Thursday, November 20, 2014

Idaho Falls company sells mermaid tails worldwide

Fin Fun's seven mermaid princesses (from left): Brynn, Zoey, Destiny, Crystal, Jia, Waverlee and Serena
Landlocked Idaho Falls is the last place you might expect to find mermaids, but a local company has turned one young girl’s fascination into a global enterprise.

Fin Fun, a company with its headquarters on Sunnyside Road, is now shipping mermaid tails and suits to 86 countries. The company has grown to 40 people, and has 100 seamstresses spread out across the upper Snake River Valley, from Blackfoot to Rexburg.

“Our market is little girls all over the world,” said Melinda Turner, the company’s marketing director.

It started in 2009, when Karen Browning of St. Anthony got a puzzling request from her granddaughter Emily, to make her a mermaid tail. "Having sewn for over 50 years, I laughed and said, 'I don't know how to make mermaid tails,'" Browning said. "Well, she soon showed me that by ingenuity and working together, we could do it."

Using spandex swimsuit material and rigid material for the fin, Browning applied her sewing skills to the project. "It proved so popular as she and her sister Sarah swam in them that soon her friends were asking where they could get their very own tail," Browning said. She knew she was onto something. She began selling them on eBay and set up a store on Etsy.

Demand took off, so much so that Browning’s sons, Eric and Steve, came back to eastern Idaho to run the company. Forging a relationship with Elevate Fulfillment, a third-party logistics company on Lindsay Boulevard, the company grew.

From a marketing standpoint, Fin Fun offers a great lesson in what the Internet has made possible. Turner has set up a Web site, www.Finfunmermaids.com, that features not only the company’s products but art, photos, videos and a Meet the Mermaidens blog written by Emma Turner, 16, a student at Hillcrest High School. The Facebook page has more than 27,000 likes.

The company also makes shark fins for boys and just this Monday released a merman tail. Turner said the hottest markets of late are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the Philippines, where there are classes that teach girls and boys how to swim with the fins.

With 39 grandchildren, Browning has a special place in her heart for young people. “We have been delighted to be a part of making dreams come true for so many little (and bigger) mermaids,” she said. "Even now, after so much growth, we are proud that all of our suits, costumes and monofins are still made here in the USA.”

In addition to offering the best product they can make at an affordable price, Fin Fun donates a generous amount of its profits to children's causes. In 2013, these included Primary Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Association for Children and Parents, Idaho Falls Humanitarian Center, Unicef, Mentors International, CASA, Amazima Ministries, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Operation Smile and Idaho Art Lab.

“We hope to do even more to bless the lives of children,” Browning said.

Here’s a YouTube video: