Influencer Jeanette Hooi-Bonet: passionate, warm and energetic 

Interview July 2020

Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I am married and we have 4 children, the oldest is 32 years old and the youngest is our only daugther is 18 years old. Last year we became grandparents of a grandson. I have furthermore 2 brothers both living in the USA and one sister living in Puerto Rico. Fortunately my mother that is from the island and stepfather are still alive but my biological father passed away in Puerto Rico. I was born in New York and I call myself “Latino Caribbean” as of Yankee I do not have anything. When I was almost 4 years old, we came to live in Curaçao in April 1969 and I grew up in Otrobanda. Yes, I have a vivid memory of the 30th of May 1969, when there was a popular uprising and I was impressed by the fires that were lit in different parts of Otrobanda as we lived in the heart of Otrobanda and needed to be evacuated as the fores came very close to where we lived. I still have found memories of growing up in Otrobanda where there was a lot of community sense among neighbors, they looked after each other, it felt safe growing up there and I was raised by my Venezuelan Grand grandmother with high standard on values and norms. Thus, I have this mixed Puerto Rico, Venezuelan and Curaçao background.

I have always been very in voluntary work contributing to the society in CHATA, VBC, CTB, The Chamber of Commerce, Rotary lately supporting Voedselbank Curaçao. I am found of youth, they have a special place in my heart and want to see a solid and prosperous Curaçao for the next generations.

My parents where very supportive in whom I am, they inspired me to get into the hospitality sector. My father in Puerto Rico had his restaurant and my stepfather had a catering company where I was very involved in helping in the kitchen and and all the different aspects that this brings with it. I went to Peter Stuyvesant College and in those days there where no hospitality schools of programs offered . The possibilities that you could choose from were limited. My mother worked at the Concorde International hotel known as the Hilton, my brother was in the Army and deployed so I could not go any longer to study in the States. This changed my career. As I worked as a part-timer at Concorde Curaçao this gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with all the different charateristics of the hospitality sector. After one year as Management Trainee, a golden opportunity given by the General Manager I started my career the Concorde Curaçao. My entire family, be it either husband, my children, name it they have always been very supportive in my career development which included different positions and active in boards like the CHATA, CTB…etc.. as I mentioned before. As as woman I have worked lots of years in the sector before I reached a high light in my careeer, that was being appointed as first woman general manager in the hotel sector on the island and of the largest hotel then. On top of that I became the first female President of CHATA.

What kind of business are you in?
I have my own company and I don’t have employees that I employ. I offer Interim- and change management services in the hospitality sector. My company’s name is Bon Ami Hospitality BV. As an interim manager, I have employees that I was responsible for, I am now interim manager for 7 years of the properties Kura Hulanda. I also assisted with the closure of the operation of the Curaçao Marriott Hotel for 6 months when this was sold, here responsible for a smooth closedown and handover to the new ownership.

Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences as we know that you are an entrepreneur but also manager in the hospitality sector of different hotels?
After finishing the secundary school (HAVO) at Peter Stuyvesant I started an internship in the hospitality sector and basically never stopped learning getting all sorts of certifications during the years and earned a Masters Certification in Hospitality Management of the Cornell University. I am still not done studying as I am enrolled to start an MBA-study.

We know you to be a very pro-active, businesswoman, executive in different companies. We have known each other for some years and you have always been involved in different functions representing organizations like you have been in Chata, you are in Rotary, you are a participant in Dialogo Nashonal, where does this drive come from?
Growing up in Curaçao I have always been interested in finding ways and means to help our youth develop themselves especially in Tourism at first and now not strictly in Tourism only. I am a coach and mentor young professionals as I believe that giving back is something that is and always been very important through out my life and career. I have alaways been investing time in organiaztions involved in Tourism and the economy in general. As an elected board member of the Chamber of Commerce I am delegated to attend the “Dialogo Nashonal” platform where together with others we discuss plans and proposals that advance the progress of our country for the next generations.

Does the fact that you are woman affect they way you can add value and make a difference in the different settings where you are in?
As a matter of coincidence, I am the only woman in the Chamber of Commerce, as in the “Dialogo Nashonal” . I believe that as a woman and mother, I do look at things from a different view and more femine perspective, which has a added value to the discussions we have in these entities.

Of late you have been selected as board member in the Chamber of Commerce representing small and medium sized companies just when we are in the middle of an economic contraction, do you regret becoming a member of the Chamber or does the opposite happens, do challenges inspire you and get the best out of you?
I am not easily discouraged by challenges, it triggers me to do even more as I have this personality that I give all of me to accomplish the goals set and when people are involved, I even go the extra mile, push myself, to achieve these for their welfare. So when challenged, it inspires me to do even better.

And when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now. And hat is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
Well, I have always lived by 5 years visions of where I wanted to be in my life. Of late these 5 years have extended to 7 years one way or the other. The moment I had formulated my vision that would drive me to reach this vision. When I had reached my vision, I would develop a new 5 years vision and go after that vision. I would not give up on it, but I would extend the period with at least 2-3 years if I have not reached it yet.

I will be considering myself to be more successful when I will have migrated from entrepreneur to becoming an investor and be the owner of my own boutique hotel and my family being my children and grandchildren could be involved one way or the other and be around me. I always had this desire to have lots of children, and with four I hope to have tons of grandkids.

