Building a Dream on Aching Feet

March 20, 2007

New York Times:

Taryn Rose loves stylish shoes – so much so that when she was a resident in orthopedic surgery in the 1990’s, she regularly walked the hard hospital floors in 2- and 3-inch heels. As she click-clacked down the halls on her rounds, she noticed that many of her patients were women “in a lot of pain, and it often came from wearing fashionable shoes that didn’t fit,” she said.From this insight came a life-changing idea: Dr. Rose decided to start a company to sell high-quality, handmade shoes that were both stylish and comfortable. In 1998, after completing her residency and becoming certified in her specialty, she turned her back on medicine. Brushing aside the objections of her parents and the skepticism of colleagues, Dr. Rose started Taryn Rose International out of her garage in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Her market is a niche within a niche of the $15 billion women’s fashion-footwear industry – and one with little competition from luxury designers. And while companies like Easy Spirit had started selling shoes combining fashion and comfort long before Dr. Rose got her idea, those shoes were mass-produced, not handmade in Italy, and cost considerably less than the $350 to $400 for a pair of Dr. Rose’s shoes. “I felt that women wearing $1,000 suits didn’t want to put on $69.99 shoes,” she said.

So far, her hunch has paid off handsomely. Revenue for the company, which recently doubled the size of its headquarters in Los Angeles, to 5,000 square feet, was $16.2 million for the fiscal year ended last month, up from $8 million the year before, and she said she expects that to rise to $30 million in the current fiscal year. The staff has grown to 27 from 4 in two years, and she says the company is profitable, though she would not give figures.

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