By Tadias Staff
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
NewYork (Tadias) – Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder and Managing Director of the eco-fashion footwear company SoleRebels, has been honored as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2011. The honor bestowed each year by the Forum recognizes and acknowledges outstanding young leaders from around the world for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
Bethlehem joins the ranks of a distinguished list of previous winners including Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria, as well as Ethiopian-American supermodel Liya Kebede and journalist Abebe Gellaw.
“On a personal level it is humbling. It’s beyond anything I ever expected,” Bethlehem said in an interview with Tadias. “I am excited because the award represents a recognition of the power of our core aim at soleRebels — to show that development and trade go hand in hand, and that delivering a world class brand to the global marketplace is perhaps the most potent key to creating real and sustained prosperity in Ethiopia.”
Beethlehem, who was born and raised in the Zenabwok (Total) area of Addis Ababa, one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, established soleRebels in 2005 in order to help increase community-based jobs. Since then the venture has created over 75 full time and over 120 part-time jobs while becoming an internationally recognized brand. SoleRebels is now available in major global retail outlets such as Urban Outfitters as well as online including at Endless.com and Amazon.com.
Bethlehem’s company was also winner of the 2010 Eco-Bold Green Award — a recognition of soleRebel’s environmentally friendly, vegan footwear that is produced using indigenous materials such as hand-spun organic cotton and artisan hand-loomed fabric. Tires are also recycled and used for soles.
Asked about her secret to success, Bethlehem says, “My ‘secret to success’ is to be committed 100% to my goals and to the people I have entrusted to help me achieve those goals. Here we are like a big family so an achievement like this is an achievement for each and every person at soleRebels.”
Drawn from a pool of more than 5,000 high level global candidates, the 2011 honorees will become part of the broader Forum of Young Global Leaders community that currently comprises of 660 outstanding individuals. “The World Economic Forum is a true multi-stakeholder community of global decision-makers in which the Young Global Leaders represent the voice for the future and the hopes of the next generation. The diversity of the YGL community and its commitment to shaping a better future through action-oriented initiatives of public interest is even more important at a time when the world is in need of new energy to solve intractable challenges,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
The Young Global Leaders participate in an annual summit – this year it will be taking place in Dalian, China from September 12th through 16th – as well as in additional World Economic Forum events throughout the year. As Young Global Leaders these promising individuals will have the opportunity to engage in initiatives that help build stronger and more diverse communities, and to engender a better understanding of global and regional agendas.
And what’s Bethlehem’s advice to young people worldwide who aspire to become entrepreneurs and business leaders? “I would say have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and the path to get there. Then work hard, and then work extra hard. Seek advice and counsel from diverse places – don’t just stick to one “voice” or source for input. And never ever be deterred no matter the obstacle or the setback. Setbacks and obstacles are a natural part of life. It is how you overcome those obstacles and setbacks that will make you a great person no matter what endeavor you choose to devote yourself to. ”
We congratulate Bethlehem on her accomplishments and wish her continued success.
Photos: Bethlehem addresses the 50th anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund (May 1, 2011)
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels, speaks at the Opening Conference Symposium panel discussion facilitated by Veronica Pedrosa of Al-Jazeera, Malaysia. Speakers left to right are Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels, Orazio Bellittini Cedeno, co-founder & Director of Grupo Faro, and Wang Shi, chairman of China Vanke, at the WWF Annual Conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland on May 1, 2011.
Panel discussion facilitated by Veronica Pedrosa of Al-Jazeera, Malaysia. Speakers left to right: Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Bethlehem Tilahun, Alemu Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels, Orazio Bell.
Yolanda Kakabadse presents Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels with a gift after the Opening Conference Symposium panel discussion facilitated at the WWF Annual Conference in St. Gallen, Switzerland on May 1, 2011.
All images are courtesy of Solerebels.
CNN’s African Voices features Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Watch: Turning old tires into shoes (7:10)
Video: Young SoleRebel (8:07)
Video: Creating window to world market (7:24)