#1:. Sole Rebels (Ethiopia)
SoleRebels is arguably the most popular and fastest-growing African footwear brand in the world! It’s no surprise we featured it in our recent book; “101 Ways To Make Money in Africa.” It sells its ‘eco-friendly’ brand of footwear in more than 50 countries; including the USA, Canada, Japan and Switzerland.
Bethlehem Alemu started SoleRebels in 2004 with less than $10,000 in capital she raised from family members. 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.
Today, Solerebels 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, SoleRebels 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.
SoleRebels’ footwear are unique because they are 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.
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.