Bethlehem The first footwear firm to receive a WFTO Fair Trade certification, soleRebels was founded and is managed by Tilahun Alemu. It is the fastest-growing African footwear brand in the world. Through soleRebels, Tihahun Alemu has empowered her neighborhood and nation by generating hundreds of well-paying employment in Ethiopia. She has also shown the world a vibrant side of African innovation.
She keeps changing the conversation on African development from one focused on reducing poverty to one about prosperity creation propelled by local Africans making the most of their skills and resources.
Tilahun Alemu received the 2011 Outstanding African Business Woman Award from the African Business Awards and was the first female African entrepreneur to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. She was one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa selected by Forbes magazine in 2011 and one of the continent’s Most Successful Women in 2012.
With thirty nations of distribution and one hundred staff, SoleRebels has thrived and sold to market titans like Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters, and Amazon.
Plans were for the opening of company-owned and franchised outlets in Austria, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK. Alemu sought to use Ethiopia’s natural riches and artisanal skills to produce prosperous jobs with good pay. The decision to use footwear as the company’s initial product was made later.
Alemu was motivated by the seleate or barabasso, the traditional Ethiopian shoe made with a recycled tire sole, and decided to center her business on shoes.