

Though the business officially started in March, its founders have already tested the waters with a few different dinners. They've held conversations about making small changess to improve revitalization in Daytona Beach with developer Jack White, had a Boss Lady dinner at Ormond Brewing Company for women in the workplace and a dinner about improving Ormond's restaurant scene with Nichiyobi at Bambú, a pop-up restaurant in Ormond Beach.

One of their missions, McLaughlin said, is to show residents — especially from the younger generation — that they can find like-minded people in their own community.

"We want to bring people together to create those things that big cities have that we don't have," she said. "If it's not here, then put it here," Taylor-Barnard said. "Build it and they will come."

"Let's find a way to have more pop-up restaurants," McLaughlin said. "Let's have more of a coffee culture in Ormond. It takes people sitting around the table, developing relationships and developing trust to make those things happen."

Another important piece to the puzzle of a more connected community is simply realizing that a lot of us have the same goals. The ladies of Idea Dinners design their events specifically to incorporate structured conversation about a topic that's of interest to multiple people. Currently, the company is only holding one dinner a month, but they're hoping to increase that in order to give everyone a seat at the table.

"We really want to foster a start-up community in our area," McLaughlin said. "And what you need to have that is collaboration between businesses as opposed to a lot of competition."

"Share your idea," said Taylor-Barnard. "Share the craziest idea you have, because it's probably going to be one the best things for this community."

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