2014 FACE List Honorees
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is Founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world's fastest-growing African footwear brand and first to emerge from a developing nation; it is also the first WFTO Fair Trade-certified footwear company.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born and raised in the Zenabwork/Total area of Addis-Ababa, one of the most impoverished and marginalized communities of Ethiopia. Growing up Bethlehem saw that Ethiopia had plenty of charity “brands” but not a single global brand of its own. So she set out to change all that. Tapping into her community and the nation’s rich artisan wealth and heritages, Bethlehem set about re-imagining what footwear could be.
In early 2005 , fresh out of college in addis-ababa , Bethlehem founded the trailblazing footwear company SoleRebels to provide solid community-based jobs. Flash forward five years, many shoes and hundreds of creative, dignified and well paying jobs later, SoleRebels is the planets fastest growing African footwear brand, the world’s first and only World Fair Trade Federation [WFTO] FAIR TRADE certified footwear company and the very 1st global footwear brand to ever emerge from a developing nation !
Through soleRebels, Tihahun Alemu has created hundreds of well-paid jobs in Ethiopia that have not only empowered her community and country, but has presented a dynamic face of African creativity to the global market. She continues to shift the discourse on African development from one of poverty alleviation to one about prosperity creation driven by local Africans maximizing their talents and resources.
Tilahun Alemu was the first female African entrepreneur to address the Clinton Global Initiative and was named Outstanding African Business Woman by African Business Awards in 2011. She was listed on Forbes magazine’s 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa in 2011 and named one of Africa’s Most Successful Women in 2012.