The Vault: An Incubator for Young People

At The Vault, located in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, you can buy paintings, hair accessories, clothing, baked goods, tumblers, crochet items, all-natural hygiene products, homemade chocolates and treats, and other art and custom-made products. The Vault also provides hairstyling, catering, graphic design, social media management, tailoring services, and more. Knisha Radjouki, Nilka Richardson, Derrinika Gumbs and Savio Gilbert are four of the twelve young entrepreneurs, ages 14 to 30, who create and provide these goods and services – and are the force behind ‘The Vault’.

In this interview, they share their journey to developing a business together, the importance of support from their community and God, how they use technology to their best advantage, and give advice on how more young people can be empowered as entrepreneurs.

How did twelve teens and young people come together to create ‘The Vault’?
We are part of Rock Church, a non-denominational Church that provides young people with fun, interactive, and educational activities. Every year, we have the opportunity to travel to the United States and attend self-development and business workshops. During this trip in 2019, we came up with the business idea for The Vault.

We have already hosted a few expos in the past that featured some of our arts, products, and other talents of young people in our group. The Vault is an expansion of this into a more significant business venture. Aside from being a physical store for our products and point of service, The Vault is an incubator for young people; it provides the support and space to collaborate, innovate, and develop our talents.

How do twelve people work together to keep ‘The Vault’ running?
With a lot of teamwork! We have meetings to give updates, share new ideas, and advise each other. There are also financial benefits to starting a business with twelve people—you can share the costs, such as rent, electricity, and water. Starting a business can also carry a heavy emotional load. We work through our challenges together, motivate each other, and hold each other accountable to our goals.

Has your community helped you in this endeavour?
Having role models you can depend on as a teen and young adult is valuable. Jessica Richardson (Director and Founder of Belvedere Community Center and Rock Church) is a constant inspiration and motivator. She is always there for us and pushes us to go on while giving us autonomy to make decisions. We’re also very thankful to Clarette Coffie and Eldon Lake.

Many of the senior members of our church have motivated us with encouraging words and financially supported our ventures by buying our products or donating. We also can’t forget God, who gives us strength daily!

What has been the biggest lesson in running The Vault?
We have a saying that we live by: “Work now and shine later.” Starting a business takes a lot of responsibility, discipline, and sacrifice. We are young and enjoy sleeping, going out, buying clothes, etc. We need to spend money on supplies and rent instead of going out or buying clothes. Friends will ask: “Let’s do this or that”, and often, we have to say no to focus on our goals and business.

Does technology play a role in your work with ‘The Vault’? 
You are missing out if you’re not using technology or social media in your business! There is so much helpful information online: groups, inspiration, ideas, how-to videos, etc. For your business, you really should be using social media for marketing and connecting to your customers.

Various programs also allow you to easily create flyers and other marketing materials. With AI like ChatGPT, you can easily create text, and with other programs, you can enhance or even create custom art. There is so much you can do and use technology for. Hint: we also provide these services, such as social media management and web development.

What would you say to the older generation that might fear new technology?
Technology will keep evolving, and it will not go away, so you need to make time to understand it. Once you start researching and using new technology, you will see how much help it can be.

Social media like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok can all be utilised for good as well as bad things. What you see is mostly in your control. For example, you can choose which accounts to follow, block accounts, etc. Also, the algorithm of these platforms feeds what you watch and like most – so again, this depends on what you are looking for. In a way, it is as ‘dangerous’ as you make it.

What are some of your ideas that would support more young people in becoming entrepreneurs?
Many teenagers are not interested in sitting in class all day, but you must because most subjects are theoretical. There should be more practical hands-on classes to learn life and business skills, such as how to manage money, what taxes need to be paid, how to register a business, etc. Aside from teaching these topics in school, providing in-depth workshops for young people would be beneficial. If these opportunities are created, they need to be marketed well to reach teenagers.

We are part of a very supportive group (Rock Church) and this has been a big part of our success. Supporting groups and programs targeting young people and their varied interests, with guidance from a mentor, is very valuable.

Finally, remember that building a start-up takes funds. We had financial support from our Church network, but there should also be more accessible funding available to support young people and their ambitions. Without education, encouragement, and financial backing, young people will continue to feel like they lack opportunities.

What are your plans for The Vault?
It would be great to grow and eventually have our own building. Most importantly, we want to grow and have a bigger space because we want to influence and empower young people to develop their talents and go after their dreams.

Follow and reach out to The Vault on or Instagram: @thevaultsxm