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Thread: Hey! Let's start a tail making company!

  1. #1

    Hey! Let's start a tail making company!

    Sounds fun, right? Well, let's find out together as I launch Mer-Made LLC.

    Let's start with some questions:

    Q: Heck are you?
    A: Hi, I'm OrcaMatt, you might remember me from mer.yuku or the early years of the forum as 'the guy who keeps talking about making this awesome orca tail but never does it'. I haven't been super-active the last few years but I'm trying to get back a bit.

    Q: It's been literally a decade. Did you make the orca tail?
    A: No. It's still on the list though, and it's going to be /awesome/

    --
    So what's Mer-Made LLC?
    Mer-Made LLC is a custom tail printing company (and tail design marketplace, but that comes later in the story)
    This feels different from a traditional tailmaking company because I'm not doing any designs myself. I am 100% not an artist and nobody, me included, wants me designing a tail for them. So what are we doing, exactly? Mer-Made LLC is going to print designs that customers have done, sew them, and ship them. Since I'm not an artist, we won't be hosting any pre-made designs (this changes a bit as we progress).

    This has actually been going on since February in one form or another, but I didn't think to start a thread until now.

    So, what would people be interested in hearing about?

    I mean, I've been thinking about business insurance today. Super-exciting stuff lol. I'll do some smaller updates with the more interesting milestones....sure nobody is that interested in how I registered for the LLC (LegalZoom, using their Registered Agent because YOLO) or how my first call with the tax advisory people went (Was kind of 'meh', actually, not sure this service is going to be worth $100/month and thinking of canceling)

    Definitely happy to answer questions and I'll try and be as transparent as I can.
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  2. #2

    In which we grapple with size charts and NASA papers from the 70s

    The story so far....
    We're starting a tail-making company, right? One that doesn't actually design any tails.

    The primary idea here is that people will have designs done by artists (or themselves) that I could then print. It's a custom tail-printing company! Floating the idea around (mostly Discord) gets some good response, but people seem to equate 'custom' with 'I'm going to design them a custom tail'. I promise, you do not want this. I swear I'm going to sit down and do a 'Matt's Honest Attempt At Designing A Tail With Photoshop and Like, A Proper Tablet I Impulse Bought This One Time And Everything' and it'll probably be tragic, if amusing. It's a marketing problem I still haven't really worked around even now, but, as the saying has become the last few weeks, we'll swim under that bridge when we get to it.

    The other conceptual roadblock I've been hitting is that even when people follow the concept, they kind of go 'Sweet, somebody designed a tail for my mersona, and that means you can print it, awesome!'. Well.....no, your design is approximately eight and a half inches long and a tail is a good six feet long and it has to fit you.

    So, I need base templates for people to have designs made on. Something in a range of sizes, with maybe a couple of fin designs, in good high res, that people can work with and maybe have a shot of fitting into.

    But first................................I need to figure out S I Z I N G.

    This is the first major obstacle. Sizing kicked my butt. There's nowhere to start from. If I'm honest, I was sort of hoping the artist I found through a mer-friend would figure it out for me, given a starting point - I guess I figured stuff like body proportioning and such was more an artistic than an engineering problem - but no such luck. There really aren't a lot of good references for this. Most searches I could come up with of the form 'hip to waist proportion' or especially anything leg-related almost invariably pointed to custom knee and leg braces. I seem to remember a book literally about this on Amazon, and I eventually found it but it was expensive (they must have restocked, it was only available through third parties and was almost $100....for $57 I might have just bought it if I thought it would help). Did you know there's a whole field called anthropometry that deals with this? They deal a LOT in emergency equipment, if Google searches are any indication. Anyway, I found a forum post from like 2008 that pointed to a NASA publication from NINTEEN SEVENTY EIGHT that was all about body sizing and proportioning with an eye towards, yep, designing spacecraft.

    STILL! It was something and I think I even used some of the ratios when I gave up and just cribbed heavily from a composite survey of popular tailmakers sizing. Done!

    Sizing though.....I'm still a little triggered by sizing. If I'm honest, it was enough of a hassle that I almost stopped. I'm STILL not even sure I trust my sizing. But there's no good way to test that without printing off some tails and putting them on people. So we soldier on.

