Photo: Laura Evans Photography
Jason Sadler had the bright idea of selling ad space on his chest four years ago.He made an impressive $70,000 in his first year of business, which caught the attention of the New York Times, Fast Company and other media outlets.
What’s even more impressive is how the business has grown since. He now brings in $500,000 per year between himself and four other T-shirt wearers, marketing to clients including Arizona Tea, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Nissan, and Lucky Brand.
Sadler founded iwearyourshirt.com on a whim in 2008. When the idea for the company came to him, he and a friend were busy with a startup web design company and Sadler lacked experience for the new venture.
“I had no social media experience,” says Sadler. “On Facebook, I probably had 100 friends and no Twitter account. But some of our clients were asking about social media and I saw the potential for this to be a vehicle for advertising.”
Sadler wanted to come up with an interactive way for companies to advertise their brand with the added social media tie-in. Ultimately, he decided to capitalise on T-shirts; people love to wear them, they’re easy to sell, and cheap to buy, making the startup costs virtually nonexistent. “I got a haircut and spent $100 on a video camera,” says Sadler. From there, he garnered attention about his mission through social media and gained a small following.
What really sold the idea of iwearyourshirt.com to businesses was Sadler’s unique pricing model, which was equivalent to the calendar day the company chooses to advertise on. The first of January would cost just one dollar to advertise, while the last day in December would be $365. It was a steal, and Sadler made his first dollar from UStream.tv. In just six months, the entire year was sold out.
To accommodate a growing demand, Sadler added more T-shirt wearers to the roster and now has a team of five, including himself. Employing T-shirt wearers through a creative, unconventional process ensures Sadler that his brand will continue to thrive. When hiring, Sadler requires applicants to create a three-minute video explaining why they’re the right candidates for the job and allows viewers to vote on the top clips.
Sadler’s four t-shirt wearing employees receive between $25-35,000 per year, plus bonuses, and receive a Mac laptop and recording equipment for videos.
“I don’t ask for your resume, nor do I care for references. After I saw the top videos, I spoke to the winners over the phone and flew them to Florida. That was it. The video was all I needed to see.”
“People always wonder what I’m going to get out of this and how we’ll continue to grow, because this is a quirky business. But we are growing. In fact, in July, we’re shifting into a new direction.”
With the old model, companies paid for a day of advertising and T-shirt wearers wore a different shirt every day of the week. With the revised model, advertisers will pay for a business week of advertisement, giving companies more individualized attention and giving T-shirt wearers breathing room during the weekend (until recently, they wore T-shirts even on special occasions and holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving). Although outbound sales have been obsolete in the past, the team is starting to reach out to potential clients they think would be a good fit for them. The calendar-day model is also being nixed, in replace of a per-package model.
When Sadler began iwearyourshirt.com, he did not write a business plan because he had every intention of moulding his goals as the business expanded. “If I wrote a business plan,” he says, “I think I might have failed. Too many people write out a plan and are so intent with sticking to it. If you are going to write a business plan, write it in pencil. This way, you can continue to erase and revise.”
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