Influencer Sharella Riedel
Interview November 2020
Sharella, could you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born in Curaçao, and I have 4 brothers and one other sister. My parents have passed away. My grandparents came from such a diverse background and this heritage truly represents how Curaçao is. My ancestors came from all over the world except Asia and that makes my background, consisting of migrants, very interestingly diverse and made me the “Yu di Korsou” that I feel I am nowadays. Some of the typical local traditions were not part of my upbringing but in the meantime, as I am now living so long on the island, they have become my traditions.
Where did your grandparents came from?
II have grandparents originating from Germany that via Venezuela landed in Curaçao. I have family originating from indigenous people from Colombia, that came to Curaçao via Bonaire. I have grandparents from Portuguese descent that landed in St. Kitts and there they mixed with local colored people living in Sint Kitts. One of my grandparents is from Curaçao. My grandmother that came from St. Kitts, she came during the Second World War. My maternal grandmother grew up in a family of business owners in St. Kitts The business was in trouble, because of the second world war. It was then, when she decided to migrate to Curaçao and starts to build herself a new living, got married and had her children in Curaçao. She would remind us that the immigrants that come to Curaçao, may come of the same social position as she had thus to always give a helping hand when we can. If she hadn’t migrated to Curaçao, all of us would have been born in St. Kitts, so be aware of the special position you have. It is interesting as this is how I see the history of Curaçao, as people from different nationalities, came to live in Curaçao to form one nation.
Could you share something of your educational background and your experiences?
I lived in Holland for 10 years and studied Public Relations and Management, Commercial Economy (Marketing). I also did the course for Cargadoor (Shipping) of Hoge School Rotterdam and I have kept honing my knowledge and skills levels continuously. I have lots of certificates, even a first aid certificate. It is important to be able to administer first aid. I have worked for an international company in Europe . Back in Curaçao I have worked at the Monseigneur Verriet Instituut for one year. After that I went to work for an off-shore company.
M y grandmother was sort of a role model for me as an entrepreneur. As she started her own business after her retirement. This is what I saw from her growing up. My grandmother came from a family of business owners. In St.Kitts they owned sugar plantations and brewed Whisky so she was born into the entrepreneurial mentality. My grandmother was good and capable in dealing with money. After a while she got competition from another snack not too far away from our home, as these competitors saw how well my grandmother was doing originally and copied her business and then after a while she decided to stop with her snack. Her money wise mentality made a lasting effect on me.
Could you tell us more about Made in Curaçao, where did this come from?
After living, studying and working in Holland for ten years, I decided to come back to Curaçao. I had noticed in the meantime that when people came to visit Curaçao from Holland, would share the usual popular tourist places, like the popular night live and some beaches etc… and they had a great experience btw. They consider Curaçao to be a paradise. I knew though that there was so much more we could offer the world, in terms of more locally colored experiences that was lacking, like those places were we as locals would enjoy spending our time, the local experience, they were lacking and that is how I started with the Made in Curaçao platform.
How long ago did you start with this platform?
This Platform is online for some 8 years now. But I have come to learn that our people were not that eager to go online. They prefer the person to person contacts, especially with someone they know. Via this Made in Curaçao online platform everybody can see the products you are offering also international clients. In the early beginning we got a lot international interest . But the local providers of the products were not accustomed to look often enough at their emails and they had no idea of the transportation logistics involved to get their products to the international clients. They lacked the required discipline in their work, which such an environment requires. So we had to adapt to a different position.
How did Covid -19 influence your platform?
It had basically worked to our advantage. People that use to have doubt on using video calls, voice calls and internet are getting accustomed.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
We are offering training to entrepreneurs and in our approach we are very focused on the local market and the market in Holland. We used to have lots of clients in the beginning from Germany, but we didn’t deliver. So we concluded that we have to help these entrepreneurs to improve in these areas as lot of our people doesn’t have experiences of being entrepreneurial.
Another thing I would like to point out is, that we need to live more efficiently and create value for other people. One of the reasons why I support Vision 2030 is that it accepts technology as an advantage that will make our lives easier and more comfortable. Like the availability of electrical cars as a means of transport. Self-driving electric cars will lower the necessity for everybody to have a car. At the moment, most cars will stay parked at jobs while self-driving cars can go home and pick up their wives and kids, etc.
The future is already here, we could also have 36 hours weeks of active labor and still have enough income to live comfortably. We should create more products locally that uses local ingredients, instead of importing products from for example China.
We could value and respect local people more. By recognizing the talents and creativity we will closing the gap between rich and poor and hereby creating a more balanced society with less crime. By lowering working hours we will have more time for self education and we would live less in a survival mode which leads to a mindset to “grab whatever there is to grab”, “refusing to collaborate”. On the topic of lack of collaboration we can notice that everybody wants to create their own website for e-commerce purposes instead of joining together.
We all want to have a good life. We know that if you love your work; times flies by and the opposite is also true, if you don’t like it, it creates lots of negative energy. The more peaceful we can live, the more relax we are to be in a creative mode. My BIG WHY is that I want to put in my little bit of contribution to have Curaçao move in that direction.
