Ethiopian shoemaker takes great strides

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eight years ago Ethiopia’s Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu decided to sell cool colourful shoes made of recycled materials, including car tyres.

The company which she started, SoleRebels, would soon become the planet’s first fair trade green footwear firm – certified by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) – and is now one of Ethiopia’s most thriving businesses.

At the moment it sells its products in 55 countries, mostly through individual retailers, and its biggest markets are in Austria, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. The shoes are also sold online.

It all started in Zenabwork, the poor community in the outskirts of Addis Ababa where she was born.

“My mum and my father have been working hard. I grew up watching them,” she told the BBC series African Dream.

“My father is an electrician and my mother works in a hospital. They have really been building us to work with whatever we have. So I watched my parents; they’re a model for me to follow in their steps.”

Having trained as an accountant, she decided to venture into the shoemaking business when she realised that many talented artisans in her neighbourhood were unemployed.

Source: BBC (link opens in a new window)