In the age of the million-dollar knitting business on Etsy and hundreds of thousands of home-spun "pussy hats" for the Women's March, it should come as no surprise that handcrafted mermaid tails are dominating my Facebook feed this winter. They are, after all, preciously cute and cozy. If seeing kids snuggled into these super sweet accessories makes you green with envy, but your crocheting skills are not up to par -- a new company has you and your kids covered - literally. Enchantails was founded by Southern California entrepreneurs Tristy and Mark Viniello, who are parents to four girls. Their new mermaid slumber bag sets each come with a themed storybook that blends real-life places in the ocean with longstanding mythologies about mermaids from around the globe.
The Viniellos came up with the idea of Enchantails when Mark, a 20-year veteran in make-up special effects for the film industry, was making a mermaid tail for Adam Sandler's film, Bedtime Stories. The Viniellos' eldest daughter wanted one of her own, and he found a dearth of pre-made mermaid products online. Tristy researched mermaid mythologies and marine life, including details on endangered species who are now the mermaids' "Sea Buddies," while Mark created the tail-enhanced slumber bag.
The Viniellos' bags are made of soft fabrics with glow-in-the-dark thread for extra magic. The books, which "take kids on adventures with the independent-minded royal mermaids," are set at a 4th-5th grade reading level. The set also includes a carry tote for easy storage, a decorative pillow, and lovely wall decals featuring the Mermaids with their Sea Buddies.
The following is an except of the couple's interview with Inc.com:
Kate L. Harrison: Why did you decide to offer a complete kit instead of just the mermaid tail bag?
Tristy Viniello: We conceived Enchantails a whole world. We are more than just a mermaid tail bag company. We offer a complete experience.
Mark Viniello: During the genesis of the project, when we were designing the bags, we knew we wanted to do more. So as the concept evolved, we began to fashion the tail fins after real sea creatures, and it just went on from there. We looked at the different oceanic regions and began to create our own version of the world of the sea. Then the story and the world expanded to our current offerings.
Kate: Beyond personal knitters, is there any competition?
Tristy: There's nothing similar to Enchantails on the market. We offer 12 mermaid realms belonging to one world, where each realm is uniquely based on real world mythologies and actual ocean facts. We have everything from a steampunk world to an ice world to a botanical world. We are the only slumber bag of its kind on the market, and the only kind of bag that glows in the dark.
Mark: I don't look at other properties as competition. After all, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer have similar themes, e.g., human girl falls in love with a vampire. Each of those properties was successful in its own right. We've just focused on Enchantails to make it the best company it can be. We also patented the slumber bag.
Kate: Do you have any connection with Disney?
Tristy: We are not affiliated with Disney, nor have we wanted to be. Ariel may be the first mermaid to be Disney marketed and inspire many, but we wanted more scope for the imagination. We wanted a universe of mermaids. We aim to empower girls to be who they are, and to realize that the power within is what the world needs. While we have princess mermaids, their goal is about saving the ocean, and the world.
Mark: Exactly. Our mermaids are not connected with Disney in any way. We did, however, look to Disney for inspiration. They really set the gold standard in regards to storytelling, artwork, etc., which is why we went to great lengths regarding the backstories, the world of Oceana and the character personalities of our mermaids.
Kate: As a self-funded company, how did you generate distribution/pick up?
Tristy: Early on, we landed a major bedding manufacturer (Mytex), who is distributing our sets. Other major retailers are jumping on board because we are so unique. Our product really sells itself.
Mark: We did sacrifice a great deal to get to this point. Fortunately, my job in Hollywood allows me to take on extra work or side jobs. When we had to get something done, I took as many side jobs as I could fit in a 24-hour day. As for distribution, Joy Tashjian, our licensing agent, did an incredible job of getting the property licensed to Mytex Home Fashions. Mytex utilized their sales team and contacts to get us placement. During our first four sales meetings, we went 4-for-4 with retailers, which apparently is unheard of.
Kate: What do kids love best about the product line?
Tristy: Kids love the world and variety of our mermaids, plus the fact that they can play pretend mermaid life in a tail that goes with them -- and glows in the dark. Have tail, will travel.
Mark: The sleeping bags are definitely the banner item in our world, but once children engage in the stories, they really begin to key into the characters. The fact that the sleeping bag glows in the dark -- like our mermaid's tails do in the stories whenever they use their powers -- really gets kids excited. The story jumps off the page and engages kids to become more interactive.
Kate: Where can people find your products?
Tristy: The first 3 of 12 Enchantails sets are out and currently available online at ToysRUs.com, BedBathBeyond.com , Macys.com , and of course at Enchantails.com and on Amazon.com. We will be releasing plush versions in early 2017, and will release more books, three more realms and their coordinating slumber bag tails.
Kate: As a parent, it's nice to hear about products like yours that encourage play, participation, fantasy and creativity in kids!