Influencer Janis Vinck: wonder woman, nice and caring

Interview April 2019

Janis could you share with me some information of your family life?
My name is Janis Vinck. I was born in Curaçao, I am the youngest of two. I come from a very tight-knit and united family. My parents have always been very supportive of my choices in life, and I truly appreciate this.

Janis could you share with us some of your educational background? Can you share with us what were your past professional experiences?
After my graduation in Management, Economy and Law from Haagse Hoge school, I started following classes to achieve my Masters degree in Financial Law. Thankfully, I quickly realized it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my career and decided to explore several different venues.

I started as an account manager at Banco di Caribe, but decided to choose a different career path by starting my own company “Cloudnine” in event and wedding planning decorations but also started working part time as project manager at Curaçao Cares. Working as an account manager at a bank, didn’t offer me the same satisfaction and fulfillment.

This was a priceless experience that Curaçao Cares offered me, for example being project manager of the biggest volunteer project on the island “CURA DOET”. There were so many beautiful moments that took place with people and organizations, memories that money can’t buy. They still greet me when they casually meet me with so much affection and some tell me “we miss you”. This was by far a priceless experience, at my young age I was blessed with such fulfilling experiences I will never forget. I am happy to see now, that schools are paying more attention to volunteering, as it stimulates humanity, altruism and connection amongst people. At the end of the day our kids are our future and owe them the freedom to develop their skills into what they desire to become.

Janis we have met as you were involved in Hóben Òn in 2016 when Bianca Neman organized the first musical. So I know about how skilled you are. Janis, as event planner does organize a carnival group of over 250 people is something different or are they comparable and where do you see these comparisons?
When I was involved in “Hóben Òn”, I was helping out on the day the event took place. I helped to guide the set up of that day, I had no direct contact with the participating youth. I was dealing with vendors and technicians. Bianca Neman was the project manager for this event. For me it was more about the set up of the day than anything else.

In our carnival group “Hats off to Dreams” I had contact 24/7 with members of the group. It all started about 1 year ago, so throughout the year HOTD was a constant in my agenda. I can clearly remember my mother when organizing her Carnival group “Jumping Hats” for 37 years. When she decided it was time to let go of the carnival group, I was 28 years old and she told my brother and I, that it was time for our generation, to take over. That was 10 years ago.

As I decided to start with “Hats off to Dreams”, I became the center of attention when people had any questions and or requests. I had absolutely no problem with this. One of my strengths is bringing people together. I have the fortitude to make this happen everywhere where I am, either if it has to do with our family, friends or with colleagues. I am fortunate to address things that others don’t like to bring forward by bringing people together. A good friend always asks me, how I’m able to keep smiling and excited while being dead tired.

It does have a down side as sometimes it can be overwhelming but it is up to me to say enough is enough. Throughout time I’ve learned to say “no” more often but I have to admit there’s still room for improvement in that arena.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be as passionate as you are to put so much time in preparing for this year carnival parade?

After my studies I came back to Curaçao to pursue what I considered the right job for me at that time. I gained good experience and knowledge at the bank but still felt the lack to deliver and cater to a different sector on the island. I decided to pursue another field and left the bank and took a part-time job at Curaçao Cares. I have to admit I got question marks from certain friends and others were very supportive. All in all they all admired my courage to leave a “regular” job for one with less income. At the end of the day I can proudly say CURA DOET has filled me with joy and gratitude as I learned even more that making “enough” money is never as valuable as fulfilling others around you. CURA DOET has given me the opportunity to grow as a person while helping others.

In the meantime my creative self could not sit still and I established my event planning company named “Cloudnine”. This is where I can divulge my creative skills with every project as none will ever be the same. Here I get to practice most of my abilities at once. From organization, execution to after event meetings. I have had the opportunity to showcase my talents abroad as well and those experiences have enriched my senses tremendously.

