Tara Haughton, Founder and CEO of Rosso Solini

The Story Exchange is devoting the month of April to profiling young women who have started their own business. This week we meet Tara Haughton, from Ireland, who founded Rosso Solini at the age of 16.

Tara Haughton dreamt of becoming a nurse, but a couple of years ago, she discovered a new passion and everything changed.

The Birth of an Idea

At a family wedding in Spain, Haughton had just taken off the price tags from the bottom of her high-heeled shoes when red and white confetti started flying in the air. Some of it stuck to the adhesive left from the tags. Haughton didn’t notice until a wedding guest asked if she was wearing designer shoes – the red on the heel gave the impression that they were Christian Louboutin shoes.

That got Haughton thinking: What if she created stickers to adhere to high-heeled shoes to create a unique designer knock-off look? “I love fashion, however we all know that designer shoes come with a designer price,” Haughton tells The Story Exchange.

After the wedding, Haughton returned to Ireland and began her gap year at school where students are encouraged to start their own “mini-companies” and learn business skills.

It was the perfect opportunity to test her idea. “I had an image in my head of what I wanted the product to look like,” says Haughton. She started experimenting with materials that would stick to shoe soles but without any success.

Rosso Solini

Her father, Chris Haughton, helped find a solution. With some experience in the motor industry, he took his daughter to a friend who makes advertising decals for cars and vans. Haughton found the perfect material for her product and her dad soon became her first employee.

Team Rosso Solini wins an Ulster Bank Award

Haughton googled ‘red soles’ in a few languages and thought Italian sounded best. She named her company Rosso Solini, her friend helped out with the packaging design, and her company was born.

“It was so simple; it didn’t cost money or anything like that. I was simply doing it for a school project. And it kind of just turned into something bigger,” Haughton says.

Growing up

Two years on, Haughton is taking orders from 23 countries and her “designer sole makeover kit” – which includes three pairs of soles for EUR €12.95 (US $17) – is sold in 150 stores throughout Ireland.

Haughton says she’s just signed a deal with a company to distribute in the UK and in Australia and is looking for distributors in the U.S.

The soles are manufactured out of her family’s home but Rosso Solini hopes to rent a facility in the future. “When we get a big order … it’s very hectic and boxes are being delivered and stored all over. The house is a mess and there’re millions of people,” says Haughton.

She says that she was “thrown in the deep end” when she started the company and is still learning by doing. Next year she’ll apply to colleges and hopes to pursue higher education, while continuing to run her business.

Haughton’s father continues to work for the company, which Haughton says has strengthened the company and her relationship with her dad.

“If I [had] to pick one overall element of the success it was seeing the respect that my dad has given me and the fact that he listens to me and helps me in every way.”