Meet Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: Founder of soleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company

BY SUMUR TSEHAYE

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian entrepreneur who grew up in the poor district of Zenabwork in the capital, Addis Ababa.

She is characterized as having an entrepreneurial thirst to develop Africa.

At the age of 25, she embarked on entrepreneurship and launched a shoe company, SoleRebels, a brand of shoes made from recycled tires and cotton.

Bethlehem founded SoleRebels, a footwear company using those cheap and available raw materials with an initial capital investment of $5,000.

She set up the company with only five workers taking the advantage of her neighbor being known for the wealth of its craftsmen.

In 2012, Forbes magazine named the Ethiopian entrepreneur the most influential woman on the African continent.

Having grown up in a poor neighborhood, her ambition was to fight against rising unemployment in Addis Ababa, says Solomon Abera, who is close to her.

“She wanted to take a carrier that would open job opportunities to people around her,” Solomon told The African Dream.

“That is how she launched SoleRebels, a small business but with a broader vision”

At the end of 2015, its international stores in over 20 countries created more than 600 jobs.

The young entrepreneur thirst further managed to propel her business by signing partnerships with e-commerce giants such as Amazon, Endless, Javari, Spartcoo.com.

In addition to her shoe brand, she also launched “The Republic of leather”, a collection of luxury items made from leather.

Her entrepreneurial success has earned her several recognitions.

In 2013, The Guardian named her as one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Africa”

One year later, Forbes named her company as the fastest-growing African brand company.

In 2016, the Ethiopian entrepreneur further launched “Garden of coffee”, in a bid to promote Ethiopia’s specialty coffee beans.

By 2018, SoleRebels had created 1,200 jobs in Ethiopia.

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