Creating is my passion and I’m eager to leash out all my crazy ideas into reality. I belief 30 to 40 % of people are creative creatures. If we could influence those, that are less creative, more things in our lives and our society could flow better. Our carnival group is driven to belong to world of creating recycling and bringing innovative ideas to the people of our island. Creating new things could be a venue for people of all ages to channel their feelings, and hopefully this will happen in positive and limitless ways.
My mother always taught me that as long as you challenge yourself and leave your comfort zone and take risks in life, change is possible. My mother carries within her numerous so called “hats”.

I will name just a few as they are far too many to list. She’s a super creative hairdresser, she makes all sort of delicious and beautifully crafted cakes, she’s a professional decorator, seamstress and theatrical dressmaker to name a few. It is with honor and homage that I look up to her and admire her will to pass on her creative self. I strongly believe I received her creative bug even before I was born, since she jumped the whole carnival route while pregnant with me.

So for the first year of HOTD I wanted to make my parents proud by giving them back the gift of their creative instincts into a group filled with new ambition, new visions and endless conceptions. When designing the costumes for the group I had a pressing feeling I had to break the regular mold, the common and usual designs we’ve been getting from the other groups for the past years. I absolutely love feathers and stones, but felt the need to deliver something completely divergent and out of the box. My head was spinning around trying to voice imagination and originality. I can give you a very nice example about my 5 years old twin nephews. They will both pick up a piece of wood and in their imaginative head they will convert this piece of wood into their instrument of choice. One of them created a trumpet and the other a guitar. And so they kept adding their own style of bits and pieces.

Both in of them extremely happy and proud of their own fabrication. Goes to show that all of us have the inner child in us that wants to create and get involved in one way or another. You just have to believe in yourself and stick to it even though it might be though in the beginning. The end result will always without a doubt be extraordinarily, because it came from the heart and soul.

Whom else was involved in the organization of the group? Does the group has a legal entity? And how is the group organized?
We quickly became an affiliate of the Fundashon AGKK (Agrupashon di Gruponan Karnavalesko Korsou) by paying a membership fee. This gave us a legal entity and the necessary recognition and identification as a serious and dedicated group. In return we were able to look for example for sponsors and also get rebates from deferent suppliers as an established group.

Our board consists of 6 members Lysaye de Windt, Chiarra Lo-A-Njoe, Deva-dee Silie, Sadie Vinck and Liselle Pas (all ladies btw) and I am the chairman” with 2 voting seats instead of one. We decided based on each other’s strengths and wisdom whom would be in charge of the financial aspect, whom would do our communication sector, and I was in charge of the creative part and the overall helicopter view of things and the ultimate vote.

I am a very democratic person and also open to suggestions. At the end I want people to explain and voice their point of view and come up with a solution to problems that might occur. But despite the stressful times, as mentioned before I kept open ears and eyes and the end result was just WOW. If the end result of what we achieved wasn’t WOW I would consider that I have failed. All of these elements made our team stronger. I had worked with all the other members before on previous projects, but they have never worked together with one another. I was the one connecting the dots and I was the most flexible of all.

It tokes us a long time to try to figure out the best structure for our group, as we all work a full time job. There were moments when some of the members though it would be better to ask someone else who had more time to help us out. But in our group we don’t quit. We help each other out whenever one needs help. When its needed we motivate and encourage each other so we can better ourselves. This makes us a very unique and strong team.

Our main challenge was to assimilate the reaction of the people of Curaçao. As our vision was a bit different from the usual. Was the public going to understand our “out of the box” stance? Was the public going to accept our different strategies and innovative ideas? The colors and choice of material that we used were particular compared with what Curaçao is used to. As I’m a strong person I also have my moment when I break down. Thankfully I am blessed by the most comforting and understanding partner that would motivate me and reminded me that at the end everything is going to be alright

What are some of the challenges, lessons learned that you have encountered by organizing a new carnival group? What was the defining moment in this period that was a setback and turned out the be a blessing?
I can mention a few challenges by starting with being able to find a good structure for our carnival group that would suit every board member. As this was our first time founding/organizing from scratch a carnival group. And secondly agreeing on the name “hats off to dreams” was also a big challenge. As my wish was to incorporate “jumping hats” my moms former carnival group in our new name. But still making it young, fresh and innovating. Even though we all have our differences we learned that true good communication we could overcome the challenges that presented.

