Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the founder and managing director of SoleRebels, one of Africa’s fastest-growing footwear brands, and the founder of sourcing firm Made by Ethiopia.
The Addis Ababa-born entrepreneur launched her shoe brand in 2005, commissioning local craftspeople to use mostly indigenous and recycled materials. Though her original inspiration came from traditional selate and barabasso shoes with rubber soles, she expanded to modern artisanal styles in leather before launching ranges in plant fibres. By 2016, Alemu was exporting to 45 countries and had grown her retail footprint from a single flagship in Ethiopia to a network of her own stores in countries including Switzerland, Spain, Japan and Singapore.
After the serial entrepreneur launched luxury leather outerwear brand Republic of Leather, she opened Made by Ethiopia, a venture which sees her brokering contracts between global footwear brands and factories in Ethiopia, an emerging sourcing and manufacturing hub. Alemu became the first female African entrepreneur known to address the Clinton Global initiative in 2010. She addressed the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2016 and is an alumna of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum.