Charlie Duft

  • Product Specialist North America
  • 18 September 2023

Charlie is proud to be an American working for a Dutch family business with a global network of colleagues and partners.

In the late afternoon, I call my American colleague Charlie via Teams. Where my day is almost over, he has just booted up his computer. I ask him if he is already familiar with Be Beekenkamp. Since all communication and actions around the employer brand have always been in Dutch until now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know what it entails. But yes, Charlie happened to be here during Be Beekenkamp’s launch week last year, so he still remembers a very tasty cupcake with the logo on it. Now he really is the perfect person for me to conduct this interview, in the anniversary week and launch week of the English-language website.

Charlie works as a Product Specialist in Asheville, North Carolina. He begins to talk about his position, “I facilitate product development in collaboration with the breeding team. I see and manage the very first trials of our newest varieties in North America. We review their performance and then share our findings with the sales team to identify opportunities within the North American market.”

Charlie with colleague Jeroen at one of the many trials in North America

At 27 years old, you would think this would be his first job, but he already has had quite a flourishing career behind him. He started his career as a nurseryman, from dahlias to petunias to poinsettias to begonias, he has grown it all. At the end of his time as a grower, he worked for an American company as a Trial Grower, which means testing new varieties from breeders. That is also how Charlie first came into contact with Beekenkamp Plants. He says “I clearly remember coming across Beekenkamp’s begonia genetics in one of my trials. One variety immediately caught my eye, which was the Begonia Dreams Rhodee. It was the first time I had come across Beekenkamp genetics but I immediately fell in love with the whole series. Everything else is history” Charlie says with a big smile on his face.

“And how does that work, working with colleagues who work not only across the USA, but around the world?” I ask him curiously. “It’s incredibly fun to deal with so many different people and cultures. Because I initiate the trials of new plant varieties in the United States, I have a lot of contact with our stock farms in Mexico, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Then of course I also have my four American colleagues who I keep up with over the phone or in Teams meetings daily. While we all live in different parts of the country, we still travel together for customer visits and exhibitions.”

“I speak to my Dutch colleagues a little less given the time differences but we are still able to have consistent communication with good planning.” Charlie explains. He looks back on his trips to our little country with very positive memories. He continues, “My most memorable day ever was definitely my first day of work for the company, I was on a flight to the Netherlands. I had never been to Europe before, so I thought it was a great experience to travel to this side of the world. Now I travel a lot through different parts of North America for work, visiting growers. It’s a huge challenge and learning process, not only to see how they all have their own growing techniques, but also assessing how each variety performs in the many different climates of North America. I really love my job.”

Charlie during Beekenkamp Plants’ Flower Trials in the Netherlands

Concluding the interview I asked Charlie with a wink “So you like working at Beekenkamp?”, to which he replied “Like is an understatement, it is an ultimate pleasure to work at Beekenkamp Plants. As a grower, I came into the same greenhouse every day, saw the same people and grew more or less the same plants. But here I deal with a worldwide network of colleagues and partners. Every time I get to visit greenhouses that are new to me. There really is something new for me to learn every day.” Smiling, he adds, “It has been quite a ride since!”

Charlie with colleague Sirekit at a US fair

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