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Culture, Fashion

Women on the Move! Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: Ethiopia

Women on the Move!
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: Ethiopia

Entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born and raised in a small community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Growing up, she witnessed widespread poverty throughout her community first hand and discovered that it was due to the lack of jobs available. She also discovered that though the citizens of her community lacked employment, many of them possessed extraordinary artisan skill that remained dormant. She realized that if these skills were utilized properly, the community would be able to attain a sustainable livelihood. By 2004, armed with start up capital sourced from her husband and members of her immediate family, Bethlehem was able to tap into these talents and establish SoleRebels, which has since become one of Africa’s most successful footwear companies.

SoleRebels locally manufactures footwear that infuses Ethiopian cultural styles with hints of western influences. The footwear is greatly inspired by the Barabasso shoe, a traditional Ethiopian shoe with soles made from recycled tires. The Barabasso shoe was worn by rebel fighters who opposed the colonization of the county. This aspect of the design contributes greatly to the name SoleRebels as well as the maintenance of that intrinsic cultural feel that attracts consumers. The shoes manufactured range from comfortable slip-ons, to boots and lace up shoes. They are handcrafted from recycled tires as well as a variety of naturally according resources. Through the use of eco-friendly manufacturing techniques, SoleRebels has 0 carbon production.

SoleRebels shoes are currently sold in over 30 countries worldwide with a flexible price range from $20-$100. The company has become immensely successful, sustainable, and employs over 100 people in Bethlehem’s community; it’s rumored to produce a yearly revenue well-over $1 million. Bethlehem has since received a significant amount of international recognition. She won ‘Most Outstanding Businesswoman’ at the annual African Business Awards and was named ‘Most Valuable Entrepreneur’ at the 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Week. Bethlehem has worked ceaselessly towards her dream and is in the process of building one of the most successful international footwear brands.

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-Joy Otibu


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