She Moves Us: Interview with Fleur Hofstra, Strategic Account Marketing Manager Europe at PUMAJune 25, 2021
She Moves Us: Interview with Fleur Hofstra, Strategic Account Marketing Manager Europe at PUMAJune 25, 2021
Fleur Hofstra is Strategic Account Marketing Manager Europe at PUMA and creator of the established PUMA Academy in the Benelux – a female empowerment platform. We had a chat with Fleur about her motivation, the idea and setting behind the Academy and the things that really matter to her.
“Everything is possible” is the environment Fleur grew up in, her mom’s motto.
“My mom was around 50 when she retrained herself. She did several studies for six or eight years. It showed me I could achieve whatever I wanted if I set my mind to it”. She continued, “I never saw my mom as a role model when I was younger; I wasn’t aware of the impact she had on me in a sense, everything she did seemed normal to me as a child but now that I’m older, I recognize how everything she did affected me in a very good way. She always showed me I could go for anything I wanted.”
Fleur dreamt big and after only nine months with the company she created the PUMA Academy now known by thousands of people. The PUMA Academy is a real female empowerment platform in the Benelux that brings development and empowerment of young women to the next level by educating them on topics that are not covered during their studies.
Fleur is very passionate about the Academy she created: “I can talk about it for hours…”.
Two years ago, she brainstormed by herself and she decided she wanted to create a program specially designed for women. “I wanted to help women in their personal growth by offering them free master classes. That was the start of it all”. The Academy had thousands of registrations from young women in the Netherlands, which made Fleur even more enthusiastic about launching the first program.
The yearly program is free of charge and divided into two semesters during which the PUMA Academy invites three talented experts who give nine master classes. The theme of last year’s first semester was how to relax as well as how to deal with stress and social media pressure. The second semester was all about “Your first steps to the top” through discovering oneself and one’s potential.
Fleur is passionate about her project and about women blooming in the business area as well as on a personal level: “PUMA has been making a statement for years when it comes to promoting female empowerment; first with the “Do you” campaign with Cara Delvigne and now with ‘She moves us’, of course. The PUMA Academy is part of that”, she explains.
The PUMA Academy is now a household name in the Netherlands. Fleur is very devoted to the project and is already thinking ahead. After the kickoff event in November 2019, she came home and couldn’t sleep: “I was full of energy, I was like a bouncing ball and I realized that this feeling I had about this project was special. What we are doing for all those women is inspiring. I have the passion to inspire, to motivate and help other women. Then I got even more motivated to make it a success. My dream now is definitely to roll this out further in the rest of Europe or even in the rest of the world”.
After the first Academy year started, she received many messages. “I received them on LinkedIn or Instagram, some in which women were saying that since they heard about the Academy they took specific steps that they never dared to take before. Some of them also looked to me for advice on their career; some even started their own business. It’s really cool to see the positive effects it had”.
In Fleur’s point of view, financial skills, personal development, how you should create a good work- life balance or how to negotiate or set up a career plan, is something that ought to be taught at school but unfortunately still isn’t. “It’s crazy when you think about it. It affects lots of people, especially women. Men are struggling, too, but I think WE WOMEN always want to excel in everything and are so much more insecure than men. You can see it in the way we apply for jobs, for instance. Men apply to a job when they meet on average 50 to 60 percent of the requirements while women often only apply when they meet all the criteria. This is also why we decided to develop the PUMA Academy, to help women to feel less structural pressure and feel better overall about themselves. It’s really nice to see that we can do something like that and tackle such a huge problem”.
In Fleur’s opinion, after reading different research, she says women focus much more on the job itself, the tasks they need to accomplish and they want to do their job so well that women put aside networking and meeting new people, which would make themselves more visible.
Fleur has also felt insecure at times in her career but has now adopted a new way of getting around it and is making sure she is seen. In one of her previous jobs, Fleur experienced being sometimes the only woman among dozens of men, particularly in conference meetings.
“At the beginning I was sometimes insecure during meetings, I didn’t always dare to share all the ideas I had, especially in my first weeks, as I was the only women in the Management Team and Franchise Management Team. But you should make yourself heard even if it is with your boss or director or someone who makes you a bit nervous… They are also only human beings. I used to tell myself, ‘Come on, your idea or suggestion is relevant!’. It happens to everyone to hear that inner critic’s voice. We should ignore it and feed that other voice more often. I probably haven’t always communicated in the best way but I most often open my mouth to express myself. If you keep everything to yourself, you are the one that will suffer the most from it. I personally experience the benefits of giving my opinion. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets. ‘So come on, let yourself be heard, it is so important!”. Fleur strongly believes in learning from your mistakes and dwelling on misadventures. “If everything in live went right, it would be boring and totally unchallenging. I always thought it’s better to regret the things you did than to regret the things you didn’t do”.
Next to that, finding a good balance between her professional life and her personal life is still a something Fleur struggles with from time to time. “It’s sometimes important to zoom out and just relax for a bit. I am a person that wants to do many things and plan my whole calendar but I also know I feel better when I schedule some me time in there and keep some weekends free.”
To clear her mind, she goes for walks, listens to music or cooks. She even puts some me time walks on her calendar and says it helps a lot. “Going outside helps me to find inspiration, especially when I work on new strategic plans. I think it’s nice for everyone to go, at some point in the day, somewhere that feels good to them and focus on themselves for a minute”.
Previously in her life, especially in her career, Fleur was a huge perfectionist and always wanted to be the best at everything. “I sometimes said yes to too many things because of my enthusiasm and because I see possibilities in everything. I realized that if you say yes to everything, you will lose focus and get exhausted. I used to be like that in my previous job”. One day she overheard two men talking on the train on her way home. They were around 70 years old and were going out for the day. They talked about their past and said how they had lived to work instead of the other way around. They apparently worked almost 60 or 70 hours a week. Those two men were always away from home and when they came back they were too tired to interact with their loved ones, Fleur overheard them say. Only now were they enjoying life. As she listened to them, Fleur told herself she never wanted to have that type of life. “I don’t want that for myself. I want to come home and be happy. I want to be energetic and transmit those good vibes to others. I want to be able to do nice and fun things in the evening”. That day had a huge impact on her. “I then decided to focus only on three big campaigns that season; things that I considered were really important. I thought it was best to do three things very well rather than plenty ‘just fine’ with a lot of stress. I was happy again after making that decision and I still achieved great results. I kept our overall business goal in mind and whatever I wanted to add to the three main goals I had set for myself, I asked if it would help to get there, if it wasn’t the case, I would let it go. Thanks to this way of thinking I can now focus on my state of mind, my balance, on my happiness… I still want to excel and perform but on more focused things”.
Fleur is now 30 years old, “I can be quite proud of what I have accomplished and where I am in life. Nancy, one of the experts of the PUMA Academy, told me a few months back that most women hide the fact that they are successful by saying that they were just lucky or something like that. It was an eye opener to me because I would behave exactly that way. I realized I can be proud of what I have achieved and it didn’t just happen overnight. It happened because I worked hard for it, I made myself visible at work, I shared my ideas and opinions, I found good solutions and came up with good plans as well”.
We sometimes care far too much what others think of us, she says. “If you have a specific dream or goal, I think you owe it to yourself to ask ‘What is holding me back? What should it matter so much what others think, what’s the worst that can happen to me? That someone has an opinion? Or that someone thinks it’s weird? It just someone’s opinion’. We shouldn’t stop ourselves from following our dreams for those few people. You are in control of your own life. You are the one that has to influence your own life. I love the following quote, it inspires me every time I read it: “If you have a dream, call it a plan, not a dream”.
For her future, Fleur would love to do more to help people to be happy. She is always setting new goals for herself. “I’m always focused on the future, what I want to achieve, but I also try to live day by day and enjoy life. Sometimes things come on your path and sometimes things will happen even if it can also be hard to let go. My tip is to find yourself, be authentic, find out what is important to you, find out what your core values are and then focus on what you want to achieve. What story do you want to tell? What is your personal brand story? How do you want to be known? and How do you want people to remember you? I want my authenticity to be remembered, the fact that I am myself at all times, that I always want to be positive and help others, that I want to inspire and motivate other women… Psychologists discovered that there is a link between authenticity and happiness. You are happier when you are yourself”.