Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the brain behind Sole Rebels, grew up in Zenabwork, a poor village in the suburbs of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

She came up with her business idea after she noticed most of the artisans in her community, who made beautiful footwear, remained jobless and poor.

SoleRebels’ footwear is unique because it is 100 percent made by hand using locally-sourced and recycled materials like old car tyres and hand-loomed organic fabrics.

A few years ago, SoleRebels became the first footwear company in the world to be certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation. By using local craftsmen, Bethlehem has built a global brand and a hugely successful business that has created jobs and improved livelihoods in her local community.

SoleRebels is one of Africa’s most popular footwear brands

1.1 101 Ways To Make Money in Africa 1Today, her company, SoleRebels, is one of the most popular and fastest-growing African footwear brands in the world! It sells its ‘eco-friendly’ brand of footwear in more than 50 countries including the USA, Canada, Japan and Switzerland.

Bethlehem started SoleRebels in 2004 with less than $10,000 in capital she raised from family members.

Today, the company has more than 100 employees and nearly 200 local raw material suppliers, and has opened several standalone retail outlets in North America, Europe and Asia.

Despite its very humble beginnings, Sole Rebels now makes up to $1 million in sales every year, and according to Bethlehem’s projections and expansion plans, the company could be making up to $10 million in sales by 2016.

Buoyed by her success with SoleRebels, Bethlehem will soon be launching Republic of Leather, a new business that will trade in luxury leather products like bags, belts and other non-footwear leather accessories.

Bethlehem was selected as the Young Global Leader of the Year 2011 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was a winner at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship in the same year.

Bethlehem and her inspiring success story with SoleRebels have been featured severally on Forbes, the BBC and CNN.

In the short video below, Bethlehem shares her entrepreneurial journey from a poor community in Ethiopia to the biggest shopping malls in the world…

SoleRebels is leading the footwear revolution in Africa

In a recent article, SoleRebels featured prominently as one of the Top 10 Footwear Brands Making Africa Proud.

Despite her small beginnings, Bethlehem is determined to build one of Africa’s most successful businesses using her ‘green’ brand as leverage to tap into the growing market for environmentally sustainable products.

She confirms that her journey has involved a lot of hard work and challenges but her strong passion has always kept her going.

SoleRebels is another success story of innovative African ideas that can become unique and reputable brands?

Have you been considering a similar idea? What are you doing about it?

Remember, you can find more interesting success stories and business opportunities like this one in the Business ideas section of Smallstarter.

To your success!