When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
I am already successful. I would love to have a better financial position, but having survived in this business environment, on itself, has been a big feat for me, as I have experienced lots of setbacks caused by people working to stop me from progressing. Like we would work on collaboration and then after our first meeting people wouldn’t contact me back and after a while, I would hear that they have taken my idea and started it without me. At the other hand in those moments where I was considering to stop, when I thought that it was not worth the effort, people from nowhere came and express their support. So that has been my history up to now. These obstacles have become stepping stones for me.
I am also successful because together with others we represent a positive force that aims to help others.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
One of our challenge is the need of better and more stable electricity. The costs of water and electricity should be more economical if we want to compete internationally, and we need better internet connections. The old school mentality is still playing a dominant role while we are living in the new capitalism era and the game has changed. We need to give the younger generation a chance to apply what they have learned, as most have studied and have a new mentality. Asking the diaspora to come back while there are no job opportunities is non-sense, if we don’t offer them a realistic opportunity to come back to apply their acquired knowledge. It isn’t about money but more about happiness and more health.
There is too much friends and family politics.
What are you offering apart from being involved in Made in Curaçao platform?
I offer a wide scale of services, like coaching, I give advice on a broad scale of commercial activities, I offer training to increase the understanding of entrepreneurship as this is not taught at our schools. I also give advice on logistics to make it as efficient as possible.
I work continuously to have my website as updated as possible, as this is a requirement in the environment that we have to work and compete is.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
Well, I am my only employee and I am owner. So I research a lot and I call people that I know that might be knowledgeable on the subject matters. We have various local experts. Most of them are positive people that are willing to collaborate and respect each other.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I watch a lot of YouTube tutorials and classes. I read a lot regarding matters that are relevant for my business like software for my website to understand its logic.
What are your strengths?
I always try to look at a situation for a positive perspective, and I am able to see opportunities in a market. 8 years ago when I started Made in Curaçao it was too early, just like when I saw the opportunities for a sort of Airbnb some 19 years ago and I was too early. Then there was not enough internet use on Curaçao and I was not able to launch this concept back then and now it is the most common to book your accommodation on-line.
You can see ahead of the curve?
Well I won’t stop being entrepreneurial but I will have to stop starting too early with my ideas.
Can you relate well with other people?
Yes, I can but I not an extravert type that will organize a big party for a bunch of people. I am more of the person that will interact One-on-One, like during lunch, so I can give that person my undivided attention. Yes that is the kind of person I am.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I like to read and I love sports, which I don’t have enough time to practice by the way this day and age.
When reading for leisure I would read detectives drama’s I would skip Thrillers. Otherwise I would read books that improve my knowledge. I live intentionally and I meditate.
If you as Sharella would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Germany or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
I would tell them my name, tell them where I come from. And as I have met lots of people in airports that I still have contact with, I would ask them where they are heading or where they came from. After that they would ask me what I am doing for a living.
How would you describe Sharella in one word or one sentence?
I am a person that works constantly on my happiness.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My parents and my grandmother from my mother’s side. Also other family members.
What is a trait that is still work in progress?
What was a defining moment in your life?
The moment I decided to migrate and come back to Curaçao in 2001.
Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
Retired and only working on things that I am really passionate about. I would like to be emotionally and financially balanced to be able to give a hand to others.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That they appreciate and love me.
Are you optimistic about the future of Curaçao.
Well if we use a positive perspective we can create a positive future for Curaçao. We should be aware that we have fell from being at the top of the Caribbean islands. So we have a long way to go and to catch up.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
All of us can give a hand in creating a better future. We should have the mindset of equal opportunities for all.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Sharella Riedel is a strong-willed, innovative, resilient and visionary entrepreneur, with a BIG heart to enable local entrepreneurship on the island and by doing that achieving her BIG Why. This Why is to contribute to the overall wellbeing of our population. Having lived in Holland for ten years and inspired by her grandmother’s entrepreneurial mindset, made her aware of the opportunities the island offers. Because of her drive to continuously learn and explore, she can see trends in markets and she made a bold step to start the E-commerce platform “Made in Curaçao” 8 years ago to open the possibilities to cater our locally produced goods and services to a much bigger and diverse world market. Lack of skills of local entrepreneurs in an online environment made her adapt and focus her attention also on coaching, giving workshops, while keeping her E-commerce knowledge through continuous learning “up to par”. Being an entrepreneur in Curaçao has not been easy, but she succeeded, although she regularly had to swim against the stream. At the other hand, she also experiences lots of support of people rooting for her “Made in Curaçao” platform initiative to succeed. Spreading her wings also to Holland this year “Sustainable Trade Expo” will be an online event and will also entail an International “live” event in Holland on the 29th of November. For all these reasons we dearly love and deeply respect Sharella and we consider her one of the 250 Influencers of the island representing the business sector (E-commerce sector).