Good Magazine’s GOOD 100 List: Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu of Ethiopia

Bethlehem Tilahun AlemuRESOURCEFUL REBEL
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, not only surrounded by poverty, but also by many skilled craftspeople and a rich, valuable cultural heritage. “We decided to create the ‘better life’ we were all waiting for by harnessing our community’s incredible artisan skills and channeling them into a sustainable, global, fair trade footwear business,” Alemu says.
That business is soleRebels, a shoe company named for the Ethiopian fighters who expelled their would-be Western colonizers in the 1930s and famously wore shoes made of old car tires. Carrying on this tradition soleRebels, uses a resourceful range of recycled materials, but it also transcends this utilitarian past. The company produces high-quality sandals, slip-ons, and lace-up shoes, and it has become the first—and, so far, the only—global branded retail chain from a developing country.