Vancouver Ethiopian Blog

Ethiopian life in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Meet Ethiopian Role Model Entrepreneur – Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Old truck tyres never die, they just turn into sandals

What do you do with your old tyre from your car or truck? Chances are you will throw it out in the garbage. No wait! Some one wants it! Yes, a young Ethiopian entrepreneur has made a carrier for herself, and 50 plus of her employees.

Meet an Ethiopian role model – Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – who has combined the Internet’s selling power with nimble business practices more often associated with Asian countries, the idea has been turned into an unlikely international hit. Bethlehem, 30, quit her job as an accountant, to launch Sole Rebels.

Her company, Sole-Rebels, has received an International Fair Trade Certification. This means, she pays her employees decent wages, and follows labour codes. Even her employees have health benefit packages.

Bethlehm’s success has allowed her to expand and construct a solar-powered factory, adjacent to her old factory.

Her suppliers deliver old truck tyres and tubes to her factory; and she has hired women to spin, weave and dye locally-grown cotton, jute and hemp using skills passed down through generations. The results have been astonishing. Sole-Rebels thrived in the global market with no outside support, other than a government line of credit to help meet large orders.

Workers at Bethlehem’s SoleRebels factory — located in the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa — cut, sew and glue to fulfil Internet purchases from customers as far away as Canada and Australia.


Photo: Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, co-founder of SoleRebels,
eco-friendly footwear company from Ethiopia, is highlighted
in this week’s CNN’s African Voices. (Screen shot from CNN)

Bethlehem has sold many thousands of pairs of handmade flip-flops, boat shoes, loafers and Converse-style trainers to foreign customers.

Bethlehem’s great eco-friendly products, are packed and couriered to, the company’s main customer. Amazon receives the products in the United States three to five days after placing its bulk order.

It is amazing to see a small Ethiopian company selling its products in the USA directly, just like any American company.  Bethlehem says, “We are sitting in Addis Ababa, but acting like an American company”.

Bethlehem’s sales target for 2010 is an impressive US $450,000, but her ultimate goal is far loftier: to become “the Timberland or Skechers of Africa“.

CNN has featured Bethlehem in its African Voices Series just this week.

You can watch the videos in the following links:

Bethlehem summarizes her business model as, “Roots, Culture, Tires.” The shoes are created using indigenous practices such as hand-spun organic cotton and artisan hand-loomed fabric. Tires are also recycled and used for soles. The end result is environmental friendly, vegan footwear. “Historically that is the way things have been done,” and it not only makes great sense to continue the tradition, it also has generated income for local artisans.

Sole-Rebels’ website is found here:

Congratulations to our dear sister, Bethlehem.

My next blog entry will be on Thursday June 10, 2010.
Mullkam Samint!


June 3, 2010 - Posted by | Ethiopian Businesses, Ethiopian Careers, Ethiopian Citizenship, Ethiopian Culture, Ethiopian Education, Ethiopian History, Ethiopian Investments, Ethiopian Media, Ethiopian Parenting, Ethiopian Patriotism, Ethiopian Politics, Ethiopian Proverbs, Ethiopian Relationships, Ethiopian Religions, Ethiopian Socials, Ethiopians & Technology, Ethiopians Back Home, Ethiopians in Vancouver | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Astonishing, an accountant has given so much back to her community. Reminds me of the Micro-lending practices that have lead to so much growth in impoverished countries. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Shmit Lorrie, Tucker, GA | August 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. amaizing betty! i think it a great acheivement and initiation that can change thousands of life and we should learn and follow your footsteps… keep it up

    Comment by tilahun zeray | November 7, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hi, Betelhem I am very proud of U for your Success, Before 10 years we were friends while U were studing at Library

    Comment by Assefa Hailu | March 14, 2011 | Reply

  4. good work

    Comment by vusa | July 28, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: