Even the CEO of the North Pole has been put through the wringer in this economy.
But Santa Claus, aka Ted Jackson of Marietta, has made it so far, with the help of his elf daughter.
Jackson, 56, has been bleaching his long white hair and beard to entertain kids at Christmas time for some 20 years. But when he lost his main IT job in August 2008, his 27-year-old daughter, Steph Seibert, stepped into the void.
“He had to get enough Santa requests to make a house payment or we’d lose the house,” said Seibert, who with her husband and two kids, lives with her father and mother. “I marketed my father. He had at least one gig every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas.”
That was just the beginning of this Christmas story. When it looked like Jackson would be joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed like half of Georgia’s jobless, Seibert launched her own firm, Atlanta’s Santas, to market her father, as well as other Santas he knew.
“It was born out of necessity and the loss of his job. But it’s been a blessing,” Seibert said.
She built up a small, home business over time, contracting out 16 Santas and seven Mrs. Clauses, from Dahlonega to Macon.
Seibert gets 20 percent of the fee, which generally runs about $150 an hour for Santa and $125 an hour for Mrs. Claus.
“I love this. Most of my Santas end up being like family,” Seibert said. “We do bleaching parties for the Santas. I do all their bleaching.”
Apparently, kids enjoy touching the real thing much more than the synthetic impostor, so many Santas grow out their hair and beards, and then bleach them.
Jackson has been kept busy this season, largely because Seibert has gotten better at spreading the word, as she becomes more adept at marketing on the Web.
And Jackson has the advantage of looking like Santa in real life, so he gets impromptu offers when he’s traveling around town.
“I’m a walking billboard,” said Jackson, who tries to religiously carry business cards.
As for the kids he entertains, Jackson said they’ve generally stayed pretty much the same over the years.
While he’s been a victim of the recession, Jackson said the kids are not cutting back on what they’re asking Santa to bring them.
“I think the kids are oblivious to the economic situation. Kids are kids. They want toys,” he said. “I say, ‘I’ll try to do what I can do.’ Santa never promises anything.”
For more than two years, Jackson had been seeking the promise of a full-time job without success. So a few months ago, he decided to upgrade his IT skills by taking online courses.
But he said he then got caught in the typical Catch-22. Employers wanted him to already have job experience with his new skills, which he didn’t have because no one would hire him to get that experience.
Finally, his luck changed. Just 10 days ago, he was offered a part-time job, which he hopes will turn into a full-time one.
“When I had the interview with the guy, I told him if you want to stay on Santa’s nice list, you want to give him a job,” Jackson said. “He laughed. And I got the job.”
Jackson started Monday.
- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat
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