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Ethiopian Businesswoman Takes On Markets Abroad With Her Shoeline

posted 8 Mar 2013, 13:01 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Mar 2013, 13:02 ]

Ethiopian entrepreneur, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu runs the SoleRebels shoe factory which makes shoes and sandals from recycled car tyres for sale. The company which started in 2004 has grown to produce over 70,000 pairs of shoes today and is now targeting markets in Asia and Euro

 ADDIS ABABAETHIOPIA ( (REUTERS) -  SoleRebels is a green footwear company based in Addis Ababa, that provides a wide range of unique colourful shoes, for customers looking for shoes made out of recycled materials like used car tyres as well as natural handmade fabrics.

Thirty-three-year old Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the brains behind the business. She started the brand in 2004, with an investment of about 10,000 US dollars raised by family members.

She says her shoes are inspired by the traditional barabasso sandals, once popular among rebels in the country who fought against colonialism in the 1930's.

The trendy shoes come in different modern designs and go for between 35 to 95 U.S. dollars a pair.

"You can see Sole Rebels as an innovative company, because we had a culture of doing things but we innovate something new by tapping on that culture that we had and by tapping in to the materials that we have here in Ethiopia," said Alemu.

The entrepreneur has managed to market her brand abroad through retailers in over 50 countries including JapanCanada and Australia.

"We want to have branded stores just like other brands out there in the world. So we started with Taiwan and we already opened three stores. We are going to open in Singapore in April and then we are going to open in Switzerland and other places also. So by doing that we are accelerating the revenue that we can get from outside to Ethiopia and we are giving more job opportunities for the community."

Alemu, a trained accountant says it's not been easy building the brand abroad but she is happy with the progress made so far.

The entrepreneur is targeting the high demand for eco-suitable products abroad to expand her business.

SoleRebels has been certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation and is said to be the world's first fair trade green footwear company.

Alemu is one of Africa's top female entrepreneurs today.

She has received various international and regional awards for her work.

She was also listed as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa in 2011, byForbes magazine, making over 1 million US dollars in revenue every year.

The company manufactures about 800 shoes every day in a production line that has about 100 staff members, who make the shoes.

About 300 suppliers then distribute the footwear across the country.

Sintayehu Abebe is the production and quality control manager at SoleRebels.

"It was not like this when we started. We started in a small room but from time to time it kept growing up and here we are. We hope to expand to in the future to a large scale and produce more by employing more staff. Obviously we had a speedy growth and change," he said.

Alemu is working on plans to expand her business and open a bigger factory where she can increase production and employment opportunities for youth in the country.