Door Plantenga: Her love for Africa and Bralirwa’s success

For the first five years of her life, she lived in the Caribbean Islands where her father was working. Now, at the age of 48, Door Plantenga is the Managing Director of Bralirwa, one of Rwanda’s beverage brewing companies.

For the first five years of her life, she lived in the Caribbean Islands where her father was working. Now, at the age of 48, Door Plantenga is the Managing Director of Bralirwa, one of Rwanda’s beverage brewing companies.

At the age of five, her family returned to The Netherlands where she embarked on her studies.

She acquired her first degree in philosophy from Leiden University in 1983, and she later completed her Masters degree from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University.

Plantenga is a well travelled lady. Between obtaining her first degree and her Masters, she travelled for seven months to Central and South America visiting Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.

However, the period she spent at the Caribbean islands with an African setting provoked her to love, live and work in and for Africa.
After her graduation in 1985, she was immediately recruited by the Heineken Company, which she chose to work for.

After various interviews, she was employed at Heineken- Netherlands as a regional sales manager.

Plantenga says this job was exciting to her because she was a woman.

“Beer companies are traditionally male oriented, so it was rather extraordinary for me to climb into the Heineken managerial ranks,” she says. “But through it all, I managed and I never at any one time felt intimidated or discouraged.”

After four years as a sales manager, she was promoted to regional sales director.

1991 marked another milestone in her life; she got married to her lover and best friend who, being a doctor had also always yearned to live and work in Africa.

With this prior desire, her husband had specialised in tropical medicine which earned him a job to head-up a hospital in Botswana.
This became a challenge for Plantenga to choose between staying in the Netherlands and continuing with her esteemed carrier at Heineken or to join her husband in Africa.

Her marriage and the love for Africa helped her make a decision and she says she has never regretted it.

She lived with her family in Botswana from 1991 to 1996 and later got a job in one of the breweries in what she calls a very beautiful country.

“It is in Botswana that I gave birth to our first two children. The couple returned to Holland in 1996, she says, since her husband wanted to specialise in dermatology – the study of skin and skin diseases.

On her return to the Netherlands, she was again recruited in the marketing department at Heineken.

In 1998 she gave birth to her youngest son Benjamin who is studying here in the country.

During the four years as her husband pursued his studies, they were homesick for Africa. Since Heineken operates in eight African countries, she applied for a job with one of the Heineken companies in Africa.

On completion of the husband’s studies, they left for Ghana where she had been given a job of a Commercial Director for Ghana Breweries, also Heineken subsidiary.

“The change of events here were really interesting because, this time, it was my husband who had to make a choice,” she says.

“But because he loved Africa as much as I did, it was not a hard choice to make.”

When in Ghana, he managed to get a job in Korlebu Hospital in Accra, where his services were craved for.

Her expatriate contract was three years but she extended it to five and a half years because of the nature of the job that was lucrative. She travelled a lot during these five years in West Africa.

In September 2005, her boss from Heineken Company in Amsterdam visited her in Accra and interested her to work in Rwanda as a Managing Director of Bralirwa, another Heineken subsidiary.

 “I was really very delighted because it was the first time in history for Heineken Company to appoint a woman as Managing Director,” she says.

To her, Rwanda is totally different from West Africa and she says she is extremely impressed by its rich culture.

At first, people were curious about the new female director, but from day one, it was easy for her and the employees to work together.
Her two elder children joined Ecole-Belge Secondary School, and the youngest also joined Ecole Belge Primary School both in Rwanda.

Her husband currently works at King Faisal Hospital as a dermatologist, and at an NGO called Pharmaccess.

He also part times at Sisters of Mother Teresa orphanage as a volunteer.

During her two years at Bralirwa, she says management has made a lot of changes to the company brands.

“First and foremost, a lot has been done on Primus,” she says. “We changed the label and the image of primus by improving its quality, and this year saw the introduction of a 33cl small Primus bottle, usually referred to as Primus Ntoya.”

In general she says she has put a lot of emphasis on the quality of Bralirwa’s products, which resulted in the company being awarded a Coca Cola Gold Award for product and quality packaging early this year.

Hobbies

A true nature lover, Plantenga has a house at lakeside of Lake Kivu in Gisenyi where she spends most of her weekends with her family. She also loves boats, and they own a speedboat which they use for boat rides to Kibuye and other places.

She also acknowledges her love for wildlife. “For the last two years, I have spent in Rwanda, I have visited the Viruga Mountains mainly to see the famous gorillas .She adds: “Though I have seen a lot of wildlife, it’s really a unique experience to be face to face with a mountain gorilla,” she says.

She says that she lives by three key motivations letters: P, A, and R.
P for the passion to work for her country and for her company Heineken together with her family, A for the ambition she has for trying to do her best and setting high goals,  and lastly, R for the respect she has for the people she works with, the society in which she lives and for her customers and consumers.   

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