Born in an impoverished community in Ethiopia, Bethlehem looked around her and instead of seeing misery and misfortune saw talent and opportunity.
Rejecting the constraint of her circumstances, and the external charity and aid that had impoverished her country even more, Bethlehem channelled her community’s immense natural and human resources into the creation of what is now one of the fastest growing footwear brands on the planet.
In doing so she has created living proof that grassroots enterprise coupled with human initiative is the cornerstone of uplift and prosperity for developing nations like Ethiopia.
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born and raised in the Zenabwok /Total area of addis ababa , one of the most impoverished and marginalized communities of ethiopia.
- Shortly after graduating as an accountant from Unity University in addis ababa she saw that there was little job opportunity for her community folk BUT plenty of creative talent. So she founded the trailblazing footwear company soleRebels to provide solid community based jobs.
- Riffing off the classic recycled car tire sole shoe indigenous to Ethiopia, Bethlehem fused this with various local artisan craft + recycled inputs to create funky + super comfy sandals+ shoes.
- Hailed as Africas Nike, soleRebels has created over 75 full time and over 120 part-time jobs and is now the 1st WFTO FAIR TRADE certified footwear company on the planet. The brand is sold at leading global retailers like Endless , therought all 27 EU countries via the EU’s #1 online footwear retailer SPARTOO.COM, sandalWORLD , Javari , and FLIP FLOP SHOPS . The brand is retailed throughout Japan via top internet retailers RAKUTEN and Amazon Japan through the company’s exclusive distribution partner soleRebels Japan .
- Bethlehem’s efforts to re-imagine African commerce were honored when President Bill Clinton invited her to address the September 2010 Clinton Global Initiative’s panel Supply Chains of Opportunity , making her the very first woman African entrepreneur to address the Clinton Global Initiative as a speaker and panelist.
- On March 9th 2011 in Davos , Switzerland the World Economic Forum endorsed bethlehem’s vision that Africa’s future prosperity lies in the successful deployment of globally competitive , African controlled brands , naming her 2011’s Young Global Leader [YGL] from amongst many thousands of prestigious candidates.
- In May 2011 Bethlehem was invited by the World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to address the World Bank/UN LDC trade enhancement policy formulation sessions in Istanbul, marking the first time an African woman entrepreneur was invited to assist in formulating global trade policy in this global forum.