If you’ve ever been to an event or in a space that mentions the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum, chances are you have met the current Executive Director, Chantel Hoheb. Chantel is a vessel of magnetic energy, positivity, and super passionate about the VICM, with a smile that lights up a room. Her love for the community and the VICM courses through every interaction she has in the community and her impact is noticeable.
Chantel’s appointment as the Executive Director sits somewhere between divine opportunity and taking a chance. She had her mind set on pursuing an entrepreneurial venture when she asked to join the team. Coincidently, some friendly spiritual advice also left an impression. The message “The venture you have in mind will make you money, it will be successful; however, what will feed your soul is working with children.” When fate and opportunity align, there is no denying what’s ahead. When she saw what the VICM could do for the community, saying no was not an option.
Taking the helm of the VICM in August 2020, during the pandemic, she works hard to get the Caribbean’s only children’s museum to a position where it can consistently service the community and offer extensions to neighboring islands. A goal that is not without challenges. She recognizes the unlimited potential that the VICM will have on the community with its STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics) based programming. “I want the VICM to take these concepts into our various communities in a fun way so that our young people and their parents can start thinking outside the box regarding their future. I want our program to make them start thinking about their passions and talents and how they can build on them and how it might translate to making a living.”
However, making progress to that point has been a test of will and perseverance. The responsibilities of an executive director look like an iceberg, and we only see the tip of it. For Chantel, the lessons and the challenges of managing people, expectations and perceptions, and organizational goals stretch her capabilities as a director and a human.
I’m still in the trenches, so all I’m encountering are challenges, especially my own. It’s been a process of learning how things were done, how they worked, and how we can improve upon them moving forward, all within a climate that seems to change overnight.
Being the face of the VICM and maneuvering through these changes is something we see her do effortlessly, but if you know, you know. She works tirelessly with the VICM team’s help to amplify the museum’s exposure within the community and abroad. Gratefully, community leaders and organizations are increasing support and developing ways they can work with Chantel and the VICM to benefit VI youth. With a small team, it’s super important for the community to lend a hand with fundraising, ideas, volunteering, or just establishing connections. Also, understanding the importance of social media, email lists, and the power of local media outlets and leveraging those avenues have been impactful in getting eyes on the museum. “We encourage our board and supporters to continue to spread the word about the VICM and our mission; I’m a marketer, but there is no better form of marketing than word of mouth.”
Getting more exposure to the museum is not the only goal. Chantel sees a future for the education of Virgin Islands children rooted in interactive play and discovery. At the VICM, her greatest hope is to develop an organic feeder system that goes from early childhood to adulthood and cultivates individual genius by providing training, engaging activities, and a mentoring network that would require fewer Virgin Islanders to move off-island.
Knocking that big goal out means getting more engagement from the community and, importantly, financial support. Partner organizations such as the CFVI have been instrumental in moving the needle. However, she can use a grant writer on staff and other significant contributions to kick it into high gear. While there are other hurdles to overcome, she’s embracing the journey with persistence and systems thinking.
Any executive director worth their salt has felt like they are not doing enough or are not reaching their goals, and Chantel admits she’s right there with them. It has not been a cakewalk, and she’s learned valuable lessons to share so that whoever decides to follow in her footsteps or take on a leadership role understands the undertaking.
The best thing I can say to anyone starting a new venture or job is to give them the advice I wish I had before joining the VICM team. Take your time to review the organization. Speak to the people managing the finances; that will give you a good idea of where the organization stands and the type of work you’ll need to do. Make sure you have a good handle on the ‘core team’ to know who is responsible for what. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if you don’t get any the first 15 times you asked.
Chantel Hoheb is the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum. She is from St. Thomas, a member of the Antilles School Class of 2002, and a 2006 graduate from Loyola University New Orleans with a B.B.A in Marketing and International Business.
Follow her on Twitter – @chantelfh or on Facebook – www.facebook.com/ChantelFHoheb
Contact: VICM email@example.com