The Rebel and The Risk Taker – Part 1

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In Africa, business opportunities present themselves in many different forms. The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive, but an individual’s drive to succeed is born from personal circumstances, making every African entrepreneur unique.

Since 2000, the Africa rising narrative has seen significant rise in entrepreneurship across the continent. “The Rebel and the Risk taker” takes an up-close look at two entrepreneurs embodying the spirit of Africa rising through their business enterprises.

Bethlehem Alemu, an Ethiopian business woman revolutionizing the foot wear industry by use of local talent, authentic Ethiopian art and competing with global brands.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder Sole Rebels

38-year-old Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian businesswoman and the founder of Sole Rebels, a footwear company. Bethlehem grew up watching her father working hard for so little money; she made a vow not to follow the same path, and she knew from an early age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Sole Rebels was started in the year 2004 with only five employees, the idea of Sole Rebels came from a simple Ethiopian flip-flop made out of tyres, called Parabaso. Hence why the company is called Sole Rebels. The first pair of shoes, made by sole rebels had a funny design flaw.

 “But when we bring in the tyres, we bring in the full tire and try to cut them and when we do the simple flip flop, each pair, each foot weighed three kilos and my family was laughing, it’s like a walking gym that you created it’s not a footwear. So that’s where we started. It’s a funny beginning”, Remembers Bethlehem.

This did not deter Bethelehem and her company, they took this in stride, laughed it out and slowly but surely made better quality shoes. Today sole Rebels employs over 150 people both directly and indirectly.

Sole Rebels a company that started from a simple idea.

Lusaka is amongst Africa’s fastest growing cities. With this rapid growth comes with its own set of unique problems. With few energy alternatives available, Zambian population is forced to rely on charcoal as a major energy source. The demand for charcoal is slowly rising, Zambia is facing an illegal charcoal epidemic, as almost 300,000 hectares of forest are lost a year to try and meet this demand.

Charcoal burner

It’s from this gloomy perspective that spurred Frazer Handondo to come up with an idea that provides a safe and clean source of energy.

Frazer Handondo seeks to protect the trees of Zambia for future generations through his eco-friendly energy source.

Though not in his line of profession, Frazer who is a career Procurement Specialist founded Forest Africa, a start-up that makes eco-friendly briquettes out of the need to address issues to do with conservation.

Frazer Handondo, Founder Forest Africa

Frazer’s idea has come at an ideal time.

The briquettes he makes come from the shell of the baobab fruit, called Mabuyu. Forest Africa makes Baobab Powder a very nutritious powder supplement that can be mixed with various foods to give energy and for people who are recovering from illness.

Environmentally friendly briquettes

The Shells are carbonized, milled and molded and their after packaged ready for the market. The beauty of the briquette is they are environmentally friendly, cheaper and burn longer than traditional charcoal.

These two entrepreneurs are taking a huge leap towards making Africa Business rise.