    I mean, I've been thinking about business insurance today.
    As a follow-up to this, the first company I spoke with flat out refused to insure me. The sense I got was the rep only omitted 'you idiot' from 'there's no way we can insure this, at all, [you idiot]' out of a sense of professional decorum and the fact that the call was recorded for training purposes. This is probably a sign of things to come in the Adventures In Liability Insurance.
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  3. #3
    Senior Member Pod of Cali Merman Storm's Avatar
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    You need to say why what you are doing is different or better than what FinFun is doing here:
    https://www.finfunmermaid.com/design-a-tail
    Measurements: Note that spandex stretches. Typically, a spandex tail is stretched 20% to 30% in circumference. Consider that is setting up your pattern.
    You can also get the pattern by buying some tails from others, and copying the measurements.
    Are you a Frozen fan? Frozen fanfiction:
    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10952902/1/Rain-of-a-Child-s-Tear

    Let the storm rage on!

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Merman Storm View Post
    You need to say why what you are doing is different or better than what FinFun is doing here:
    https://www.finfunmermaid.com/design-a-tail
    Measurements: Note that spandex stretches. Typically, a spandex tail is stretched 20% to 30% in circumference. Consider that is setting up your pattern.
    You can also get the pattern by buying some tails from others, and copying the measurements.
    Good points all!

    My value proposition against FinFun is basically 'gestures around broadly'. FinFun makes great custom FinFun tails. I intend to make great custom 'Everything else' tails. More monofins, more options, better fabric, faster turnaround. I can compete against FinFun on pretty much everything but price. In fact, the first test print design I received was for a FinFun tail, and it looks amazing. It's probably.....one of the best FinFun tails ever made (this is just me trying to practice the entrepreneurial skill of being a booster for my own stuff, don't mind me :P ). I'll post it a little later into the story, but the print came out amazing, has extra fins, and it was sized to the wearer's measurements (their template, not mine).

    Also, unlike the regular custom FinFun, the top and bottom are different!
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  5. #5

    In which we give away the crown jewels, apparently

    So, early days of a tailmaking company, what do we need? Still in feasibility phase, really, making sure this is both an ok idea and doable.

    First up, need somebody to print these things. Somehow, finding a printer was practically the easiest part. There's a place in town that can do it, as luck would have it, DyeHard.world (among tail printers, I've come to understand, naming your printer is like giving away the crown jewels). I shot them an email and after an expected amount of explaining what exactly was going on/what this whole 'mermaiding' thing was, they were on board. Granted, I'm paying their most expensive yardage rate because it's relatively low-volume stuff, but it's workable, and almost sounds too easy. Guess I was expecting more obstacles to have to figure out, but no, it's just dye-sub printing at the end of the day.

    Fabric is next. Knew of a couple of places that probably had scuba knit, so ordered a couple of samples. Wasn't super happy with them, though. Think the stretch wasn't what I was expecting. Maybe this stuff is only two-way stretch and I was hoping for four-way, or I was just expecting more stretch. Either way, back to the google. Found a few more places, and was happier with FabricWholesalerDirect.com 's sample, so that's what I'm going with. The punchline is there's probably only so many manufacturers so these could well all be the same fabric and I was imagining differences between them!

    The name 'Mer-Made' came early on. For some reason I tend to think of a lot of projects, and anything halfway cool gets a domain name purchased in the event it goes anywhere. So far they never have, so I have a few domains by now. I'm pretty pleased with the Mer-Made name, and was surprised it was available. It's close to 'mermaid' and underlines the 'created by [you]' nature of the concept. I'm generally pretty bad at naming things, so this was actually a small achievement.

    Next up, a Shopify page. Easy enough to set up. The banner image is a panorama I took in Jamaica on my honeymoon. The water is a little murky because a storm passed through but think it works. Think the early version of the site had one more picture from Jamaica, otherwise I needed stock photos (lower banner).

    Finally, a logo! Fiverr to the rescue here. It's a little 'busy' for a logo but I like it, and so far it's serving pretty well:
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  6. #6

    In which we finally do some mermaid tail stuff, finally

    So let's skip ahead a little..........got some great templates done (Thanks @little-wing-studios on IG!), filed an LLC, got my tax ID and a business checking account. Signed up for a tax advisory service that sounded interesting then I decided to cancel (it's expensive!). Fun business-y stuff going on. Feels very official and grown-up.

