Freshman tennis player Roe runs artsy shoe business

Gabrielle Boss, Staff Reporter

Most college students have to balance classes, part-time employment, a social life, clubs and sports teams. However, not many students can claim to be an entrepreneur before they even begin college.

Ellie Roe, a freshman psychology major from Sheboygan Falls, is not only a full-time student and tennis player, but she also runs her business creating spectacular works of art on shoes. As a high school student, Roe was a star tennis player all four years. She laughs when she tells the story of how she began playing tennis.

“I was asked by a friend of mine to attend one of the practices, and I just never left,” Roe said.

During her high school tennis career, Roe was a letterwinner freshman through senior years and competed in the state completion during her junior year. One of her favorite memories from her time as a high school athlete is attending the state competition after beating one of her main rivals from Roncalli High School. However, most of her favorite memories involve bonding with her team while traveling to different competitions, especially after victories when every player rides off the adrenaline of winning.

When asked how she likes playing on Lakeland’s tennis team, Roe beams. “It’s honestly amazing,” she says. “I was a little nervous at first. I’ve never played on a college team before, so it was pretty intimidating, but they’re the best. I already love my team so much, and I hope that we have a great season and grow as players.”

Tennis is not the only area in which Roe excels. Roe also creates incredible artwork on shoes. What started as a hobby during high school quickly turned into a budding entrepreneurship.

Her creation process is simple, but definitely not easy. She discusses the desired design with the buyer, and once a design idea is chosen, she takes a pair of white canvas shoes or vans and applies a base coat. After this, she free-hands the design in pencil before tracing it with sharpie. She then uses an acrylic paint to add vibrant color; to ensure that the design lasts, she applies a waterproof spray as the final touch.

“The first pair I made was the ‘Lord of the Rings’ map. I would wear my painted shoes around school and people would compliment me on them. My art teacher was the one who really pushed me to start selling them,” Roe says.

She posted advertisements at the local coffee shop, and shortly after, she began receiving requests for different designs. After finding local success, she moved her business to Etsy, an online commerce website that allows members to sell and buy handmade items. Her company became known as SoleDesigning.

How does one balance school, sports, a social life, and his or her own business? According to Roe, one of the most important things is proper time management. “I haven’t always been the greatest with time management, but when you have deadlines to meet, you have to develop good time management skills. On Etsy, you can receive feedback from customers and that can affect how people view your product, so it’s important to meet your deadlines on time. Being one’s own boss is definitely a perk.”

Asked which pair was her favorite to make, Roe struggles to pick one pair over the rest. “I’d have to say that the map shoes are my favorite to make,” Roe says. “Like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ map or the ‘Harry Potter’ map. The process of creating these maps are time-consuming but worth it. Another favorite would have to be the galaxy shoes because I can splatter-paint with vibrant colors on a black background.”

Outside of school, her business, and tennis, Roe also works on other art pieces. In high school, she was involved with art all four years. Art is one of her major passions (fun fact: her favorite materials to work with are oil paint and charcoal). She is also a major movie buff, an avid nature explorer, and enthusiastic music lover.

“Don’t get me started on music. We’ll be here for days!” Roe exclaims.

Balancing every aspect of life is difficult, but Ellie Roe makes it seem natural.