“SoleRebels is like hip-hop, something that started really small and today can be found in every country on the planet.”
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world's fastest-growing African footwear brand and also the first Fair Trade-certified footwear company in the world. Growing up in a poor suburb of Addis Ababa, Bethlehem realised that there was only one way to defeat poverty – use local craftsmanship to make products that can compete in the global marketplace. She decided on footwear. Shoes are traditionally made in Ethiopia in a very special way: from indigenous jutes, recycled coffee sacks, organically tanned leather and the treads of car tyres for the soles. Bethlehem started off with five shoemakers. Today 70,000 pairs of shoes leave her factory every year. The colourful shoes are popular in the west, too, especially among a young, fashion-conscious, urban clientele. For years now soleRebels has been expanding and today exports to no fewer than 45 countries. A small global brand – and the only one with its flagship store in Addis Ababa.