By Diana Colson
Charlotte Marin‘s life centers around the water. She double-majored in Biology and Spanish at Eckerd College and now holds a full-time job working as a marine biologist in fisheries. This entrepreneurial and beautiful young lady founded Mermaid Swim School, and has built it into a thriving business. She recently founded a swimsuit company called FLORIDITA SWIMWEAR, where she designs and produces hand-made, luxury bathing suits in beautiful patterns and colors, all handsomely studded with embroidery and beading. Her fluent Spanish comes in handy, for her designs are produced at a factory in Medellin, Colombia.
Born Charlotte Mansfield, she was raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin, located at the edge of the Mississippi River. Brought up by a young single mom, Charlotte spent an idyllic childhood enjoying nature, crafting and searching for new swimming holes. She attended Catholic School, where—as a young fashionista—she was forever pushing the limits of the dress code by wearing patterned tights and piling on the accessories. “I camereally close several times to being sent home to change, but I always got away with it” – Charlotte grins.
“My first job was in a pizza parlor at age 15. My mother dragged me over there. I soon realized that I hated being micromanaged. I decided from that point forward I was only going to take jobs that I liked and were good for my resume. I knew I loved the water, so at 16 I became a lifeguard and swim instructor, and started working at the local community pools.”
Of Norwegian descent, the lovely blonde went to Los Angeles one summer where she found a job working for a company that sent instructors to teach private, in-home swimming lessons. After she returned to Florida and graduated from Eckerd, she continued to teach in-home lessons, building a large client base. Her brush with the Rich & Famous, as well as the inherent need for water safety in Florida, inspired the idea of starting Mermaid Swim School. Mainly a summer business, the school was thriving after only two years! It now has over twenty instructors and covers Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties. It is a proud member of the US Swim School Association and an authorized provider of the Red Cross. You will find their instructional offerings at www.mymermaidswimschool.com .
Always the water-lover, Charlotte is big into sailing. She worked as a First Mate sailing aboard various boats docked in St. Pete. These vessels took customers on various day sailing trips, mainly Dolphin Watching and Sunset Cruises. She nearly accepted a position sailing around the Caribbean, when along came a full-time job opportunity as a Biologist working in fisheries, the job she had always wanted. She accepted the position, moved to Sarasota, and now travels to various nearby locations where commercial fish are landed.
Charlotte spends most of her time in the historic fishing village of Cortez, where she greets commercial fishing boats returning from extended periods in open water. For example, a grouper boat will typically go 40 miles or more offshore into 120 feet of water, and is often gone for two weeks. When the fish are unloaded from the boat, she measures their length and weight, and takes various samples of spines, fin clips, bones etc, as well as interviews the fishermen about their trip. This information is used to conduct the stock assessments, which are important for determining the sustainability of the fisheries. The scientists are then able to advise the Fisheries Management Council in Tampa how to adjust fishing rules, regulations, and quotas as needed.
Charlotte currently works on completing her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at Florida Gulf Coast University. Her thesis work is focused on “The Seasonal Variability of the Striped Mullet Cast Net Industry in Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor.”
In spite of her passion for science, Charlotte always loved art and was looking for ways to fulfill her
creative side. While studying super challenging courses such as physics and organic chemistry in college, she thought to herself that her “backup plan” would be to attend design school. After moving to Sarasota, she met and married Sebastian Marin, a soccer lover who was born in Medellin, Colombia, and had moved to Sarasota as a boy. He attended Cardinal Mooney before going to study International Business as well as play soccer at Lenore Ryan College in Hickory, North Carolina. Sebastian has been the head Boys’ Varsity Soccer Coach at Cardinal Mooney for the last nine years. He is also the General Manager of Il Panificio in Gulfgate. The seasonality of the restaurant business allows him to manage Mermaid Swim School during the summer.
In 2011, the couple went to visit his family in Colombia. The trip was an eye-opener for Charlotte. “The details of the clothing really caught my eye. They have really intricate stitching, lots of embellishments, bright colors, interesting patters—and amazing body confidence. In Latin America, it doesn’t matter what size you are: you’ll rock a bikini. I wanted to bring that spirit back to the United States, with my own Latin-inspired line of swimwear.” She located a factory in Medellin which would produce her line of swim suits, and arranged to have her signature beadwork added by local artisans.
To say Charlotte’s Floridita swim suits are beautiful is an understatement. They are stunning and utterly unique! The suits look lovely on the website, of course, but when you see them for real—WOW! Charlotte is drawn to color, and uses a wide array of florals and an assortment of patterns—just as she did during her early years at Catholic School! You can find pictures of her suits at www.FloriditaSwimwear.com. You can also shop for them at CALIFLORIDA SURF & SKATE at 5253 Ocean Blvd. on Siesta Key.
Currently, Charlotte is working on her 2016 collection. She is looking into expanding her production base to include cover-ups, hats, and accessories. Just last week, she displayed her wares at the International Swim Fashion Week in Curacao.