Influencer Raygen Zuiverloon: chill, intense and forward going
Interview February 2019
Can you share something about your family background?
“I am a father and with my significant other Soraya, we have 2 wonderful daughters of which youngest, Solange, was born very recently. My father and mother are still alive and I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. I was born in Curaçao and I have 3 sisters and 1 brother.”
You were very involved in the Downtown Management Organization (DMO), there is where most people know you from and recently made a career switch and started as an entrepreneur, you are now an event organizer. What else do you do?
“I have been organizing events for almost 20 years now, including the ones I did while I worked at DMO e.g. Punda Vibes, Ban Topa’s, and Noche De Kompras. So starting Enrich is the natural continuation of my passion to create concepts that bring people together and to build platforms to promote creative talent.
Next to my own events, the objective of Enrich is to give creative support to other people’s dreams. In more practical terms, I add value to other people’s endeavors by developing concepts, by doing the marketing and by having the relevant experience and network to make these events/projects happen.”
We have come to know you as a very dynamic, talented, entrepreneurial and optimistic person and in that sense you are an Influencer in our society since we met when you were director of DMO. What caught our attention was you someway somehow have re-oriented yourself and as an event organizer, you are involved with Kaya Kaya and The Lounge and I am not sure of other events. Whom are the other partners in Kaya Kaya and can you expand a little bit on what the goals are of this event as this event caught a lot of positive attention? How do you explain the success of this event?
“I think the positive reactions to Kaya Kaya come from our bottom up organic approach, although I have to say we were surprised by the amount of attention it generated as well. One of my Kaya Kaya partners, Kurt Schoop, has been involved in the development of Ser’i Otrobanda for over 10 years.
He has been relentlessly working on building social cohesion and on beautification of the neighborhood. This laid a strong groundwork for our Kaya Kaya – event. Our other partner, Clayton Lasten, brings his business savvy and innovative way of thinking, to the table.
What helped is that we all bring a positive mindset and that we prefer doing over talking. With our motto “Leave it better behind” we have committed ourselves to achieve lasting improvements for the neighborhood and its inhabitants. And you know, the inhabitants were more than willing to collaborate with us on this.
During the preparations of the venue for the Kaya Kaya- event, for example, they helped us with the beautification of the area by painting their houses and with the clean-up. The inhabitants also actively participated as food vendors, and supported us with the production of the street party. Another aspect of Kaya Kaya is that we’re able to create a platform to showcase our talented local artists. We are very grateful that so many people supported our events. This surely motivates us to continue with this concept going forward.”
As an event organizer you need to be very connected and be very able to deal with different types of personalities. In that sense you are influencing a lot of people in a good sense because Kaya Kaya was also a community building project. When did you start getting interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Where does it come from? This question makes me reflect way back to when I was living and studying in Rotterdam in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. When I was in my mid-twenties, I noticed that parties with the music genres Hip Hop, R&B, (Neo) Soul and dancehall were mostly on the outskirts venues of the city and the crowd was not as mixed as it is nowadays. I wanted to bring change to that. During that time, Rotterdam was the cultural capital of Europe. The city council stimulated creative hubs, for example by promoting the use of empty buildings as an incubator for creative talent. As an island boy, I walked around in awe of all that was happening there at the time. After helping other people on their projects, I decided to throw my 25th birthday party in an old abandoned insurance building downtown Rotterdam. We had the top-floor of the building full with open-minded people from all kinds of racial and social backgrounds and we had a great time! Fueled by this, I took the leap and together with a group of friends started throwing events commercially. Every few months we had up to 1000 – 1500 guests that came to our events in different venues in Rotterdam, usually in the OffCorso.
I still love bringing people together and let them have a good time, while also providing a platform to hone the skills of young musicians, DJ’s and other talents. So when I moved back to Curaçao , one of the first concepts I developed was Groove Lounge. Groove Lounge brings my friends and the friends of my friends together for a hip-hop/R&B/Eclectic party that hosts some of the best DJ’s of the island. We celebrated our 10-year anniversary last November. We all got older and many of us need to arrange a babysitter or recuperate for a couple of days after the party now, but I’m happy to say that the vibe was still there.
I sometimes jokingly say, that I’m in the ‘memory creation’ business. I hope that people who visit my events take the positive memories and connections they made during the event with them in other aspects of their lives as well.”
Are you a full-time entrepreneur?
“Yes, I am doing this full time now. So next to the organization of my own events, I provide creative support for other people and also coach other entrepreneurs in the implementation, marketing and branding of their businesses.”
Where does your drive comes from? What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
“When is I was a kid I used to play a lot with Lego building cities and also spend time drawing imaginary countries on a A4 paper. Back in those days there was no SIMS computer game. By living and actively participating in the social growth of Rotterdam I’ve noticed that what truly interest me is ‘creating stages’ for positive change, especially in an urban environment. In short, I just feel an urge to create and to see things improve. When you know me, you know I’m someone that has a lot of energy and has a hard time to sit still.”
In what ways are you trying to keep up with your skills?
