Our Founders’ story..
When Léon and Leontine went on a holiday to Ethiopia, they got angry. They thought the country was fantastic and saw loads of opportunities, but couldn’t help being maddened by “the image of Ethiopia that the western world tries force upon us – the one of primitive huts on plains where little kids with kwashiorkor bellies live in hunger, to try and lure more foreign aid: the country has so much more to offer than that!”
What stood out to Leontine van Hooft and Leon van Rijckevorsel in 2004, were the opportunities lying around in Ethiopia. They saw big cities, beauty, and a country not nearly as primitive as the western world is led to believe. They saw a country that could use some help in economic developments, but most of all they saw people that wanted to work. Leontine, corporate anthropologist, and Léon, real estate development manager, decided that if no one was going to do something with these opportunities, they were.
Their first thought was to start up an NGO in Ethiopia, but as soon as they started a conversation with the Ethiopian government, the latter made clear that they already had enough of those. Developmental aid makes a country dependent, or maybe even lazy. The Ethiopian government asked if they could not found a company that would induce an economic climb. Leontine and Léon ended up launching GreenDreamCompany instead. It is a company involved in recreating leisure, hospitality, and the tourism industry, with a business philosophy that values sustainability: “we want to make a difference and contribute to positive change.”
Three years later, in 2007, GreenDreamCompany sets up its first local project in Lake Tana, Ethiopia: The Gorgora Nova Rock Resort. Where the inhabitants of Gorgora used to be mainly depended on agriculture and fishing, the project brought a significant economic success. A 60km road was constructed and the local economy of Gorgora and the surrounding villages increased. Still, the overall economy of the country did not benefit, so GreenDreamCompany wanted to go bigger.
They decided to set up a sustainable franchise involving multiple countries that could use help in their economic development. The International Brand “Solomon’s Hidden Treasures” was born. Its goal is to create “a meaningful footprint in tourism infrastructure.” Solomon’s Hidden Treasures will set up sustainable tourism destinations, consisting of family villages and a connected daily activity in 14 countries, from Israel to South-Africa, following the trail the mythological King Solomon supposedly travelled across and left traces. Whether it is a city of trade or a particularly beautiful spot in nature: the trail of Solomon’s Hidden Treasures will make it attractive for tourists to visit these places and spend money there in a sustainable way. What stands out for them is storytelling: all villages and attractions will be linked to a local myth or story, which will tie together activities for children in an interactive way.
These projects will be accompanied by local GreenDreamAcademies, where all hired parties, side ventures and employees are offered vocational training.
There is a story longing to be told…