The biggest setback was during the week of costume revealing when my father got a seizure and was hospitalized. So you can understand why this was a big setback, we as in my family and I got mugged a few weeks before my dad’s seizure. Everyone was overwhelmed but we kept cool and working towards the end result. But as my dad got sick that week that really broke us all down. We had to regroup, stay positive, support each other, push each other, to reach of our goal : costume revealing. I had to be strong, for my mom, my brother who was a brought, my dad but also the whole team. This was a very stressful and draining time, but we survived thanks to god. Through all this the costume reveal was very successful and made us stronger as a team and more determined to continue.

What was the philosophy you had when you started the group?
First of all it took me 10 years after my mother handed over her rein and coincidentally in the 10th year after she stopped I told myself it’s now or never. After walking around with this idea for years. I think it was meant to be and the rest is history. We wanted to create a culture amount group members, where the influence we would enable would spill over to their children and spouses. At the beginning when we introduced the concept that members needed to do some work themselves on their costumes, we heard comments that this was like detention work (strafwerk), as they were not used to this. They were used to just pay the required fee, pickup the costumes and showed up during the parade in other groups. We had a different philosophy: We wanted to work deliberately on creating an opportunity among members to connect socially at a much deeper level. So, when they came to our headquarter they had a totally different experience as there was a lot of bonding going on and we formed sort of a family among each other, although the time isn’t long enough. Some took up vacation days, just to hang around at our headquarters. So I guess we were successful in creating a community of sorts on our way to the parades and during the parades this family feeling also celebrated the success we had as we won so many prices. You know at the end of all we all eat from the same plate and drink form the same cup and there were more than enough for all. Carnival is a powerful way to create whatever you want. We bring people together from Banda Ariba to Banda Abou, who otherwise would had never met and connect with each other.

What does “Hats off to dreams” stands for?
It has always been my mom’s dream to carry her tradition (Jumping Hats) on to the next generation of ‘karnavalistas’. This is where the name “Hats off to Dreams” originated, meaning “to express admiration for someone who has done something praiseworthy.” We take our hats off to her, but also we take our hats off to everyone who dares to dream and does pursuit their dreams.We showed courage, that we were able to do it and if you have courage everything is possible. But you have to work for it, it doesn’t fall off of the sky just like that. Our success is a living proof of this.

How are you trying also to keep up with your skills? Do you like reading books, follow courses, invest in networks and people that might help you further your knowledge and skills level?
I follow renowned event planners and decorators but also international carnival groups from all over the world on social media, to explore and stimulate my creativity. I’m working on the possibility to be able to attend a course/workshop/conference by these renowned people. And my ultimate dream would be to attend a samba school in Brazil to experience how and to master the their way of making costumes/roadpieces/floats. Cause when you are creating the sky is the limit, and that challenges me everyday to be better then yesterday.

What are your other strengths?
I’m a team player and I’m stress resistant. Thanks to this carnival experience I’ve come to realize that I am also a true leader with excellent people skills. In life things happen for a reason, sometimes you know why and most of the times you dont. I’ve come to realise that no matter what God never burdens you with something you can’t handle.

Do you have other hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Next to being creative my hobby is exercising. I Fitness with my partner, this is our way of de-stressing and re-energizing our self. I’m also very passionate about decorations and interior designing.

