Brenda van Leeuwen
Brenda van Leeuwen graduated from the Faculty of Economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She joined international electronics giant Philips in 1996. Over two decades she gained expertise by working in several different management positions within the company, most recently as the Global Program Manager for worldwide digital marketing transformation.
In July 2015 Brenda started her latest challenge as the CEO of Eurail.com. The company sells European train passes (including Eurail and Interrail passes) to customers from all over the world, and is one of the largest e-commerce businesses in the Netherlands. Eurail.com was founded in 2006.
The path to Eurail.com
Brenda says it straight: "Change must be part of the game.” With an impressive and varied work history, it’s easy to see that it’s a motto she truly believes in.
After 19 years at Philips, Brenda felt it was time to go “back to business” and be more involved in the day-to-day dynamics of a smaller company. When first presented with the opportunity to work at Eurail.com, she went home, looked through her photo albums and mementos of past Interrail trips, and got more and more enthusiastic about joining the company.
Brenda is no stranger to the Eurail.com product. Her first Interrail trip was at age 16 and she has been on several Interrail trips since. This personal experience is an important connection to the brand and its products, and one that makes her extremely proud.
A strong workforce
Although still relatively new to Eurail.com, Brenda already pinpoints the company culture as “winning”. Her employees are young, excited, and have a lot of knowledge. It’s a strong factor in Eurail.com’s success.
There are still many ways to grow, though. Brenda stresses the importance of using this knowledge to plan and execute projects effectively. She also urges her workers to avoid getting too comfortable in an industry and economic climate that is rapidly changing.
“I think I made the company shake a little bit,” she admits when asked about her arrival. And it’s true. In the first few months Brenda restructured the managing board of Eurail.com and authorized an assessment of company activities to ensure all operations are in line with best practice.
On a smaller scale, Brenda empowers everyone to be accountable for their actions and to really think about their impact on Eurail.com. “The biggest potential is in the employees,” she says. It’s clear she really believes in the Eurail.com people and their ability to create further wins for the company.
Since starting at Eurail.com in July 2015, Brenda has been present for many milestones. There was the official launch of Eurail.com on Alitrip, an online travel store for Eurail pass sales in China, and the realization of the shop project, where the web and shop components of the websites were combined into one integrated platform.
As the e-commerce industry is growing at a fast pace, Eurail.com is growing too. The company’s workforce has increased with 15 new staff members starting in 2015. Brenda is now awaiting the move of the entire company into a new office to accommodate everyone, with construction due to be complete in late October. The office is another step towards workplace innovation and the new way of work, which will suit the new chapter of Eurail.com.
Brenda recognizes the enormous potential in front of Eurail.com. She’s passionate about enhancing the company’s digital marketing activities and opening new sales channels.
Next in line is continuing Eurail.com’s market expansion. The recent entry into Chinese localized markets gives confidence that great things can be achieved by making strategic partnerships with external parties.
Brenda describes Eurail.com’s strong growth – in terms of revenue, people, and exposure – as “fascinating”. However, she adds, “We did not yet explore ALL the opportunities and challenges we have.”
“I strongly believe there’s a lot of potential in the area of enhancing competencies and skills, expanding to markets, and using our eagerness of being winning and getting the traveler in the train. And there’s such strong internal employer brand power – we need to utilize that much more internally and externally. To make ourselves known.”
Overall vision for Eurail.com
The bottom line is simple. Brenda is here to “continue the success story of Eurail.com”. Brenda wants Eurail.com to build on its strengths, be recognized, and win awards.
Brenda’s also in it for the travelers. “At Eurail.com our vision is to provide our travelers a seamless online experience, from the dream to visit Europe to the concrete booking of the passes.” Eurail.com offers people unique, authentic, and often life-changing experiences. Brenda knows how important it is for the company to “learn continuously from our travelers to improve our products and our online sales and services.”
With a strong, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic workforce, Brenda is confident the company can keep learning and will embrace new opportunities presented by a dynamic and ever-changing market.
“Change is sometimes perceived as being big and negative. But for me change is growth.” And with many exciting changes coming, you can expect Eurail.com to grow up a lot as it approaches its 10th birthday.