You know what? It’s not even terrifying anymore. I should rename the whole series “the super rad thing.”
I’m so excited about this, you guys.
(Is the ‘you guys’ thing a Utah thing? I think it might be.)
Heading up a start-up is stressful and exhausting and nerve wracking, but it’s also really fun.
I’d forgotten what this was like, and it’s exhilarating.
Why did I ever think I could be an employee? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I’d do whatever was necessary to feed my family. But it’s okay to want something different. It’s okay to recognize that you’re better suited to a different type of work if you can get it.
I won’t apologize for that.
Even if this particular project bombs? Even if my Kickstarter flops and our big launch opens to crickets? I feel ALIVE again.
It has been worth it just for that.
I could talk so much about this. And I think I will. I want to tell you all about starting something from the ground up; how to do it. I want to talk about learning curves and the stretching, wonderfulness that is learning something new. I want to tell you about all the incredible resources I’ve found. I want to inspire you to leave fear behind and try something wild.
Here’s my wild.
Some of you guessed, and some of you got a little sneak preview on Instagram. But here it is, world. (Or more accurately, “Here it is, my dear six dozen blog readers!”)
I have drawn, sewn, tested, tweaked, drawn again, sewn again, tested again, hired seamstresses, graded patterns, and created my own line of swimmable mermaid tails and tankini swimming suits for girls ages 2 – 12 (with older teen and adult sizes on their way).
I didn’t reinvent the wheel here. I’m not the first mermaid tail designer and I will not be the last. I’m even using (to start) the sparkly spandex that everyone else uses. But oh the process was fun. It was another thing I’d forgotten. Drawing shapes from scratch on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor on brown Kraft paper, turning them into wearable items, fixing fit, grading sizes — this is stuff I know. How did I forget I knew? How did I forget I loved it?
The monofin (mermaid swim flipper) was even more fun, though. My daughter loved her mermaid tail and monofin from the company I worked for previously, and their monofin was a huge improvement on what was out there, I will totally give them that. But it kept breaking, and the replacement inserts aren’t cheap. One insert broke on the first day it was used in the pool. The second broke just a couple of days later, even though we were following all the proper-use instructions. Serious bummer. We tried another brand next, but it was made out of the same clear polycarbonate and was cracked and rusted in a month.[This is where I’d show you a picture of the PILE of busted monofins we had, but I’m classy, yo. Though you will see some parts of them in the Kickstarter video, but no brand names show.]
My nieces and my daughter’s friends had other monofins and there were problems with all of them. Stiff rubber pockets left huge blisters on my niece’s feet, and a friend’s monofin had to be worn with thick neoprene socks and it still hurt their feet dreadfully (It was gorgeous though, rubber. So pretty. But ouch.). A scuba-type monofin that a lot of mermaid retailers purchase and cut into a mermaid shape seemed promising, but it also hurt, and then the straps broke. And then the heavy duty plastic fin part broke.
In the midst of all these monofin shenanigans, I was dragging my feet reluctant to involve myself with another mermaid company (see also: my broken record of “I was so burned out.”) But I was tired of buying replacement monofins; I could definitely see there was a need for a better monofin, and this funny little market is growing in leaps and bounds. There was definitely room for me, but I was intimidated, could I do it?
I traveled south to meet with some respected inventors and engineers I know, and at first it was discouraging. “You can’t improve on this,” they said. Or, “This one is already made, it’s available for super cheap overseas, it even comes in a cute box! Just order this one.” But I wasn’t down with that. That cheap overseas one was cute, but we already knew that it hurt little feet and broke.
I drew. I sketched. I dreamed. I polled professional mermaids (yes, they exist), and I checked out all kinds of plastics and rubbers and composite scuba materials. And slowly a plan started to form. My dad (another awesome inventor) got excited too, and we started getting somewhere. I found an engineer who didn’t think my idea was completely nuts. I made the first prototype out of wood and a weird sort of foam fabric, and I knew I had a winner when the engineer’s eyes lit up. We tweaked it countless times, met with plastics companies, and formulated a special sturdy, yet flexible plastic that would hold up to everything kids could throw at it.
We had a mold made, and soon I had a working prototype in my hands.
