We are always on the lookout for enterprising uses for old tyres and this is a great example of how to make money out of old rubber.
Ethiopian internet firm soleRebels is doing brisk business turning old truck tyres into sandals.
Turning tyres into footwear has been the tradition in Ethiopia, where everyone from farmers to guerrilla fighters has fashioned worn-out road rubber into cheap, long-lasting footwear.
But now, thanks to a young woman entrepreneur who has combined the internet’s selling power with nimble business practices more often associated with Asian countries, the idea has been turned into an unlikely international hit.
By adding funky cotton and leather uppers to recycled tyre soles, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has sold many thousands of pairs of handmade flip-flops, boat shoes, loafers and Converse-style trainers to foreign customers.
Just five years after start-up, soleRebels employs 45 full-time staff who can produce up to 500 pairs of shoes a day.
More will be hired after next month once the footwear range, priced between £21 and £40, goes on sale online in the UK and Japan on Amazon’s new footwear website javari.co.uk.
The company’s sales target for 2010 is an impressive £300,000, but Alemu’s ultimate goal – one she seems deadly serious about – is far loftier: to become “the Timberland or Skechers of Africa”.
Denna Bowman, Head Office