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Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published May 26, 2017

First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

Kids these days call it slime. Butter slime. Fluffy slime. Avalanche slime. Glitter slime. And they don't buy it prepackaged at a store in the mall. They make it at home, share their colorful, sticky creations through videos on Instagram and sell it on Etsy.com.

The tween trend has exploded in the last year — so much so that retailers can't keep Elmer's Glue, a key ingredient in slime recipes, on the shelves. It's also driven up the price of glue in stores and online, slime makers say. Elmer's doesn't credit for starting the viral trend. But the company is for sure capitalizing on it — Elmer's parent company, Newell Brands, reported a surge in glue sales that doubled in 2016, which also helped boost the company's overall performance during the first quarter of 2017.

The slime craze has spurred a wave of young entrepreneurs, too. Slime gurus sell their creations for $1 to $5 a pop on Etsy.com, an e-commerce marketplace for handmade and craft goods, or directly over social media platforms like Instagram.

Berlyn Perdomo and Aletheia Venator, both 13, are the faces behind the Instagram account "The.Real.SlimeShadyy". They're barely old enough to know who the rap artist, Eminem is, but their cheeky account name has garnered them attention in the online slime community.

The seventh graders at Plato Academy in Largo first made slime together for a science project at school. Then they noticed their peers were doing it in their free time. And the videos started popping up in their Instagram feeds.

"It's very satisfying to watch the videos," said Perdomo, who notes that some of her teachers let her use slime like a "stress ball" in class. "It's very stress relieving. That's why I like it."

So far Venator and Perdomo have been selling slime to their classmates at school. They've made up to $35 selling glue at school once, but had to stop when the teachers banned it. They also sold one or two from their Instagram account and are considering launching their own Etsy business. First though, they want to build up their Instgram followers.

"There are so many people selling it online now," Venator said. "We've only been doing it for a couple of months but a lot people want to buy it."

A quick search on Instagram shows that slime is popular for a number of reasons. Numerous hashtags aimed at the autonomous sensory meridian response community show that watching videos of people touching or making slime is "oddly satisfying." Basically, people watch the short videos of hands stretching and blending slime because it makes them feel relaxed.

"You get obsessed with the videos. It's a drug, it has this physio affect," said Bethany Matt, a mom of two who lives in Brandon. Her kids, ages seven and five, make slime at home all the time, she says. "I get caught up watching the videos for hours. It relaxes me."

Matt says she has trouble finding glue at her local Publix store sometimes. So she's been buying Elmer's Glue by the gallon for $14 a pop online.

In recent months, some safety concerns have arisen online. They're largely centered on some common slime recipes that call for using Borax, an ingredient in laundry detergent that can cause burning of sensitive skin. But Matt and others say they have not experienced any problems.

Retailers suggest recipes with alternative ingredients to Borax, like contact lens solution.

In January, the crafts store chain, Michaels debuted special sections dedicated to slime making in some stores, said spokeswoman Mallory Smith.

"Michaels identified slime as an emerging trend after noticing high sell through rates of glue as well as seeing increases social media posts and chatter surrounding the topic," Smith said. "Since then, we have worked hard to make necessary ingredients easily accessible to our shoppers. We have dedicated prime shelf space as our 'slime headquarters', a one-stop shop where items such as glue, sequins, beads, and paints can be found."

Office Depot began hosting slime-making events at its stores after noticing a higher demand for glue beginning around February, said Eric Meehan, divisional merchandising manager at Office Depot.

"This is the most recent trend for Office Depot in terms of anticipating customer needs by providing all ingredients for slime," Meehan said. "The turnout for our first slime-making demonstrations was great. In the three-hour events, we gave roughly six demonstrations. At our most recent event we saw many children participating in demonstrations at our stores. We are considering holding a third event due to the success of our first two events."

Brenden Urick, who lives in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, said she noticed the price of glue has jumped on Amazon, too. Urick, who has the Instagram handle, "slimejellies" has collected more than 30,000 followers since she started her slime account five months ago. Her elaborate slime creations, including one that was styled to look like a cassette tape from the viral Netflix series, "13 ReasonsE Why," regularly gets hundreds of thousands of likes, comments and views.

Urick, 31, uses aromatherapy oils in her slime creations. Her kitchen cabinets are filled with Tupperware containers that house her many variations of colorful slime. The goal is to sell slime soon at local markets in Tampa Bay, like the Indie Flea and Localtopia, she says.

"You see people online who are making a living off of doing just this," Urick says. "It's bananas. I know this is just a fad. It's grabbed the attention of popular culture for now. But there's something to this that's so nostalgic. That's why I think people of all ages are into it."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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