After graduating from HEC Montréal in 2012 and working shortly at Bell Canada, Marielle Chartier Hénault decided to follow her passion for the underwater world by creating AquaMermaid, a mermaid school based out of Montreal.
“I’ve always been known for loving the water,” Hénault said. “When I was younger, friends and family used to call me the little Mermaid. With my name being Marielle, [and] Ariel [as] the mermaid in The Little Mermaid, I guess it was just meant to be.”
Hénault embarked on a mission to find a way to combine her creativity and business education.
“When I was in business school, everyone around me would always tell me, ‘You are so creative, you have to do something with it,’” she said.
Hénault finally found her niche through the mermaid community.
“I have always been an active person and had previously done quite a bit of modelling,” Hénault continued. “So when a friend sent me an article about a mermaid school in Germany, I thought it would be the perfect way to combine my passion with my business education.”
As a school, AquaMermaid offers a new experience to anyone who has ever considered of learning how to be a mermaid or merman.
“[Mermaiding] is a mix of synchronized swimming, freediving, and regular swimming that involves performing dolphin kicks and undulating movements that you do when you practice the butterfly stroke,” said Hénault. “However, here, your legs are bound ogether by a neoprene mermaid tail.”
Unlike similar schools in Germany, the U.S., and the Philippines,Hénault’s school was developed to be slightly more formal. She wants to establish the concept beyond a gimmick that simply fulfils children’s dreams of becoming merpeople, which is frequently used by parents for their children’s birthday parties.
Hénault explained that her classes are a fun alternative to traditional workouts for adults to enjoy. She hopes that a new approach to this highly specialized sport will be more attainable for families.
“Fin-swimming is actually a niche sport that divers usually practice and compete in that involves all the muscles in your body,” Hénault said. “Not only does it reinforce your breathing and cardio, but you also strengthen your core and arm muscles However, as soon as you add a mermaid tail to the mono-fin, you forget about the challenging [task] you are doing.”
Hénault sought out many supporters for AquaMermaid to help her with the challenges young entrepreneurs face. For example, she had to find pools that would welcome her services, and she needed consulting for the legal regulations required for dealing with children.
“I was delighted at the number of people and professionals who supported my project and went out of their way to help me without expecting to make money,” Hénault said.
AquaMermaid also offers photo-shoots for individuals who wish to create a mermaid themed photo. The inspiration for these photoshoots originated from Hénault’s time as a model. She has been able to use her experiences and contacts to create successful photoshoots with professional photographers.
Hénault is also breaking into the retailing business and is starting to sell mermaid fish tails, which are made locally in Canada.
“I’ve realized that some clients love mermaiding so much they want to own their own mermaid fishtails,” Hénault said. “So I’ve decided to start selling my mermaid tails, [which are]purchased in Ottawa.”
In the future, Hénault wants to see the growth of a “mermaid community” in Montreal and Quebec with the organization of mermaid synchronized swimming competitions and races. She also has hopes of creating partnerships with holiday resorts in Cuba and other tropical destinations.
“I would like to offer my services to hotel guests who would enjoy a photoshoot on the beach or a mermaid session,” Hénault said.
Moreover, Hénault hopes that AquaMermaid will inspire other creative entrepreneurs.
“For the future, I hope that my academy become a reference for mermaid schools in Canada, and hope many people will be willing to jump in with me,” she said.
However, despite mermaiding’s appeal to some people, others are more skeptical.
“I like the idea, but for me, I think practicing this activity in a pool amongst many people might kill the magic of mermaids for me,” said Estelle Chappert, a U3 Management student.
Although mermaids may be a legend to some, Hénult’s launch of AquaMermaid may have turned the myth into somewhat a reality.