Saturday, October 25, 2014
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu-Founder of soleRebels Footwear Co.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian businesswoman, founder and executive director of soleRebels, Africa's fastest growing footwear company. Only 34 as of 2014, Alemu has received a slew of honors and accolades for her business acumen, as well as her efforts to shift the discourse on Africa away from poverty alleviation by external actors and instead highlight the entrepreneurial spirit, social capitol, and vast economic potential of the continent, and Ethiopia in particular. Alemu recently launched a second company, The Republic of Leather, focusing on custom-designed sustainable luxury leather goods
. Alemu was born in the Zenebework area of Addis Ababa in 1980, the eldest of 4 siblings. Her parents worked at a local hospital. Alemu attended public primary and secondary schools, and then went on to study accounting at Unity University, graduating in 2004. In early 2005, fresh out of college, Alemu founded soleRebels to provide ecologically and economically sustainable jobs for her local community. The company began out of a workshop on a plot of land owned by Alemu's grandmother in Zenebework. SoleRebels has since flourished, growing to over 100 employees, with distribution to over 30 countries worldwide, selling to market kingmakers Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and Amazon. Alemu wanted to create well-paid jobs which could create sustained prosperity by utilizing the artisan talents and natural resources of Ethiopia, first and foremost.
In 2011 Alemu was chosen by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.
In 2011 Alemu won a prestigious Legatum Africa Award for Entrepreneurship.
In 2012 Alemu was included on Forbes '100 Most Powerful' and profiled as a "Woman to Watch."
In 2012 Alemu was named by Business Insider as one of "Africa's Top 5 Female Entrepreneurs."
In 2013 Alemu was chosen by readers of The Guardian as one of "Africa's Top Women Achievers."
In 2014 Alemu was named as one of CNN's "12 Female Entrepreneurs Who Changed the Way We Do Business."