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Top 20 Under 40 - Tal Dehtiar


Sarah Bauder, Shalom Life, January 17, 2011
Shalom Life is proud to introduce our inaugural "Top 20 Under 40" list. This list encompasses 20 individuals of diverse occupations and backgrounds from businessmen and businesswomen and innovative entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, entertainers, doctors and more, the inaugural list places a spotlight on the myriad of talented, creative and passionate Jews, all under 40, who call Toronto home. Each day we'll introduce a new profile. We hope you enjoy the list and look forward to expanding it to other cities in the coming year.

Tal Dehtiar




Unfortunately, it is rare for capitalism and socially-conscious to be used in the same sentence. However, where 30 year old entrepreneur, Tal Dehtiar is concerned, there can be no other option. In 2002, while at McMaster University completing his MBA, Dehtiar devised a plan to combine the two entities.

"I was bothered by the fact that there were no real opportunities for MBAs to use their business knowledge in the developing world and specifically related to socially-minded business," explains Dehtiar. "So with a friend, Michael Brown, we launched MWB and over the five years under my leadership, we worked in over 25 countries including Colombia, Nicaragua, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India and Pakistan."

It was this sort of thinking which further inspired him to found Oakville-based Oliberté, the first premium foot-wear company to manufacture in Africa for developed markets.

"Africa is full of potential and I'm tired of people always treating it and it's people like nothing but poor souls," says Dehtiar. "We wanted to create a brand, Oliberté, that shows a different side of Africa - one that can inspire and builds a thriving middle class on the continent by creating premium leather footwear that is sold across the globe. Every time someone buys and wears one of our shoes we want them thinking this is Africa. Full of pride, power and liberty."

Currently, Oliberté's main production takes place in Ethiopia, where manufacturing and leather is provided. "We're building up our rubber processing plant in Liberia and some accessories come from Zambia. We've recently started importing some T-shirts from Tanzania, Uganda and Liberia." Dehtiar says.

However, choosing a manufacturing base on the African continent is not without its issues.

"Look, it's not easy what we're doing. Shoes are not that difficult to make, but working in Africa, while I love and believe in it - is a challenge," explains Dehtiar."Everyone from Steve Madden to Minnetonka to others have tried to work in Africa - they have come and gone- we're the only ones still here and doing it right. Why couldn't the big brands make it happen? Manufacturing in Africa is not cheap, it's not as efficient as China or as advanced yet as Italy - but for those patient and daring enough, it's by far the best place to combine beautiful leather and rubber into premium hand crafted footwear. Not to mention the men and women that make the shoes are the most hard working and passionate people this planet has to offer."

Running the footwear company affords little spare time, not to mention that Dehtiar and his wife recently welcomed their first child, Owen Alexander. When there is a bit of freedom, Dehtiar enjoys participating in triathlons, swimming and playing hockey.