When Léon and Leontine paid a visit to Ethiopia, they got angry. They thought, despite all challenges, the country was amazing. They saw loads of opportunities, but couldn’t help being maddened by ‘The image of Ethiopia that the western world tries to 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 growing cities, beauty, a rich cultural heritage 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 proud people that wanted to work to improve their standard of living. Leontine, corporate anthropologist, and Léon, real estate developer, decided that if no one was going to do something with these opportunities, they were.
Bring Trade instead of Aid
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, a family company focused on tourism sector development, instead. It started with the development of one solitaire eco-resort in Ethiopia, organizing knowledge bridges with Dutch Universities and the training of tourism entrepreneurs, the stakeholders and government in Ethiopia, Rwanda and other upcoming markets. But it’s founders wanted to strive for a heritage of a meaningful footprint in tourism infrastructure.The upcoming markets, on their return, asked more support, initiatives to develop and diversification of the tourism industry.That is why the departments GreenDreamAcademy and GreenDreamWorks were added.
Ubuntu as a Business Philosophy
While working in South Africa, in the early days, the founders got familiar with the Ubuntu philosophy and they recognized it in doing business all over Africa. Later Leontine published books, gave keynote speeches and masterclasses on Ubuntu Management and implemented it into their leadership and way of doing business. Leontine won several individual Awards and so did GreenDreamCompany. Nowadays, GreenDreamCompany is the flagship firm of the GreenDreamGroup, all with a business philosophy that values financial, ecological, socio-economical and inspirational sustainability. This is what Ubuntu is.
With a focus on family pleasure and entertainment, the Group works closely together on the development and diversification of the leisure and tourism landscape in upcoming markets, by a.o. its brands Solomon’s Hidden Treasures® and Ubuntopia®.
There are stories longing to be told…