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Don’t let the name mislead you: South Florida’s Mari Draughon isn’t goofing around. The 30- year-old founder of the Instagram-based account The Goofy Mermaid is serious about introducing women to the benefits of natural beauty products for the mind, body and soul.
Like so many triumphs, Draughon’s success started in tribulation. “I was in pain,” she recalls, “Excruciating pain, all day long.” After two years of medical consultations, Draughon was diagnosed in 2014 with endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a painful condition that affects an estimated five to 10 percent of women. Although she was relieved to have a diagnosis, she sought alternatives to the prescribed drug treatments. “The side-effects just weren’t worth it to me,” she explains.
Draughon had read that gluten can inflame PCOS symptoms, but she was shocked when her pain was markedly reduced after just two weeks of gluten elimination. Intrigued, she researched the benefits of natural products and adopted a sweeping lifestyle shift, including an organic, pescetarian, gluten-free and soy-free diet, and became more mindful about the health and beauty products she uses.
“At that point, my work in marketing conventional brands just didn’t resonate anymore. I felt I was living a double life.”
Suddenly, Draughon’s personal life and her professional life were at odds. As a marketing consultant for conventional personal care products, she had been a trailblazer in building brand presence through social media. “Back then, a product was just a product to me,” she explains. “I knew that the new way I’d been eating and treating my body was improving my health and keeping me from being in pain. At that point, my work in marketing conventional brands just didn’t resonate anymore. I felt I was living a double life.”
That’s when Draughon’s “marketing brain” kicked in (during a truly mermaid-worthy session of introspection: a soak in the bath). She was determined to use her social media savvy to create a brand promoting a different kind of product—the kind that would help women, not hurt them. “Once I was able to find relief, I wanted to share that,” she says. A self-described “sun-in-her-face, sand-on-her-skin, salt-in-her-hair kind of girl,” Draughon chose the unconventional name The Goofy Mermaid (TGM) for her new brand, reflecting her passion for skateboarding (“goofy” refers to her riding style—with her left foot at the back of the board), and her love of the ocean.
What started in September 2015 as an infrequently visited blog and linked social media accounts soon began to catch fire on Draughon’s personal Instagram page, which already boasted an enviable 17,000 followers. But when she rebranded the page as The Goofy Mermaid, something big happened. “I shared my struggles with PCOS and talked about how I had transitioned to a green lifestyle,” she says. Many of TGM’s early followers were dealing with similar health issues. Others were seeking guidance on how to green their own beauty routines. Post after post, Draughon’s message began to find its audience, netting TGM an additional 10,000 new followers in a matter of months.
The followers were rolling in, but the product partnerships were another story. “In the beginning, I had to seek out the brands I wanted to feature,” Draughon explains. Eventually, though, brands took note and began to actively seek TGM as a collaborative partner.
Still, she wasn’t charging for the exposure she was providing. Instead, Draughon focused on building TGM’s content. With a backpack full of products and packaging, white poster board for a clean backdrop, stationery paper in pinks and grays for accent colors, elements like leaves or flowers to suggest nature’s influence, and a few gold accessories to add sparkle, she’d skateboard to a nearby neighborhood gazebo to snap iPhone images to post on Instagram—creating a look that she hoped would make TGM stand out.
It worked. In October 2015, the Beall’s-owned Bunulu boutique invited Draughon to participate in a fashion show featuring prominent local bloggers. The event turned out to be her ah-ha moment. “People were actually taking note,” she says. “That’s when I realized that it was actually a brand, and not just a hobby anymore.”
Draughon knew it was time to monetize, so in early 2016 she nervously updated her media kit with a fee sheet of $75 per post. “I wasn’t sure that brands would truly want to pay to work with me,” she admits. Eventually, she upped her fee to $100 per post, offering package rates for repeat exposure. Once the money began to flow, so did the followers: the page went from 27,000 in February of this year to nearly 53,000 and counting by October (and it continues to grow by an average of 42 new followers each day).
