10 years on, SoleRebels, a rapidly emerging footwear maker based in Ethiopia, is increasingly distancing its from its humble beginning as a simple community project to a reputable international brand, attaining another milestone by unveiling a new international store in Silicon Valley, a home to global tech brands such as Apple.

This month, the eco-friendly footwear brand, founded by renowned Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu will see its first US store begin operation in the popular Westfield Valley Fair Mall, a major retail destination in San Jose, California.

The birth of SoleRebels’ flagship store at the United States makes the Ethiopian shoe maker the first African consumer brand to open a stand-alone retail outlet in the United States after successfully flagging off over 15 stores across Africa, Asia and the Europe.

“I am totally vibed to open our first US SoleRebels store in Silicon Valley,” Bethlehem said, describing the new outlet as “a place that epitomized the creativity, innovation, craziness, disruption and the overall WALK NAKED ethos that SoleRebels is all about.”

“Silicon Valley is the epicenter of all these things and so it’s the perfect place to launch our US retail store business and I imagine there are quite a few folks in and around Silicon Valley who can’t wait to be able to ‘walk naked,” she added.

From Ethiopia's humble community to mixing with the big wigs in Silicon Valley
From Ethiopia’s humble community to mixing with the big wigs in Silicon Valley

In four years time, Bethlehem plans to open 50 stand alone SoleRebels stores across the United States and scale up its global footprint to 500.

Bethlehem, an accountant turn footwear entrepreneur, created SoleRebels as a way of unlocking entrepreneurial energy in her community, Zenabwork – a small village in the outskirt of Addis Ababa. She was inspired to turn the unexploited artisan skill of the community to a worldwide eco-sensible product.

SoleRebels is a re-invention of the renowned Selate and Barabasso shoe worn by the then Ethiopian rebels who were vehemently opposed to western colonialisation.

The hand-crafted footwear are made from recycled weather-beaten car tires with series of recycled and sustainable ingredient like handspun organic cotton, hand loomed organic fabrics and a palette unique natural fibers including pure organic Abyssinian jutes and pure Abyssinian koba plants.

As the first green global footwear brand to emerge from a developing country and the first World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) Fairtrade Certified footwear company in the world, SoleRebels expects to generate over $10 million by 2016.

However the continuous launch of new stores across the globe may spur the company’s revenue growth farther.

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