Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the Founder and CEO of iconic footwear brand soleRebels, the planets fastest growing footwear brand from Africa, and the founder & creator of Republic of Leather a super cool new company that is changing the way people around the world buy & love luxury leather goods.
From the humblest of beginnings, Bethlehem has risen to global acclaim building soleRebels into the very 1st global Omni channel consumer brand to emerge from an emerging market country. In the process she has forever shifted the discourse on African development from one of poverty alleviation orchestrated by external actors, to one about prosperity creation driven by local Africans maximizing their talents and resources.
CNN recently named Bethlehem one of the 12 greatest female entrepreneurs of the last century alongside COCO Chanel and Sara Blakely calling her “an entrepreneur who has redefined markets” for her ground-breaking influence ; FORBES Magazine listed her on their World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list – Woman to Watch; Business Insider ranked her #1 of The Top 5 Entrepreneur’s in Africa; Fast Company named her The Most Creative People in Business 1000. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (YGL) and the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship.
I Am Driven By | we like to say that soleRebels is hand crafted LOVE for your feet. And LOVE is how we got started. We wanted to find a way to share our LOVE for the amazing artisan heritages of Ethiopia with the world. So we embarked on a quest to hand-craft stunningly creative footwear by fusing Ethiopian artisan heritages with fantastic design. And the LOVE flowed from there. Keeping this idea alive and vibrant drives me
A Key Talent | Have a clear vision of what you are trying to do, then map out the path to get there and prepare to walk that path no matter what comes. Along the way be flexible and responsive to the challenges and issues that emerge but be steadfast in your vision.
The Characteristics Of Success | I believe it’s a combination of many things:
Empathy – a good leader has to be able to empathize with the issues of those they are leading
Determination – this is key. There are many times when it would have been easy to pack it in but I was and am determined to keep accomplishing the goals I have laid out
Principles I Live By | Integrity is key. Without that you really have nothing
Compassion – it’s very important to be able to relate to the struggles of others
Critical Skills I Develop | I am a big believer that nothing is ever perfect so I am always looking for ways to improve what we do as a company and as a brand. That drives us as an organization to constantly ask: “how can we do THIS better” and that better relates as much to the products we make as it does to the people who MAKE those product.
How I Use My Mind | I like to visualize goals in my own private space. I try and make it as a real as possible so that it is almost tangible to me. That gives these goals an immediacy and realness both for me and for my team that allows people to really chase that idea or goal in a very visceral way.
Lessons I Have Learnt | The biggest lesson I have learned is don’t take anything or anyone for granted. Success is something that needs constant work and upkeep.
Dealing With Doubt | I always try and confront whatever issue I am facing with honesty, understanding and strength. That allows me to address and overcome most issues that have arisen, be they challenges in business or in my own personal life.
Performing At My Peak | Exercise – that’s key!
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I like to read widely- everything from Malcolm Gladwell’s books to biographies about Steve Jobs! I also like to read about history as it puts our challenges and monetary struggles in a much wider perspective.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I want to see a soleRebels store in every country on the planet so that people can experience what it means to WALK NAKED!
Advice On Building Wealth | I would say to define wealth and richness on your own terms. Understand what it means to you to be “rich” or “wealthy” according to your philosophy of life. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that living modestly brings the greatest richness to your life on so many levels.
On Inspiring Others | I am always engaging with people on my team , finding out what they need to make them better at what they do, and what makes them happier. This lets us have an incredible level of overall team happiness and leads to long term team members.
I am also always on the lookout for talented people who may have never been given a shot at doing something BUT who I can see have talent that just needs an opportunity. I love that process and have experienced that many times in our company.