Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is one of Africa’s most celebrated businesswomen. The international media seemingly can’t get enough of this founder of soleRebels, an Ethiopian-based footwear company. She has won numerous entrepreneurship awards, posing in pictures with the likes of Richard Branson, and regularly speaks at conferences across the world. For many people, Alemu has become a poster child of Africa’s changing economic fortunes and women entrepreneurship on the continent.
SoleRebels shoes are made by Ethiopian artisans at a factory in the capital Addis Ababa. The company is the world’s first fair trade certified footwear brand. “At our core we at soleRebels are creative artisans who aim to craft the coolest and most comfortable footwear,” says Alemu. “In a world of faceless production-line assembled … shoes, soleRebels proudly stands apart and offers a much desired alternative. Our business model centres on eco-sensibility and community empowerment; product design and development involve a great deal of effort to achieve fashionable and appealing quality products that use local materials.”
The company was founded in 2005. It has a flagship retail store in Addis Ababa, although the majority of sales are generated online.
During an interview with How we made it in Africa in May this year, Alemu described her strategy to open soleRebels outlets throughout the world. Over the weekend, the company achieved an important milestone with the launch of its first stand alone branded retail store in Taiwan.
Read more: How We Made it in Africa