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hopes + dreams


[] our roots []
     dear friends
        my name is bethlehem tilahun alemu and i am the founder and managing director of soleRebels [bostex plc] here in addis ababa . it is my immense pleasure to introduce myself and soleRebels to you.

      for us here at soleRebels creating great footwear is also a means of creating hope. this is the concept behind soleRebels.

     soleRebels began in 2004 as an idea: to bring jobs to our community, Zenabwork , a small village in addis ababa , ethiopia, a place where there literally were none  . 

        having grown up watching our  family and neighbors struggling, 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. We have done that and more and we are proud to say that the  soleRebels brand is being enjoyed by people in over 10 countries around the world.

        we selected shoes because we saw that footwear was an excellent platform to begin to share many  of the indigenous eco-sensible craft heritages  and artisan talents  that we have here in Ethiopia with the world ! It also meant that based on the approach we were taking to footwear creation – that being hand crafted and eco-sensible - that we could source and make almost ALL our materials locally thereby creating an export product from 100% local inputs.

     and this  allowed us to   riff ,   recreate  and re-imagine  the traditional “selate” and “barabasso”  shoes , a recycled  car tire  soled shoe that has existed in Ethiopia for  a LONG time  [ in fact it was THE footwear from  back in the day when the ORIGINAL  “soleRebels” fought off the invading forces and kept Ethiopia as  the only    African nation to never be colonized!  ]    .    

     we  took  this  wonderful indigenous age-old recycling tradition and  fused it   with  fantastic  Ethiopian artisan crafts  and excellent modern design sensibilities and turned it into footwear  that has universal flavor + appeal that is now  a market beating export brand being  enjoyed by people around the globe!!!!   

       we   carry on  that original  riff everyday   growing the styles, the product range, the quality and the brand.  soleRebels    features  collections of  superFresh , comfy + cool sandals ,  flip flops and shoes   featuring  recycled car tire soles      and an array of recycled and sustainable ingredients like hand spun + hand loomed organic fabrics and a pallete of unique natural fibers including organic  pure abyssinian jutes      and PURE Abyssinian KOBA

  DISCOVERY  CHANNEL presenter Summer Rayne Oakes even recently named soleRebels  the world's COOLEST  FAIR TRADE   BRAND []click and see[]

 while  leading  eco fashion web magazine greenMUZE called us the most fabulous eco shoemaker on the planet!!! []click and see[]  

we were honored that SoleRebels was recently dubbed ,' Ethiopian answer to 'Nike'  []click +read[] an idea that raced around the  world from the U.K.  []click +read[]  to China   []click +read[]  to Japan  []click +read[]  and on to Malaysia []click +read[]!!!


Trading towards Hope + Development

        soleRebels is based on the revolutionary idea that to truly enjoy lasting development  , developing nation producers  MUST  create , grow and control successful global brands and the equity developed in them  , the very same formula that global brands in developed nations  have so successfully deployed to build themselves and their countries…..

     In the period since our  founding in 2004 , soleRebels has not only emerged as  ethiopia’s leading eco-ethical footwear brand  and one of the leading  one’s globally  but we are also  the first WFTO/IFAT  FAIR TRADE certified Fair Trade footwear  firm in Ethiopia and the  #1 footwear  exporter to the US market . this marks  us    as   the TIP of a changing dynamic   in Ethiopia , a historic and vital  shift away from AID  and towards  TRADE as well as a critical PUSH to control our  destiny by  exporting higher value branded finished goods instead of low value commodity exports .    we are  now sold by many leading   retailers  who have backed us from day one! 

      Our ambition is nothing less than to continue to nurture soleRebels into a market  leading global footwear brand, a deeply  important first for a developing world country like ethiopia , and a feat which  holds the seeds of greater shared prosperity here .

      to best appreciate the significance of a global footwear brand emerging from a country like ethiopia , we always say to people  just pause for a moment and  imagine the deep economic uplift + distributed benefits + PROSPERITY that become  possible here in ethiopia  as soleRebels becomes possibly   the TIMBERLAND or the ADDIDAS or the NIKE  or the PUMA of ethiopia or Africa  !!!  

[] Imagine the jobs that are created allowing more highly marginalized community residents the chance at a decent life ! 

[] Imagine the ever enlarging WEB OF SUPPLIERS that are nurtured and who grow and prosper as we grow ! 

[] Imagine the communities that are elevated and SUSTAINABLE PROSPERITY that's created as we CONTINUE to be able to offer more employment AND HIGHER VALUE EMPLOYMENT as we add designers, marketing mangers, production Vice Presidents etc!  

