Meet Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder of Africa’s Fastest Growing Footwear Company

Growing up in a small neighborhood in Addis Ababa, beloved entrepreneur Bethlemen Tilahun Alemu discovered that most people in her community were living in poverty and that some of them possessed artisan skills.

She was born in the Zenebework area of Addis Ababa. She attended public primary and secondary schools and then went on to study accounting at Unity University, graduating in 2004.

Spurred by this realization of the aura that Africa exuded to the outside world, she sought to find a way to translate the skills of her people into a business, and thus SoleRebels was born, in 2004.

The eco-friendly footwear manufacturer creates hundreds of local jobs.

Alemu founded SoleRebels basically to provide ecologically and economically sustainable jobs for he community and not only has Bethlehem’s company grown to be one of the largest footwear companies in Africa, but it has also become a successful world class venture, with flagship stores in Taiwan, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, U.S, Singapore, Japan and many other countries.

Alemu launched “The Republic of Leather” to design sustainable leather goods and “Garden of Coffee” retail outlets to promote Ethiopian coffees.

Bethlehem has received a number of accolades for the work she has done to empower the Ethiopian youth with opportunities. In 2011, the 36-year-old entrepreneur made it into the World Economic Forum’s list of Young Global Leaders. She’s also been named by Forbes as one of 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, and one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Bethlehem is unrelenting in her efforts to shift the discourse on Africa away from poverty to the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit, social capital and economic potential.

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