It all started with a pair of shoes.
Mirna and her shoes, early 2006
Our story begins in Antigua de Guatemala, in 2006, when Amsterdam-born founder and CEO Marten Dresen, combined volunteering and backpacking while travelling through South America. It was here that Marten met a little girl called Mirna who didn’t have any shoes and he decided to buy her some. From her reaction and the realisation that such a small act could do so much, he began to question what else he could do to help. Getting to know Mirna and her family made it clear that he could do more for the future of this young girl, her family and her local community. So he did.
THE FOUNDING OF NGO NINOS DE GUATEMALA, MID 2006
In April 2006, Marten wrote a letter to his family and friends. Describing the situation of Mirna and her family, Marten asked everyone he knew for their support. The support that came in response to this one email was overwhelming: more than 5000 Euros. Marten soon realised this was too much money for helping just Mirna and her family. This is where the plan started to build an elementary school that would give kids like Mirna access to education. He travelled back to the Netherlands and started fundraising. Meanwhile, an NGO was founded in Antigua.
NUESTRO FUTURO, THE FIRST SCHOOL, 2008–2009
In 2008, Marten organised a fundraising dinner in the Netherlands, which made it possible to start construction on the first school, which opened early 2009. He named the school Nuestro Futuro, Spanish for “our future”.
EL PORVENIR, THE SECOND SCHOOL, 2011–2012
In 2011, a second school was built, El Porvenir, and welcomed its first class in 2012.
THE CONCEPT OF GOOD HOTEL, 2012
Upon opening of the second school, Marten realised that while it was great to educate hundreds of children, that they should also be able to have the opportunity to develop their skills and get a job when they grow up. Seeing so much poverty, next to so much tourism, Marten came up with the idea of Good Hotel, so he could provide the children and the local community with further training and employment opportunities.
The concept was simple, Marten wanted to combine an authentic, high quality guest experience with doing good. The focus was on creating a profit for non-profit business with long-term goals: creating jobs, offering training to the local unemployed community, supporting NGOs with the profits of the hotel, and set a new standard in the local hospitality industry.
The floating platforms, 2013
While Marten was looking for property in Antigua, Guatemala, he came across the opportunity to buy two floating platforms in the Netherlands. He came up with the idea to renovate these platforms into two floating hotels, and take them to Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic games in 2016, to attract attention to his mission.
Launch event, December 2013
A Good Hotel launch event was organised in Amsterdam with the main goal to attract future investors. For this event, Marten and his team trained 5 unemployed youngsters with the goal to serve the potential investors only 2 months later in a 2–star Michelin restaurant. It would only be at the end of the evening the guests would come to know that only a couple of weeks ago, these 5 trainees had never even opened a bottle of wine, let alone served in a Michelin Star restaurant. Marten proved his point. As long as you have the right drive and spirit to work towards a better future, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your story is.
Buying property in Antigua, early 2014
The Launch Event was successful and the funds to buy and renovate property to establish a Good Hotel in Antigua were raised. An old mansion located in the UNESCO protected city, now Good Hotel Antigua, was bought in early 2014.
First class graduates in Guatemala, October 2014
In October of 2014, the first class of 32 students graduated from elementary school – the first school that had been built. Thanks to Niños de Guatemala, these kids received quality education, nutrition and social guidance, and have now a real chance to build a better future.
Temporary mooring place Amsterdam, 2014 & 2015
Trying to obtain the right permits for a mooring place in the bay of Rio, the team realised they would not be able to move the platforms to Brazil in time for the World Cup in 2014. The transportation of the platform across the Atlantic was postponed until just before the Olympic Games in 2016. In the meantime, both floating platforms got a temporary mooring location in Amsterdam. Previously used as a refugee centre, answering a very big humanitarian need at that time, while the other was refurbished into a Good Hotel.
Good Hotel Antigua, 2015
The renovation and design plans of Good Hotel Antigua are drawn up. The Good Hotel Antigua started to take shape on paper. We intended to stand out from the crowd – with personal interaction, in a lush retreat, with modern design, focused on expertise in local culture, space and high quality finishes. Obtaining permits for the building in the UNESCO protected city took over a year, yet we were granted permission in October 2015.
Opening pop-up year Amsterdam & kick-off of Good Training, June 2015
Back in the Netherlands, the floating Good Hotel was now was fully refurbished and opened its doors to start a ‘pop–up’ year in Amsterdam. The hotel received a permit from the city of Amsterdam to moor at the Westerdoksdijk, right in the heart of Amsterdam, for the period of one year. The Good Hotel also kicked off the Good Training programme and would train 100 long–term unemployed locals during the course of 12 months (25 trainees per quarter).
El Horizonte, Middle School, 2015
Meanwhile in Guatemala, El Horizonte, providing middle school education, is the third school to be inaugurated. Here, students will study between the ages of 12 and 16.
Next destination for the floating Good Hotel, March 2016
The decision was made to no longer pursue the plans to move to Rio. The reason being the economic instability at that time. Communications with the local University are kept open and Good Hotel sends a “training container” to Rio so the hotel management faculty can provide its students with the Good Training program. At the same time, the team looked for a new home for the floating Good Hotel.
Opening Good Hotel Antigua, September 2016
The construction of Good Hotel Antigua is completed and the 20–room boutique hotel opens its doors. A former mansion in the heart of Antigua has been transformed into a unique modern designed hotel, supporting local businesses and single mothers, by offering them the unique Good Training program and job opportunities.
Crossing The North Sea & opening Good Hotel London, October – December 2016
The 8 million kilo floating Good Hotel crosses the North Sea on a submersible barge. The Good Hotel arrives at the Royal Victoria Dock, East London, in London in October 2016, opening its doors two months later to the public. The first guests arrive on December 2. A few weeks later, the hotel kicks off the Good Training programme in London in partnership with Newham Workplace, focusing on educating long–term unemployed locals.
Meet the founder: Marten Dresen
Marten’s aim is to help get the best out of people, regardless of background. Not for profit, but for a vision and a philosophy that is much greater than any one individual. Marten looks towards a day that all business is social business and wants to lead by example.
An entrepreneur on a mission, a person that likes to do things differently.
Marten Dresen was born in the Netherlands to a family of teachers, psychologists and public service workers. Service and taking care of others were cornerstones of his upbringing. Business was not part of the equation. Traveling as a student, when the Euro had just launched; he realised the importance of international trade and open markets, to connect people and develop areas left behind. Therefore, he decided to work in international trade. Before starting his career, Marten traveled to Guatemala to learn Spanish.
When in Guatemala, he befriended Mirna, a little girl with no shoes. He decided to give her a pair of shoes and soon realised the only really way to change her current fate, was through education. He founded the NGO Niños de Guatemala in 2006, on the belief that education could provide another – better – future for Mirna, her family, her community, and future generations generation. Marten built a self-sufficient NGO business by stimulating entrepreneurship and focussing on long-term change and creating independency.
After graduating, and while growing the NGO Niños de Guatemala, Marten started working in an international shipping company. In 2009, at the age of 26, the company asked him to head up the South America business in Rio de Janeiro. While based in Brazil, Marten continued to manage part-time the growing NDG team in Guatemala. Through the learning’s gained at NDG, and with the Olympics being awarded to Rio de Janeiro, Marten saw an opportunity to link education, job creation and entrepreneurship to tourism demand. And the potential this could bring to under-developed communities. In 2012, he decided to found the Good Hotel Group, and handed over the management of the NGO to a board of directors. In 2013, he quit his job in shipping to dedicate himself full-time to Good Group. Three years later, the first Good Hotel started welcoming guests.