If you as Janis, would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer in one word or one sentence?
When I was preparing for this interview and read this question I found it very difficult to answer. So I asked a few friends how they would describe me, and they answered “you are a nice and caring person, open to help other people, patient, strong willed, very compassionate and you have a big heart”. According to them I’m a wonder women because there isn’t anything I can’t do.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My parents! My father came from humble beginnings and went to Holland at the age of 16, to study. He finished his studies, came back to Curaçao worked hard for several years for the government. And has his own company for over 20 years. He was and still is a very disciplined and hardworking person. In her early 20’s my mom owned her own hair salon. Although she didn’t have the chance to finish school due to family matters. Besides being a hairdresser she kept learning and became a theater makeup artist, seamstress, designing and make dresses for the Miss Curaçao’s. I was raised in a creative, determined and positive family. My parents were very structured always stimulating us and a good role model to us.

Where their also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
No, I learn for every experience.

What were your lessons learned?
First of all I have learned that to me, family is very important. And therefore never forget to show them and tell them how important they are to me.
Secondly always listen to your body, make use of recovery time, set boundaries so that you don’t surpass your limits;
Thirdly once I decide to do something, my determination has no limits. I don’t give up and I am very much aware of the character treat that i have. Because it’s a strength when you are so determined but you also need to know when to give up. And accept the reality.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
I dream to have a creative business of my own, as I love to decorate, create new ides but also would like to teach others how to use/trigger their creative side. As I continue with my personal journey and in the end leave behind a carnival group that my children and grandchildren would be proud offend would carry on till the end of time. I want “Cloudnine”, my company to grow in being one of the best decoration/eventplanning companies on the island. Doesn’t need to be big but would be nice for it to run by itself without me being present all of the time. I always aim to over deliver, not only because I’m a perfectionist but because I want my clients to experience something beyond their expectation.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 30 years from now?
Surprise me, cause I really haven’t thought about it un till now. I am already at this moment giving them my whole heart and love. Not for them to give me anything back but just because this is who I am. I hope to make a real difference/impact in their lives, so they can remember me as such.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
I would like to share my vision on the world in a creative way. By being creatively I want to influence the world in a creative way, as this has a positive effect on people.
First of all: On an individual level, the moment a person is involved in a creative activity, this triggers lots of positive hormones in that person’s body.
Secondly: The moment more than one person is involved in a creative activity, this makes them connect at a higher level.

My wish is, that I am able to enable more sound connections and sharing among our people, in the way we talk with each other, that is contrary to what I see at times happening, like not connecting and not sharing anything. There is so much art in our hands, like painting and tinkering whereby we have to use our hands instead of our brains, creating something makes you grow and creates union, brings people together. We are creative people we only need to stimulate this more and plant new seeds in the upcoming generations and youth so that they stay interested in Carnival. That is what makes me stay optimistic about our future.

To expand a little more on this, why not create schools comparable with Samba schools like in Brazil. There, the groups take a whole year to prepare for carnival and at these schools they teach the youth the crafts and skills needed. It is impossible that this doesn’t have a positive and more sustainable effect on the overall society preparing them to become the top of the line, in their branch. It gives employment and has a positive spin-off effect on the economy. I believe that there is more money to be earned in Carnival and that we can take our preparations in Curaçao to a next level.

We have come to understand that the number of your group is 250. That is the same number of Influencers that the Share2Uplift movement wants to identify by 2020. How did you come to that number, as your target?
Well it is the number we estimated that would make the group at least break-even and leave it with at least some buffer for the coming year. Remember, we were a new unknown group, so no one knew whom we were and knew what we were capable of doing. Now we have a luxury problem, right?

For more info on Janis’s her work
Instagram: cloudnine_cur
Facebook: cloudnine.

Hats Off To Dreams
Instagram: hatsofftodreams
Facebook: hatsofftodreams

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Janis Vinck, for her creativity, her dynamic leadership style that is always looking for the common denominator and bonding of people. But also for her energy, the inspiring and caring person she is, her courage to follow her heart really is exemplary. We will definitely hear more of Janis in the future, as her ambitions to follow her passion and over deliver to her clients either as “Cloudnine” or “Hats of to Dreams” in the creative sector of Curaçao will continue to be game changing and that will not go unnoticed. We definitely consider her one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better, in our society. Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.

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