Filing the utility patent was a nail-biter, but only because I’m a weirdo. The patent will be public by November, and that means my first and last name will be out there in the eternal and infernal intertubes. I’m okay with it now. Just don’t make fun of me when you discover my real name is Bertha Widdlepants Butt. Just kidding, I don’t have a middle name. Bertha Butt. BB for short.
With the patent filed and the design perfected, we ordered our first batch, thrilled to have the fins affordably injection molded here in the states. Go USA.
Aren’t they rad? They totally are. I’m so thrilled with how it turned out.
It’s comfortable to wear. Like for REAL. There are individual foot pockets for each foot, so they don’t slide around on slick plastic. This gives you more control when you turn or do flips in the water, and I have my engineer to thank for insisting I find a way to make that happen. He’s a scuba diver and knew kids would appreciate a more secure feeling, and he was right. It was a challenge, but I’m so pleased with the results. Kids ADORE this thing. (It’s made to fit kids ages 6 to about 12, but I can get my size-9 feet in it, and it is mega fun.)
The foot pockets are lined with mesh so it doesn’t get water logged when you’re swimming, and it dries fast. The whole foot pocket comes off easily with a simple velcro attachment. The foot pockets are made out of a high performance neoprene fabric, and it is very stretchy, which is great because it accommodates a wide range of foot sizes, but it also posed a problem.
When the fabric stretches out, your feet lose contact with the plastic, which is a common problem with other monofins made with neoprene covers. Your feet are too loose and you start dragging the fin rather than using it to propel yourself through the water. Granted, a lot of kids won’t notice, but why not make something functional? Kids deserve something well built, you know?
I solved this by adding a simple adjustable strap. It minimizes stretch where it’s not needed, and doesn’t interfere with the feet. Kazaam. Now this thing propels like a pro scuba fin, feels SO much better, and the fin! THE FIN! It doesn’t break, doesn’t crack, has enough give so that it’s flexible, but isn’t so floppy like a rubber fin, so it looks good on dry land.
I could go ON and ON.
Okay. Okay. So.
I have thousands of mermaid tails, swimming suits, and these GORGEOUS monofins in stock, but we thought it would be super fun to launch the new company with a Kickstarter. We’ll offer our current stock as super awesome backer rewards (such deals, you guys, I can’t even), and hopefully generate some buzz while raising funds for our larger monofin that will be better proportioned for older teens and adults. (The older one has additional straps so those of us with bigger feet, ahem, will be able to customize the fit perfectly without compromising comfort… and we’ll get more propulsion / speed out of the thing, too.)
Right, so a Kickstarter is yet another one of those learning curve type things for me, and one of the things we need to do is get the word out for the Kickstarter so that the Kickstarter can get the word out about our products and company. Clear as mud?
Statistics are something like you need to contact 50,000 people to get 1,000 backers. OY. So, to generate the initial needed buzz, we’re giving away a free mermaid tail and monofin! Should you have a kiddo who might love one, you can enter to win at Sun Tail Mermaid or Mermaid Tails for Sale (I’m doing some AB testing, so the pages might look the same, there are two different pages, though.)
If you enter to win, you get your own unique link to share so I can track how many referrals to send to me! The more referrals you send? THE MORE ENTRIES IN THE DRAWING YOU GET. Fun, right?
Also, I hope you sign up and share the pages just out of the kindness of your heart, dear readers, because 50,000 people is a lot. (Seriously, help me. I will kiss your face.)
While I am still working on our (hopefully better) Kickstarter videos (LEARRRRNING CUUURRRVVE) I’ve uploaded my first attempt at a video just to introduce Sun Tails to the world of YouTube; a place I am not altogether familiar with. The video, I’m afraid, is a bit on the ‘aw, she made it herself / homemade’ side, but fist pump, y’all. MY FIRST VIDEO. You know, that required some editing and stuff. Radcakes.
I’m gonna get better at this. And possibly hire voice over talent. I sound insane to my own ears. I know I probably don’t sound insane to yours.
So! How is that for a long awaited, somewhat rambling conclusion to my long drawn out series? I will never do a series again. Pinkie promise.
To thank me (for never doing another to-be-continued blog series, to be clear), won’t you enter/join and share here or here? And I’d LOVE your feedback on the landing pages, and the products, and the video, and everything else. I am ALL EARS.
Squee!!! <– Totes profesh.