You are a very dedicated spiritual person, right. How much does this help you to be whom you are?
I am a very spiritual person, as it gives me so much strength from above and it enables me to go through life and work on reaching my goals, personally and professionally. It is my number one focus, without this support from above I wouldn’t be as effective in life. I had come to learn over the years, that the moment I am less focused, I immediately experienced that wasn’t making enough progress. For me, it is a natural thing to do now, if I want to be successful in all matters.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
I have three very important values that I live by. Honesty, loyalty and integrity. Of late, especially very recently I have come to notice, that my values are set so high, that for some including those that are very close to me, it is hard to meet these standards. I am a dedicated, caring and spontaneous person. When I get in those situations where people around their true essence is revealed showing me that they don’t meet my valued standards, it has shaked me up and got me out of balance and to understand why. This has been a challenge for me and I had to learn dealing with that and accept the fact that this is part of the society nowadays. I am considering it part of my learning curve on my way to greater maturity and part of my personal growth.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I go into retreat in my house and I meditate. After my prayers, I stay still and listen to my inner voice. My femine intuition always has been very high. It has guided me and alert me for people or situations of danger. If I wouldn’t, soon I would regret it not to have listened to the warning signals. Now it has become a practice, as the moment I get a message I put it into practice. In my house I have an open area and my family allows me and gives me my space without any restrictions. My living room is the heart of the house and there, my energy is the highest. When I was looking for my house for two years I was going around this and finally I I knew that this is where I needed to live. It is in this area in the living room, I pray and have my conversations with the Supreme Being. I breathe, meditate and listen to my inner voice.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I have always been very curious and consider long life learning to be very important. In this COVID-19 era, I followed a lot of courses on-line via Zoom for example on norms and protocols related to COVID-19. In my personal development I have a life coach that has guided me these past 3 years, dealing with the lessons that I had to learn, I participate in business coaching sessions related to my career and business. My next step will be re-instate in my MBA-course as I consider continuous studying as being very important and also need to finish what I started is very important.

What are your strengths?
I am a very good communicator; I am good in balancing my humanity with the professional aspects of whom I am. I speak different languages. I can easily blend into different cultures. I am a multi cultural person that also easily blends with all genders and ages.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I love dancing; I love all types of music, that can express feelings, but not the latest, most modern genre’s;

I love shore fishing and love listen to the waves the sea brings to shore as I throw out my fishing line. It is very relaxing.

If you as Jeanette 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?
My name is Jeanette Bonet, I am a multi cultural Latin Caribbean person. I love getting in contact with people and I love children. A vivid passionista from Curaçao.

How would you describe Jeanette in one word or one sentence?
Passionate loving, warm and energetic.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
In my personal life, it were my both grand-grand mother, my grandmother and mother. In my professional development , I was lucky as I had Don Mario Venturini who showed me what hospitality was all about. Then I had Frank Maynard that pushed me to excell and believed in my capacities, also drilled in me that we have to give back to the community and Don Werdekker who mentored the leadership skills and why and the importance to be a leader of my country. So as you can see Mario and Frank were the tutors in my professional development while Don in my leadership development.

What is a trait that is still work in progress?
Presently I am working on dealing with the emotions of betrayal and dishonesty, especially on how not to let these touch my inner soul but deal with them as they come and clear them out.

What was a defining moment in your life?

In 2013 I had to take a big decision regarding my future in my career. I had this excellent opportunity offered to me to accept a job outside of Curaçao. But my youngest child, my daughter was barely 11 years old. For the first time in my life I decided to choose for my family instead of my career. I hindsight, I am so happy that I have chosen for my family. I decided to become an entrepreneur and that meant choosing to go way out of my comfort zone but that worked out perfectly also. I became an entrepreneur and during these seven years I have broadened my knowledge and gain so much experience which I would not have had the chance if I have stayed in the career path I was in then.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
I would definitely have retired and would be enjoying of my own boutique Bed and Breakfast.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That I was a determined, loving, very caring and accommodating person. Because I really go out of the way for my family, everybody around me. Not only for my husband, children, but also my friends….. Everybody that has an issue or situation comes to me for advice and I am seen as a pillar for them. They would say: “..She did it, she reached her dreams..”. 

We are climbing out of the lock down now and just starting to open our borders back since the first of July, because of the presence of the Corona virus in World. What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
I think inspite of the divisions now, our people are very patriotic. We will overcome this crisis, I am confident of this. We are “Yu di Korsou”. Where else do they say that ? We are the only country in the world saying that. Even people not born on the island having lived during a short period on the island become very passionate about this country. Our people are strong believers and I am sure we will reach the line were we will jointly move forward together.

How important is innovation and digitalization for Curaçao as we are in the middle of transformational changes driven by Artificial Intelligence? 
It is very important and we can’t stay behind. It has not been a priority yet as we don’t have the whole island with easy access to computers and completely on wifi , free and accessible for every body. However it is very important what this happens very soon as we cannot stay behind what is happening outside there in the world. Our island is a hub between Latin America,North Amercia and Europe so digatalization and innovation actions are a priority. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all to have sold UTS to a third party – maybe we should have taken this internally and ensure our country was 100 % Internet Free first and give full access to the people of the Curaçao to be connected easily and with the highest modern speed with the world.

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Jeanette-Bonet-Hooi, is a wife, mother of 4 children, grandmother, socially engaged, spiritual, warm-hearted hospitality sector professional and entrepreneur.

Apart from being a business owner, Jeanette loves our youth, especially children and is a socially very engaged person. She spends lots of time, mostly as the sole woman in different representative functions like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, CHATA, CTB and of late due to the COVID-19 crisis, she is involved in the collaboration of different organizations distributing food packages to those in need in our society.

Being a value driven person at times she has been challenged when others don’t meet her standards, as well as when in her career she chose for her “family first” value, instead of continuing her professional career elsewhere in the world where they offered her a job.

Giving her valuable contribution to the island development comes as a second nature to her, and she is an example of a lifelong learner. Her tendency to be socially engaged makes it difficult, at times for her, to say “no” to people asking her for advice and help. Because of all of this, we deeply love and respect Jeanette and consider her one of the 250 Influencers on the island, representing the Business (Hospitality) sector.

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