Ethiopian Bethlehem Tilahan Alema, the founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels has taken the global shoe industry by storm.
She turned a small enterprise into a multi-million dollar baby that gives her community in Addis Ababa, a sense of hope and a chance to improve their living conditions. She established SoleRebels in 2004 as a fair-trade company that manufactures eco-sensitive shoes.
Being raised in a community where finding a job is extremely difficult and stressful, she noted that majority of the community who were unemployed possessed artisan skills and were more than capable of designing and creating fashionable clothing pieces. With no capital to begin her company, she opted to get financial assistance from her husband and family relatives. Bethlehem selected shoes because footwear was an excellent platform to begin to share many of the indigenous eco-sensible craft heritages and artisan talents in Ethiopia with the world.
SoleRebels makes about $1-million in annual revenue, and estimates it to grow tenfold by 2016. SoleRebel won the 2011 Africa award for entrepreneurship of the year and Bethlehem was named one of Africa’s most powerful women in business under 40.
Bethlehem took what was the most effective and sensible route in building her dream and she has undoubtedly ensured sustainability, economic resurgence and cultural preservation.