Almost 70 percent of TGM’s audience is comprised of North American women between the ages of 25 and 44—widely regarded as one of the most desirable groups to target when it comes to disposable income spending—making TGM an online marketing space that adds real value to the bottom lines of the brands it features. Beauty box subscription service Loli Beauty’s recent launch collaboration with TGM helped the brand’s social media following grow exponentially in just a few days. Since then, the brand has been featured in Bustle, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
Brand collaborators aren’t the only ones seeing the green in TGM’s green-friendly business. In busy months, the page brings in around $6,000 a month in revenue, with slower months approaching $3,000. “I’m still shocked every time I look at where it started and where it has gone,” Draughon says. “It’s given me an opportunity not only to be myself, but also to make a successful living being myself.”
Call it a case of be-careful-what-you-wish-for, but Draughon soon found she’d become a slave to the platform upon which she’d built her success. “Social media was consuming my life,” she confesses. “I was attached to my phone, constantly checking pages, writing posts, responding to followers.” Though she valued TGM’s impact, she felt it was time to make an impact (and a change) in her own life.
“It’s given me an opportunity not only to be myself, but also to make a successful living being myself.”
In August of 2016, Draughon sold TGM for a five-figure sum to Kirstie Laurie, a green lifestyle advocate and long-time follower of the page. As the new face of the Mermaid brand, Laurie drives the page’s content creation and audience management. Draughon has stayed on behind-the-scenes, helping to maintain the brand’s vision, developing strategic collaborations and managing relationships with TGM-featured products.
Draughon admits she could extend her expertise in green skin care and beauty products into other realms in the future. “Whatever it is I end up doing next, I want it to be in real life,” she says. “I don’t want my efforts to exist solely in a virtual world anymore.” Could she go from a world of online clicks and likes to the real world of bricks and mortar—perhaps opening a local green beauty storefront? Sure. But she makes no promises. “I’m still in a figuring-it-out phase,” she concedes, laughing. “For now, I’m enjoying the silence.”
Mari Draughon shares her thoughts on all things beauty—from how The Goofy Mermaid makes its product picks, to how to clean up your own beauty routine.
A Mermaid’s Beauty Mantra
Many ingredients in conventional beauty products are harmful, and to me, that’s just not beautiful. Loving yourself and treating your body with the respect it deserves is beautiful. Feeling comfortable in your own skin so you can go into the world and be who you were meant to be is beautiful. It’s important that we’re not putting on products just to achieve beauty, but that we’re mindful that what we’re doing is also nurturing our bodies. If you love and nurture your body, it will love and nurture you in return.
Greening Your Routine
Going green isn’t about perfection, it’s about elevation. I like focusing on better products, rather than perfect ones. Making a shift to products with better ingredients can eliminate irritation and sensitivity, which are often the result of harsh chemicals and fragrances found in conventional products. Eliminating your exposure to conventional products doesn’t have to happen overnight. Start with small changes and lots of research.
All the Right Influences
If you’re looking for new products and practices, start following some influencers and ask them for advice, resources and product recommendations for specific needs that you may have. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then just keep an eye out for their ideas and suggestions. If any of the products resonate with you, try them! Or, start following that brand to learn more about who they are and what they offer.
Check out 3 of our favorite The Goofy Mermaid-featured products:
Bella Aura’s Gentle Purifying Cleanser
It cleanses, detoxes and moisturizes, and it’s loaded with vitamins. The result? Replenished, protected and strengthened skin; $45; bellaaura.com.
Leahlani Skincare’s Mermaid Mask
This deep emerald mask will leave you with radiant glowing skin, just like (you guessed it) a mermaid; $32; leahlaniskincare.com.
Lotus Wei’s Infinite Love Energy Mist
Flower alchemy magnifies your gentleness, compassion, softness and receptivity so you can lead the way in love. Use it as a toner, body spray and on pillows; $40; shop.lotuswei.com