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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

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