96. Tal Dehtiar

Founder of Oliberte Footwear, How To Build A Global Fashion Business


Shoes manufactured in Ethiopia

How do you bring innovation to a category like footwear?

"I was working in nonprofits when I heard about Toms Shoes [which gives away a pair of shoes in developing nations with each one purchased]. I'm not a fan of giving things away. If we want to help Africa, we have to create manufacturing jobs—and I don't mean cheap labor. Through the local production of Oliberte shoes, we can create 1 million jobs in Africa by 2025."

What goes into communicating your brand's essence?

"We mention Africa in our marketing, but the last thing I want someone to do is buy our shoes because they feel bad. We're not about charity; we're about creating stable jobs. If the product didn't sell itself, it wouldn't matter where it was coming from."

How do you create a product that appeals to a global shopper?

"There's something really exciting about the word Africa. It evokes an emotion in everyone. We launched with a Western-looking sneaker and it just didn't hit the right mark. But when we started embracing the African culture and romance with a distinct, rugged design that showcases craftsmanship, it really took off."

Click here to see head-to-head responses to these questions from Dehtiar, plus Havaianas president Carla Schmitzberger, and Ed Et Al Shoemakers founder Edwin Neo, Nos. 97 and 98 on our Most Creative People list.


  • 1992

    Enters the world of business at the age of 12 as a newspaper salesman

  • 1998

    Travels to Belize to build tree nurseries and fruit farms and discovers a fascination with the developing world

  • 2000

    Gets knocked out of his first and only amateur boxing match

  • 2004

    Dehtiar receives his MBA from McMaster University and forms the nonprofit MBAs Without Borders

  • 2006

    Makes an unsuccessful attempt to raise funds on eBay to buy bankrupted Canadian football team, the Ottawa Renegades

  • 2008

    Gets married

  • 2009

    Sells the trademarks and rights of MBAs Without Borders to CDC Development Solutions and starts Oliberte

  • 2011

    Is named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young


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