[] Imagine the foreign exchange growth our country can experience, foreign exchange that DIRECTLY assists in the overall development of the nation allowing us to develop our OWN solutions OUT of  poverty!   

  Building &  controlling 100% of a GLOBAL brand as we have been doing ,  holds exactly these types of exciting  possibilities . and THAT is real + true + lasting +sustainable development!! 

  And we are on track to do just this.  soleRebels is accomplishing what we set out to do having created more than 140 jobs in Zenabwork and  IGNITING  MAJOR  growth for many local suppliers.


Uniquely GREEN by heritage

        I think the idea of a “green business” is a bit of a fad-dish   label that doesn’t express the value of who and what we are.  a better  way of understanding who we are and why we do what we do   is this :
      soleRebels  is  as an innovative and ethical company committed to creating world class footwear and apparel products , great community  based   jobs   while utilizing the immense  ,  diverse  ,  sustainable   and eco-sensible  materials and cultural arts of Ethiopia that are by their very nature “GREEN” and have always been.

       We use the terms like “historically eco-sensible” and “green by heritage”   to describe this phenomenon. We do so because we want to express the KEY fact that we are embracing these deeply sustainable and TRADITIONALLY ZERO CARBON methods of production NOTbecause it’s the IN THING , or because we held a focus group  or because some marketing genius named Bernie told us to be “GREEN” . We embrace these production methodologies , materials  ,  ideas and ethos’  because they are integral parts  of ethiopia’s cultural fabric , a tradition   which  we grew up within and feel passionately about preserving . and best of all these methods and materials have stood the test of time and are by their essence sustainable and low impact.

     I grew up  watching members of my family   hand spin cotton with an INZERT- the traditional wooden hand drop spindle used here in Ethiopia for centuries to spin cotton .   I spun many rolls  with my mom .  cotton culture runs deep here in ethiopia , one of the last authentically organic environments where cotton is grown , and the ART of hand spinning of cotton in this manner   dates back millennia here and our artisans are among the finest .

    So In addition to recycled car tire soles     all our styles   incorporate as much recycled + sustainable materials as possible with ingredients like  hand spun+hand loomed organic cotton fabrics []click and see[]  and a pallete of unique natural fibers including Abyssinian HEMP and PURE Abyssinian KOBA  ,  pure abyssinian jutes  and Abyssinian PURE leathers . all our shoes are handcrafted making it a TRULY ZERO carbon production process ! Our products are made in this  low-impact manner because proudly,   historically that is the  way it’s been done here in Ethiopia!

     roots. culture. tires.  is the  way we summarize  this  ethos of historic eco-sensibility  where great products are made  in a lo impact manner because historically that is they way that things have been done . IT makes great sense given that we have so many talented hands here in ethiopia  that are too often idle  because of lack of opportunity and hand works creates  great things . this ethos is   a major point of affinity  for consumersworldwide  and a  BIG  reason  why soleRebels has  been embraced by folks  from boston to beijing!!!!!

     Our packaging is made from recycled shipping cartons and pairs are shipped in re-useable hand loomed cotton bags. soleRebels also minimizes production waste by making innovative POP display units from scrap and natural materials as well as re-using waste in  production   with  our    repurposing of production waste materials into  production inputs , we come very close to our   over riding goal of a near ZERO waste effect from production   .

      We are NOW  about  to begin construction of  a “ state of the arts”  production facility .  Built with indigenous  eco-sensible materials  and employing 100% renewable and self generating power , this  unique 1st of its kind  production facility   will serve   as a  leading innovation center, allowing  us   to develop  the cultural wealth of the country while simultaneously  expanding  and enhancing  our  own production capabilities .  this facility will   allow us as a  company to expand on  ethiopia’s  unique indigenous ZERO CARBON production methodologies and inputs - like hand spinning and hand looming  heritage organic cottons- while also  serving  as a destination showcase  for  our global buyers and other key partners . here we will can  showcase our products and production methods while  offering  unique set of services like real-time design and production services for parties seeking  zero carbon fair trade footwear  production.

     paying tribute to this unique heritage you will see on all our product sheets and product tags our symbol - the ancient and exalted koba plant []click + see[] - an indigenous plant cultivated here in ethiopia  for over  10,000 years ! we chose this as our brand symbol as it represents enduring and  amazing qualities. a marvel of natural efficiency every  part of the koba plant has a use. its fibers are used in  the creation of many wonderful creations including many of our products ; its roots provide food in times of food shortage ; it is self re-generating once harvested ,  requires little water to grow and no chemical inputs.    that's why we call it the freedom tree + the treeofhope . the koba plant . cool. effective . resource friendly. just like us…

Fair Trade Pioneers

     Everyone today is concerned about reducing  their carbon footprint , which is   great!!  And at soleRebels we also believe that people around the world  want MUCH more from their brands . They want to see that  the company  that makes the products cares  AS MUCH  about the people who MAKE THEIR PRODUCTS as they do about reducing their  footprint on the world.  WE BELIEVE preserving our environment PLUS  real concern for   workers is real style and something that   NEVER GOES OUT OF FASHION !

