Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is Founder and Managing Director of soleRebels, the world’s fastestgrowing African footwear brand and world’s first Fair Trade-certified footwear company. 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. It expects to open another 50 to 60 stores in next 18 to 36 months. In 2015, Bethlehem launched a new venture, Republic of Leather, offering bespoke, hand crafted leather wear and accessories.
Bethlehem has received numerous international honours and awards. In 2013, she placed 4th on CNN’s list of Top 12 Women Entrepreneurs of the last century, was named as one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women to watch by FORBES Magazine in 2012, and was the first female African entrepreneur to address the Clinton Global Initiative (2010). Bethlehem was also appointed as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship. She studied Accounting at Unity University, has a PhD in Commerce from Jimma University, Ethiopia, and a degree in Organizational Leadership from Harvard University, United States.