Source: ILO Newsroom | March 3, 2015
ADDIS ABABA — As part of International Women's Day celebrations ILO News spoke to Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, a young Ethiopian entrepreneur who has created one of the world’s fastest growing footwear brands by betting on decent work. “It was pretty basic. We self-financed. Five workers plus myself working inside a workshop situated on my grandmother’s plot of land inside our village of Zenabwork,” recalls Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, now CEO and managing director of soleRebels, one of the first global footwear brands to emerge from a developing country.
Read the full ILO News interview with Bethlehem here.
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world's fastest-growing African footwear brand and the only Fair Trade-certified footwear company in the world. Growing up in a poor suburb of Addis Ababa, Bethlehem decided 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 and today 70,000 pairs of shoes leave her factory every year. soleRebels has been expanding rapidly and has 18 stores around the world, including in Silicon Valley (USA), Japan, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Spain and Switzerland, along with an aggressive e-commerce marketing strategy. It expects to open another 50 to 60 stores in next 18 to 36 months. In 2015, Bethlehem launched an new venture, Republic of Leather, offering bespoke, hand crafted Leather wear and accessories.
Bethlehem was the first female African entrepreneur to address the Clinton Global Initiative; was named Outstanding African Business Woman by African Business Awards in 2011; and was named one of the top 12 women entrepreneurs of the last century by CNN. Bethlehem is a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship also sits on the board of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).