When KayCee Militante’s daughter became fixated on mermaids at age 3, this 33-year-old Chicago mom of two knew she’d eventually be getting her a mermaid costume.
So Militante, who works as a special education teacher, looked online for a waterproof mermaid costume, but was shocked at the prices: Most were about $250. She decided she’d make one for $40-and that once she figured out how to do it, she’d spread the love. And she did.
How did you figure out how to make the costumes?
At JoAnn Fabrics, I found water-friendly materials, and I traced Nina onto a piece of waxed paper and designed a tail to attach. Soon enough we had a real live mermaid.
And then what happened?
I posted Nina’s photo on Facebook, and the response was incredible. I then listed some on Etsy. When I would receive an order from a customer, they almost always told me about a little girl who dreamed of having a mermaid tail, and I wanted to make that dream come true.
How many have you sold?
We just fulfilled our 2,000th order.
How do you manage to teach full-time, take care of two young children and run the business?
I take shortcuts-we have our groceries delivered and we splurge on a weekly cleaning. My mom converted her finished basement into a shop. I now have my fabric cut in a shop, and I recruited a friend to manage the customer service, since it was becoming impossible for me to do everything flawlessly.
Wouldn’t it be cheaper to manufacture the mermaid costumes overseas?
Part of the reason we have had such a positive response is because we are small, local and personal. I love knowing who a product is for and hearing about their reaction or seeing pictures they share.
A swimmable shark costume for my son Jack, who is 2. I’ll start selling them, too.
What’s your favorite thing to do with your kids when you’ve all got the day off?
We love to spend a day out walking, and take a boat ride from Ping Tom Park in Chinatown to Michigan Avenue.