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Hotseat - Heather Caputo

813_HitseatMeet long-term St. Maarten resident and Domino's franchisee Heather Caputo, who describes herself as a "mother, wife, boss-mom, and philanthropist!"

How did you end up residing in St. Maarten?

When I married my husband John, he had been living here for five years already. It was way too far to commute from Dallas! John had opened the first store here.

Do you speak Dutch or French?

I can get through a pizza order.

What do you do on weekends?

When there aren't fundraisers or dance activities or soccer matches, we hit the beach. We also have fantastic friends, and we get together pretty much every weekend. Plus, now that it is football season; we watch the Cowboys!

How long ago and why did you get involved in Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF)? What's been achieved?

I've always been an animal lover and volunteer, so when I moved here and Kathy Deher invited me 15 years ago to be on the Animal Welfare board, it was a natural fit. I've been helping to control the pet population one animal at a time. I hope anyone can see how far we've come with controlling the number of stray dogs on the road. We've done a ton of work in controlling mange on strays and on owned dogs.

What was your happiest moment?

I think I'm happiest when I can help educate both children and adults in proper and humane animal care. I've found that people aren't cruel or uncaring towards animals; they just don't know the proper way to care for them. We've watched the next generation grow into educated pet owners; that too is a huge help towards our cause. We hope one day not to be needed anymore!

What makes the Foundation successful in its mission?

I believe our reputation is very important. So many causes and foundations pop up all the time. We are enduring and continue day in and day out to be on the streets, working with animals and people. I believe people know how successful we've been and are continuing to be, and that legitimizes AWF.

What other philanthropic activities are you involved in?

This year, I received training to be a facilitator of the AIDS Foundation's school program "Real Talk," so I've been in six schools doing that program. Also, I've been on the Parent Advisory Committee at Learning Unlimited for 10 years. This is the school my two children attend so I feel its right that I am involved with their education.

What inspires you?

I love helping and making a difference. If there is a need and I see that there is something that I can do to help, I jump right in.

What's the best part of being in the pizza franchisee industry?

Definitely, our team members! They are an amazing group of people; we're closer than some families!

What's the downside to living and working in St. Maarten?

Being so far away from my sisters and my dad; but it is great when they come to visit.

Is there anything you'd like customers to know about what Domino's does?

We never say no! We give away thousands of pizzas a year for bingo prizes, academic awards, sports prizes...everything! We give free tours of Domino's to any and all school classes. We help fundraise by selling pizzas at cost to schools so that they can sell slices and make money. There is just so much we do! We feel it is so important to support the community. What comes around goes around, and good community support brings good sales. Plus, it is just the right thing to do.

How can the business climate in St. Maarten be improved?

The playing field needs to be even. Those statistics about how less than half of businesses are properly registered are maddening. Those of us who play by the rules are penalized, and that is not only unfair but detrimental to the investment climate.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Well, I have an eight-seat car, so I pick up most of our neighbourhood kids and drive to Learning Unlimited. I go to my office and hit complete chaos and madness until 2:50pm! Then I drive kids to soccer, dance, sailing, etc. I may have a board meeting or an event planning meeting. I try to get a walk in. I love to cook, so most nights are spent at home.

What irritates you?

I would say loud-mouthed people who have all kinds of complaints but do NOTHING to solve them.

Do you have any concerns for the future? Personally, as well as thinking about the business climate in SXM?

All kinds of concerns; my biggest fear is injury to my children – but thinking and acting positively is the only way to keep from getting mired down in worries.

What encouragement or advice would you give to others who are thinking about relocating to SXM?

I believe that people need to think realistically about their goals. Too many people show up in St. Maarten, expecting that someone will take care of them or something will come along. And that kind of thinking has us over-populated and our resources taxed to the limit. If you have the means and the drive and a plan, then you can move here or anywhere. Otherwise, you become a burden.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I'd want to chat to Hilary Clinton, Marilyn Monroe, and my grandmother. I admire strong, educated women who are aware of their values and worth. We would gab all night and drink a ton of champagne; and order pizza, of course!