ETHIOPIA: World Class Ethiopian entrepreneur: Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu


Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian entrepreneur and the founder of soleRebel a thriving eco-sensitive footwear brand that has been hailed as Africa’s answer to brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas. 

She has created world class jobs, empowered her community and country while presenting a galvanized, dynamic face of African creativity to the global market.

A trailblazer in every respect, Bethlehem has shifted the discourse on African development from one of poverty alleviation orchestrated by external actors, to one about prosperity creation driven by local Africans maximizing their talents and resources.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Growing up Bethlehem saw that Ethiopia had plenty of charity “brands” but not a single global brand of its own. So she set out to change all that. Tapping into her community’s and the nations rich artisan wealth and heritages, Bethlehem set about reimagining what footwear could be.

In early 2005, fresh out of college in Addis Ababa, Bethlehem founded the trailblazing footwear company soleRebels to provide solid community-based jobs. Flash forward five years, many shoes and hundreds of creative, dignified and well paying jobs later, soleRebels is the planets fastest growing African footwear brand, the world’s first and only World Fair Trade Federation [WFTO] FAIR TRADE certified footwear company and the very 1st global footwear brand to ever emerge from a developing nation!

Known as the E-commerce pioneers of the African continent, Bethlehem took soleRebels ecommerce engagement to the next level. Moving beyond the ground breaking online retail partnerships she forged years back with the planets ecommerce giants Amazon, Endless, Javari, Amazon UK and the EU’s #1 online footwear retailer, Bethlehem led the launch of soleRebels state of the art, fully ecommerce enabled global website

soleRebels produces footwear which blends ancient Ethiopian design with modern, western influences. All soleRebel shoes are based on the famous Selate and Barabasso shoe, a traditional recycled tire sole shoe which was worn by Ethiopian rebel fighters who opposed western forces from colonizing the country (and inspired the company name).

Now hailed as the Nike of Africa, Bethlehem is proud that soleRebels stands as living proof that creating innovative world-class brands is the best road to greater shared prosperity for developing nations like Ethiopia.

soleRebels emerges as the first African brand to become an international job creation powerhouse with its international stores forecasted to create over 600 jobs in the countries where they are located by end 2015 , proof that growth in Africa equals real global economic and jobs growth around the planet. soleRebels shoes are sold in over 30 countries around the world and Bethlehem estimates that revenues from their retail operations will hit the $10 million mark by 2016.

Bethlehem represents the leading edge of a new generation of home-grown African leaders, talented entrepreneurs who are taking on the global market and winning on an unprecedented level. She gives face and voice to what grassroots African-driven women economic leadership looks like , as she continues to elevate her nation, her continent and her company, all keys to creating more prosperity across Africa and beyond!

Bethlehem’s awards include:

  • ARISE MAGAZINE DYNAMIC 100 WOMEN List of remarkable women shaping modern Africa alongside Oprah Winfrey, Dambisa Moyo , Angelina Jolie
  • FORBES Magazine World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2012 Woman to Watch
  • Winner 2012 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award
  • FORBES Magazine 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa List
  • FORBES Magazine – Africa’s Most Successful Women
  • New York City Venture Fellow (Mayor Michael Bloomberg)
  • 2011 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader [YGL]
  • Winner 2011 Legatum Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship
  • Winner 2011 Most Valuable Entrepreneur Award Global Entrepreneurship Week
  • Winner 2011 Outstanding African Business Woman, African Business Awards
  • 2010 Eco Bold award

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