    You may be asking yourself: when do we get to the part with mermaid tails?

    Answer: Now!

    At this point I've got two designs: One that was submitted by an early adopter, and one that I commissioned as a fabric version of my silicone tail (Thanks @nova_fur). But I need more, and I still haven't figured out how to art in the last few weeks. Back to Fiverr. Found an independent designer to do a tail design with four color schemes, that I can use to print tests, use as test product postings in the store, and of course, sell (and this was part of the deal with the artist)! Here's one of the color schemes, probably my favorite, which I refer to as "The Evil Queen" (here's the FB post image about it)


    Cool. Let the printer know the designs were up (the image file for the three tails is something like 58x300 inches, it's huge) and drop off the fabric.

    Here's what I got back



    The blue rendering of my silicone tail, Evil Queen, and the awesome FinFun-compatible trout on one huge sheet of fabric.

    "That looks amazing", you may be thinking to yourself, 'But where are your seam allowances?"

    Great question....there aren't any. For whatever reason I decided against having them printed (possibly because I'm dumb, I don't know).

    Learning Experience 1: You need seam allowances on your printed tail templates

    Printing itself turned out great. Really good colors, good clarity



    They sew together.....ok, not great. I'm using a serger and some of the curves, particularly where the 'tail' curves out to be the 'fin' are kicking my butt.
    No zippers in these, open fins.

    The blue tail is also way too small. Looking back at the original design file and the print file I sent to the printer, it got scaled along the way so it's definitely too small for me, and it's clear by now that I really do need the seam allowances on there (dummy). I figure out, all by myself, I might add (I'm not a big photoshop guy), how to add them in Photoshop and add them to the templates.

    Evil Queen goes together a little better:


    It's too small to fit me (I printed Larges as tests, guess I'm an XL in me-tails) and also doesn't really fit the monofin very well. This is a problem.

    Blue tail gets shipped to the artist who did the commission (it's unusable and she decided it'd make a cool memento), and the Trout gets shipped (uncut) to the artist (who wanted to assemble it herself)

    So lessons learned this round

    1) Need seam allowances
    2) There might be a problem with the fin size
    3) Actually having a heck of a time turning the fin tips inside-right. Might be too narrow or my sewing technique is wrong. Probably both.

    I don't make any adjustments to the template at this point, other than seam allowances. My hope is that by not losing that inch and a quarter around the edge the tails will 1) fit better and 2) unroll better at the tips. This is what I will test in Round 2
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  7. #7
    Hello! If I wanted to try and submit a design what program do you recommend using? Also how do you make sure it is true to size for printing when working with photoshop/design program? (Sorry if this is basic newbie stuff lol)

  8. #8
    This sounds really cool!! Is your website up yet? Also what would be the general price range? I have a couple of tails that I desighned and would love to see in real life.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by MermaidMooneye View Post
    Hello! If I wanted to try and submit a design what program do you recommend using? Also how do you make sure it is true to size for printing when working with photoshop/design program? (Sorry if this is basic newbie stuff lol)
    Most use Photoshop, I know some use Procreate, and Autodesk Sketchbook works as well. To make sure it's full size for printing, the easiest thing to do is just use a template of known size and then not resize it. I have some available on my website if you would like to have a look ( http://www.mer-made.com )

    Please feel free to DM me on FB or IG if you have any questions. If you decide to do designs for the site the templates are available in more convenient packs.
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by SereiaTitania View Post
    This sounds really cool!! Is your website up yet? Also what would be the general price range? I have a couple of tails that I desighned and would love to see in real life.
    Hi! The website is up at http://www.mer-made.com

    The intro price is going to be $200 for the first ten tails (which includes domestic shipping but international is going to be more, and may require customs to be paid as well), after that I think it bumps to $275 for the next batch
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by OrcaMatt View Post
    Hi! The website is up at http://www.mer-made.com

    The intro price is going to be $200 for the first ten tails (which includes domestic shipping but international is going to be more, and may require customs to be paid as well), after that I think it bumps to $275 for the next batch
    Ok, thanks for the info

  12. #12
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    Ooo! Grats on your new venture!

