Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu an Ethiopian business woman born 1980, founder and executive director of soleRebels, Africa’s “fastest growing footwear company”. Alemu was born in the Zenebework area of Addis Ababa in 1980, the eldest of four 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. Growing up in a small neighborhood in Addis Ababa, beloved entrepreneur Bethlemen Tilahun Alemu discovered that most people in her community were living in poverty and that some of them possessed artisan skills. Spurred by this realization, she sought to find a way to translate the skills of her people into a business, and thus SoleRebels was born, in 2004.
The eco-friendly footwear manufacturer creates hundreds of local jobs. Alemu has received honors and accolades for her business acumen, as well as her efforts to shift the discourse on Africa away from poverty to the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit, social capital, and economic potential. Not only has Bethlehem’s company grown to be one of the largest footwear companies in Africa, but it has also become a successful world class venture, with flagship stores in Taiwan, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, U.S, Singapore, Japan and many other countries.
Bethlehem has received a number of accolades for the work she has done to empower the Ethiopian youth with opportunities. In 2011, the 36-year-old entrepreneur made it into the World Economic Forum’s list of Young Global Leaders.
She’s also been named by Forbes as one of 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, and one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. In 2014 Alemu launched “The Republic of Leather”, designing sustainable luxury leather goods, and “Garden of Coffee” retail outlets to promote Ethiopian coffees. In 2016 the company sold 125,000 pairs of shoes and it had created 1,200 jobs.