From the humblest of beginnings, Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has built SoleRebels into the planet’s fastest growing African footwear brand and the very first global footwear brand to ever emerge from a developing nation – all from scratch.
A trailblazer in every respect, Bethlehem has 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. The company employs local workers to produce its footwear made from recycled and locally sourced materials – an entirely zero carbon production process.
Bethlehem was born in Zenabwork area of the capital Addis Ababa, one of the most impoverished and marginalized communities of Ethiopia. Driven to solve vast economic problems in Ethiopia, she set out on her path with only $10,000 to invest in a vision. Now, the company is on track to open over 150 stores in over 55 countries and generating over $200 million by 2020.
Fast Company selected Bethlehem as one of its list of most creative people in business. She won the Schwab Foundation & World Economic Forum’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Africa award for 2012 and was ranked one of the 4 top women entrepreneurs of the last century by CNN.
Bethlehem was also named in the top 7 on the list of NAM’s “Trailblazers Under 50″ right behind President Barack Obama (#6). She has been named one of Africa’s top 5 most successful women, one of the 20 youngest power women in Africa, and one of 2012’s 100 most powerful women to watch.
Impressed much? Well the list continues. She was named one of the Counsellors for One Young World alongside fellow Counsellors Nobel Peace Prize Winning economist Mohammad Yunus, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Media Magnate Arianna Huffinton, Sir Richard Branson, and Kofi Annan. The first African woman to have ever been invited to present at the Clinton Global Initiative, World Bank President Robert Zoellick hails Bethlehem as an exemplary social entrepreneur who is helping Africa overcome the effects of the global financial crisis. Among the press she has received, she has been featured on BBC, Time Magazine, Al Jazeera, and Oprah.com.
As a young activist student at UNC, Alec co-founded the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) and helped develop it into the largest non-profit student organization in the country during his tenure. Alec later channeled his passion for the environment into a rooftop revolution, co-founding Sungevity, Inc. and putting solar power within reach for mainstream America.
Sungevity has become one of the nation’s leading solar energy companies earning a “Best for the World” Award from B Corp for using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Alec is a longtime environmentalist and successful social entrepreneur with a track record of building mission-driven businesses in a variety of industries. Prior to Sungevity, he co-founded Axiom Law, a company that revolutionized the legal industry by slashing high overhead costs and liberating frustrated lawyers from the inefficiency of the traditional law firm model. Prior to his entrepreneurial pursuits, he served the Clinton administration as Special Assistant to former EPA chief, Carol Browner.
Not only has Alec worked across industries but he’s also worked in all four sectors, within government, in the private sector, in the non-profit sector, and in the fourth sector – each time launching new ways to tackle problems of our time.
The Beat Making Lab was born at UNC and co-founded by Dr. Mark Katz, Chair of the Music Department at UNC. It started out as a class to teach beat making but quickly developed into a movement. Mark and his team (DJ Apple Juice Kid and Pierce Freelon, both UNC professors) are designing an open source beat making software, mobile app, and curriculum to foster music creation in communities globally. Imagine a world where where people in opposite corners of the globe can exchange beats, lyrics, and ideas with one another and where everyone has the opportunity to make beats. That’s the world the Beat Making Lab has created.
The first international Beat Making Lab was established in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After huge success building a studio at a local non-profit in the DRC, International Beat Making Labs are now being developed across the world in partnership with local organizations.
These efforts have culminated in a collaboration with PBS Digital Studios, which airs weekly webisodes documenting Beat Making Labs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Panama, Senegal, Fiji and Ethiopia on the Beat Making Lab youtube channel. The Beat Making Lab has been featured on the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and the News and Observer. The next big thing? Using beat making as a tool for foreign diplomacy. And they only just got started.
Tania is passionate about harnessing the power of the Internet to bring health care right to the patients. For mental health, she knows that creating an environment of trust and reliability are key. She also knows that mental health illnesses are closely related to primary care conditions like obesity and heart disease so expanding mental health treatment is vital. Over the years, her concept has matured to the creation of a proprietary platform where patients can access multiple providers at their convenience.
Tania founded COPE Today to provide mental health treatment across the nation via live chat, secure messaging, telephone, and video, eliminating the major barriers to accessing mental health services.
With 300 licensed counselors, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists and the leveraging of social networking tools to deliver comprehensive care through telehealth, COPE Today is working to advance the integration of behavioral health into primary care. COPE Today is able to reduce the perceived stigma associated with mental health treatment, increase access, and streamline the process for medications. She has been featured in Forbes and the New York Times and was selected to be a company of the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network.
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