    Maybe one day I'll get my mersona's tail printed. She has a spade tail. Been drawing and coloring with watercolors on her for awhile now.
    Formerly known as ireneho

  13. #13

    Introducing The Tail Design Marketplace

    Let's get a little more caught up in the story, what with having launched yesterday

    Let's talk about the first major evolution of this project

    You might have noticed that this whole company is structured around the fact that I can't draw. This is a tail-PRINTING company not a tail-MAKING company, which I feel strongly implies that some design is being done. Here, not so much.

    The store needs content though. On some level, why shouldn't I have some designs on offer to get started? That's what the Fiverr artist provided in the last major post (I ended up commissioning three sets of designs from him).

    Still.......what are we actually doing here?
    Answer: We're custom-printing fabric tails from designs that customers submit.

    But where are they getting these designs?
    Either making themselves........or from artists! So why can't I cut out the middleman and bring the artists, and their tail designs, right to the customers?

    Enter....
    The Mer-Made.com Tail Design Marketplace

    This, I'm pretty excited about. The idea now is to have a tail store with dozens of independent artists and graphic designers, making and posting their tail designs, which I can then print, sew, and ship. Basically provide fulfillment services. This feels like it has the potential to be bigger than the custom-printing service, and given some time, offer the largest, most varied selection of tails on the market.

    Tail Design Marketplace, man. I like it.

    So now I need a multi-vendor marketplace solution to bolt onto my Shopify store. There are basically two, maybe three. The nicer-looking, less functional one, and the harder to use, more functional one. More functional it is. Let me explain to you how much I dislike this software. It is so annoying to use: crummy UI, overly complicated, and I think the artists are going to hate using it as much as I do. It is what it is, though, and there aren't a lot of options.

    Anyway, start the social media push for artists for the marketplace. Pretty good initial response even, and get a couple of signups. Get better at pitching the idea and fielding questions and especially concerns. It's cool that people are excited about something I'm doing. I can't honestly say I remember that happening in the past, so I'm kind of enjoying this part.
    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  14. #14

    Let's Not Call It a 'Bribe'......

    We rejoin our story in late June. The site is up at this point, I have about a dozen artists signed up for the marketplace but still only one design posted, which is a little frustrating. It's not like the artists are employees or anything, they do what they want when they want, but I figured with all the initial excitement more work would be generated.

    Have the third set of test tails printed. Look great as usual, but it's the most expensive run yet. I'm into this thing a couple thousand dollars at this point, so eager to get this kicked off and maybe making some money.

    Looking to call this thing 'launched' on July 1, but some RL health stuff happened in the family so I couldn't get the third run of tails sewn together in time. The concern is the adjustments made to the fins to better fit the monofin. I'd hate to start selling tails that didn't fit, after all, and one upside of 'nobody is posting any designs' is if more adjustments need to be made, hopefully it doesn't set anybody back too far, because I'd feel bad about that.

    Still, was definitely hoping to have more content in the Marketplace for launch, so I decide to push the launch for a week to give people time to get designs posted. As an incentive, I offer a $10 per design bounty for all designs posted by launch. Capped at five paid-designs per artist it feels a little cheap, but it's just an incentive (NOT A BRIBE....ok, it's a bribe), and again, money is really tight. The response was encouraging, people seem to be responding to the offer, there are promises of getting designs up.

    Launch rolls around and nothing new is up. Fantastic.

    Ah well, let's light this particular candle!

    Put out posts on Facebook and IG announcing the grand opening and a $200/tail New Tailmaker Discount pricing. 'New Tailmaker Discount' was a minor tradition back in the day of tail-making, as a way to get work out there, generate buzz and drive content, and......who knows how good the first couple are really going to be? People really MIGHT be just getting what they pay for, for better or worse. Plus, it's the only reason I have a silicone tail....I probably still wouldn't have paid full price for a silicone to this day, much as I'd have liked one, so 'new tailmaker discount' was always the plan before there even was a plan.

    Mer-Made.com

    Serious Sirenetics

  15. #15
    I do plan on posting some designs but I wanted to save up for a proper drawing tablet first so that the finished product looks cleaner
    Last edited by SereiaTitania; 07-20-2021 at 09:19 AM. Reason: Fix Typos

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