“Mostly by researching the internet on topics that I need to learn more about. Perhaps even more important is that I regularly hit the streets to connect with people in my branch so I can experience what’s going on.”
As an entrepreneur, you should possess lots of courage, you do this easily. Where does this come from?
“Who said it was easy? We all have days that it is not easy to get up or face a challenge, and that’s ok. As long as I’m making steps, as tiny as they may be, I get there eventually while enjoying the journey.”
What are your other strengths?
“I can visualize how I want to experience an event and then work back from that to make it happen. In other words, I can “visualize to realize”. I also thrive under pressure and am highly adaptable to change, which comes in handy as an event organizer.”
Do you have other hobbies or interests that you are passionate about?
“When I was young, I loved playing with Lego. Now I share that hobby with my four-year old daughter Jazmine. We are building an awesome Lego city together, even with her Elsa and Moana and other Disney Lego’s that seem to keep appearing. Besides my family, I love sports, basketball especially. Next to watching the games, I’m interested in the ways teams function, the plays behind the scenes and the development of talents. I also like learning about city development and the history of the world, especially why and how things have happened.”
If you as Raygen, 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?
“Hey, I am Raygen. Where is the party at?”
How do you see the future of Willemstad?
“The best way to predict the future is to create it. Willemstad has a hardware and a software side. The hardware consists of its buildings, its harbor, its streets and its parks. The software part is what I love to do, by giving the hardware “taste” with the right events and encourage a good mix of functions, so that people like to visit the area and feel connected to it. There are currently many developments in the Willemstad area that runs from “Bapor Kibra” to “Piscadera”. I am optimistic that with continued focus and effort, we can make great improvements in that area in the short term.”
Someone once told me that “Curaçao is the island of the future, and it will always be that way”. This triggers me, because I refuse to believe that we cannot achieve better things for our island. I prefer to think that the best way to predict the future is to create it ourselves. This is absolutely possible. We have so many creative and capable people on this island.
Do you have another subject matter that you are passionate about?
“Another subject I naturally gravitate towards has to do with youth. During my time at Luna Blou, together with Angela Roe, we brought young talent together to guide them and to give them a stage through the Luna Yen Open Podium event. In a broader sense, we need to hone the skills of our youth, for example through better education and after school programs. Not only for their own development, but for the development of our community as well. Currently, we are not doing that sufficiently, at least not in a way that is feasible for people with lower incomes.”
How would you describe Raygen in one word or one sentence?
“Chill, but also intense, with a perspective of going forward and making things happen.”
Who is a positive role model in your life?
“My mother. She had me when she was 15 years old. Nonetheless, she raised me and started her own company. She is very good in what she does. I’m really proud of her and hope to have inherited some of her determination and strength.”
What are some of the challenges, lessons learned, defining moment that you have encountered in your life when you ultimately discovered your talents and strengths and turned out to be a blessing?
“That was back in Rotterdam, when I decided to come back to Curaçao . I was still organizing events, but noticed that times had changed. Friends moved away, had babies, my relationship ended, and my events were less successful. After some self-reflection, and a good talk with my mother, I came to the conclusion that the cheese that I’ve been eating had moved and I decided it was time to come back to Curaçao .
My time in Rotterdam taught me how to be an active participant in a time that the city was booming. I took this mindset back with me when I came back to Curaçao in 2005. I gave myself 10 years to prove to myself that I could be successful in bringing together city development, culture, night life, youth and art. Those 10 years have passed already, and I am happy to see the results of the projects that I was able to work on and I’m now blessed to be involved in Kaya Kaya.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
“A couple of years ago, I stood at the Plaza Fort outlook at the Punda side of the harbor enjoying the view with an American that comes regularly to the island. Standing there the American said: “Curaçao is the most developed underdeveloped island I have seen in the Caribbean”. In my opinion he nailed that remark. We have one of the most beautiful Islands in the world and an UNESCO World Heritage city full of potential. But still we haven’t succeeded harnessing its social, physical and economic power. In 10 years’ time I’d like to stand on that same spot, look out on the city and enjoy how far we have come.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 30 years from now?
“He did it his way.”
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao ?
“We have everything that is needed to make the island thrive. I meet and work with a lot of young people that are focused on making their communities better. Overall, we just need to be more critical of ourselves, not by bashing one another or by pointing fingers, but by setting higher expectations for ourselves and the people around us.”
Do you want to share anything else that might be relevant for those reading this blog?
“Well, one last thing I will say: be careful what you wish for because you can be overwhelmed with opportunities. The question you have to ask yourself is when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”. I’m still learning to say “no” to myself and I’m hopefully getting there soon, because by saying “yes” on too many opportunities, can overwhelm and stray you from the path to reach your goals. What I’m learning myself is to work together and to share opportunities, considering that one person can’t do everything in one lifetime. By sharing, others can take on the opportunities as well and together we can make the pie called “Curaçao ” bigger and more fruitful for all.”
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Raygen Zuiverloon, whom as an event organizer is creatively connecting people in a positive way and helping them to create a positive memory, modeling through his actions positive societal changes. We definitely consider him one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets in our society.