16-Year-Old Entrepreneur Strides to Success With Red-Soled Stickers [Video]
She's barely 16 and she doesn't even have her driver's license yet, but she's already started her own business making a product that's an international hit, supports her large family and makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy. Oh yes, and she also helps women fulfill one of their fondest dreams -- wearing red-soled shoes.
Of course Tara Haughton, from a small village in County Kildaire, had heard of the famed red-soled Christian Louboutins. What literate female hasn't? But she never expected to own a pair (especially not any time in the near future), since the downturn of the Irish economy had left her dad without a job after 25 years in the automobile industry. Haughton and her five brothers were grateful for the basics, and extreme luxuries were out of the question.
But just a few months after an amazing stroke of genius, Haughton has all the red-soled shoes a girl could ever hope for (although they're not Louboutins). She's also providing work for her entire family -- even her 4-year-old brother, who loves to put color content stickers on the boxes of Haughton's Rosso Solini products. Her company makes adhesives that can be applied to the sole of a shoe, making them dead ringers for their designer cousins.
Business Was Out of the Red Quickly
But Haughton hasn't stopped with red. Her company makes the sole stickers in all colors of the rainbow, butterflies, animal prints, polka dots, even Union Jacks, which were especially popular around the time of the recent royal wedding. Speaking of weddings, you can also have the soles of your bridesmaids' shoes match their dresses. Tara has created a relatively simple yet ingenious process that enables your soles to match your mood -- or your outfit.
It all started at a family wedding. Those in attendance were throwing plastic confetti, and Haughton noted that it got stuck to the bottom of her shoe, and wasn't easy to peel off. An idea was born: What if we created adhesive stickers for women's shoes that made the sole a design canvas? What if we could make any shoe look like a designer shoe? Haughton shared the idea with her dad, who thought it was brilliant idea and gave her some advice. "He's very entrepreneurial," She told AOL Jobs.
Although Team Tara gave their product an Italian name ("rosso solini" means red soles), it developed a purely Irish product. Working with 3M in Ireland, her company developed the stickers which can be fitted to a shoe's instep and inside of the heel with ease, and last for a very long time. The chic packaging is produced in Belfast, and all the printing is done locally in County Kildaire.
A European Hit With a Little Help From Her Friends
To get the ball rolling, Haughton rounded up a team of classmates and entered a school competition that has Irish students creating products and businesses, then competing against each other, like U.S. students do at science fairs. Her team's product first won the County Kildaire competition, then took top honors for all Ireland, bringing her national acclaim and lots of interest. Her next stop was Paris, where she took all-European honors.
She started the company just last November, and suddenly it's international. It's sold hundreds of thousands of Rosso Solini kits for about $25 U.S., which come in chic boxes with an anti-bacterial wipe to clean off the bottoms of your shoes, enough adhesive for three pairs, a small knife, instructions, and a voucher for your next purchase.
Recently she was visited by business leaders from Bahrain to see about importing her products to the Mideast, and she's headed to China during her school's summer break to see about sales opportunities there. Her products already are a huge hit in Europe, where you can find them in retail stores. But in the U.S. you must purchase them from her website, Rossosolinishop.com. Expect that to change, however -- she's been approached by HSN and various other U.S. and Canadian retailers.
Still an Everyday Girl
You'd think that this kind of mercurial success would change a 16-year-old -- after all, her mother, her father and her five brothers are all her employees now. But Tara keeps her red-soled shoes planted firmly on the ground. "It's great to be the boss of my dad, but I have to remember, he's still my dad," she laughs. He's the official "managing director" of the company, since Haughton is not old enough to legally run it for herself. Her mother is the sales manager and each of her brothers is employed in some way.
"My family helps so much, I don't really have to do much now," she says, not taking into consideration the fact that she spends hours online marketing and promoting her product on Facebook and elsewhere. The media loves her, and she's frequently called upon for interviews and appearances, which all help to sell more product.
Still, she says that she leads a normal teenage life: She's saving for a car (that she won't be permitted to drive until she's 17), she attends public school, and has a boyfriend with whom she goes out to movies, to dinner and shopping. Her cousin, who also helps her with the business, is her best friend. She's become a bit of a local celebrity and, although a few people are envious at school, most of her classmates are happy for her.
But what about fashion giant Christian Louboutin? Does she anticipate any legal trouble for mimicking his signature style? "We don't even use the same Pantone color of red," she explains. "Did Henry Ford sue other auto manufacturers for making black cars?" That's the kind of thinking that made this clever 16-year-old an international business superstar.
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