    We believe that  soleRebels’ message resonates with people today more than ever as consumers   look  for more compelling reasons to buy products and embrace brands . As the worlds 1st WFTO/IFAT  FAIR TRADE certified Fair Trade footwear company ,  we believe  soleRebels offers something unique and compelling both in terms of products and the ethos  of soleRebels.  

     while we’ve ALWAYS practiced Fair Trade from DAY 1 of the company’s birth , the IFAT accreditation lets consumers know IN A verifiable manner that the  entire company behind the product is fair trade   committed – wages, working condition , environment. Everything.   while many companies claim to be fair trade firms they have not gone through the rigorous auditing to become IFAT members, the most transparent ,  rigorous  and provable method to truly prove their fair trade credentials to all   !

     I’m proud to say that  we’ve   managed to get some great accolades along the way . like in  August when Hilary Clinton hailed us in the recent 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum held August 5th in  Kenya []click and see about midway down the page [] mentioning our status as  Ethiopia’s pioneering and to date ONLY  footwear exporter to break into the US market !   And then we were chosen as africas #1 COOLEST  FAIR TRADE BRAND by DISCOVERY  CHANNEL presenter Summer Rayne Oakes on the  HUFFINGTON POST.  Who says you can’t be eco AND fair and COOL !!

    Our men’s and women’s styles range from   flip-flops Mary Janes with braided hemp details and beach-ready, casual slip-ons. Colors vary from neutral-toned basics to bold-hued stripes to bright rasta-colored versions, and retail prices fall between $35 and $60 so its  affordable and accessible  for everyone.

        soleRebels  b*knd label  is great for vegans and veggies and anyone who enjoys a cruelty-free, great-looking shoe .


soleRebels = living PROOF that grassroots African entrepreneurs are THE key to sustainable development

      We founded this company to bring job opportunities to some of the most marginalized citizens in our nation , people who coincidentally happen to be our neighbors and relatives. in addition we are  helping to preserve important local culture while giving  citizens a sense of pride and doing this as  we blast  amazing footwear to our worldwide customers !   we are proud of what we have accomplished , determined to do ever more  and are honored by the support of we have received from retail buyers and consumers for our great products.

      Best of all soleRebels model provides a living and breathing example of what can happen when young + motivated  grassroots African entrepreneurs take on the global market , compete and win . Africa + ETHIOPIA IN PARTICULAR, desperately needs more TRADE and NOT more AID or CHARITY   [ sorry Bob + BONO   time to  face it: Charity may feel nice BUT it never created sustained prosperity for the recipients. And we won’t get started on the “poverty alleviation” stuff because really all that’s about is moving the dial on some meaningless number that has NOTHING to do with creating jobs and self-directed+ self-controlled prosperity ,  which is what we want and what is needed  ! ]
       Only then, with sufficient financial resources evenly spread, can we begin to bask in the self satisfaction that comes from financing the solutions to our own problems and not having them ALWAYS financed from outside. Trade IS such an essential KEY to Africa’s upliftment as it is the key to job creation , income realization and ultimately ,   if conducted on the right terms , that all too elusive thing that sustains us all – hope.
World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick recently  visited SoleRebels  and SUPPORTED this idea in full , hailing  soleRebels as an exemplary social enterprise that is helping Ethiopia and other African nations overcome the effects of the global financial crisis.

     Today, Africa accounts for a mere two percent of global trade. If Sub-Saharan Africa were to increase that share by only one percent, it would generate additional export revenues each year greater than the total amount of annual assistance that Africa currently receives. We simply need the opportunity to increase our market share, something EVERY GOOD STRONG GLOBAL business seeks to do.   soleRebels , with our great buyers and customers embrace of our brand  ,  are doing just that ! Now THAT is great reason for hope!

     so have fun ,  help others and be proud that you are making the world a better place. one step at a time.  and really , what more could you ask from your shoes  …..

Very best

bethlehem tilahun alemu                                                   

co-founder   + managing director

soleRebels [bostex plc]

box 21033   *    addis ababa  *  ethiopia  *  Abyssinia

email []

web  []

tel []  251-0911 110848

 soleRebels - protecting your precious feet  + our precious PLANET [ and makin' you look XTRA good in the process….]

*proudly fair trading since we started + now proudly WFTO/IFAT  FAIR TRADE certified