Every day since January 1, 2009 he has a worn the shirt of a sponsor and blogged, tweeted, facebook’d, ustreamed and YouTubed about his experience wearing that shirt.By June 2009, he was a media sensation. He sold sold out his products in his first year. The demand for his product is so strong in this his 2nd year that he raised his prices...! Not just a little bit. He doubled them. In a recession!
Demand continues even stronger. He’s almost sold out his products for this year and the year is only half over. And he’s an even bigger media sensation. 30,000-40,000 people a day now wait with bated breath for his latest daily story. And he started a non-profit organization to...give back. Oh. And he’s still having great fun.
I met Jason first on Twitter. I think. In November 2008. I saw where this creative audacious guy was planning to wear anyone’s shirt. For a price. And use social media to tell the story of that day as he wore that shirt. I thought...crazy. Funny. Audacious. Let’s do it. So he wore my shirt on January 19, 2009.
We’re going to hear more about what’s happened in this past year. How he’s been able to grow his business in the worst recession in 50 years and how you might be able to do the same thing. And we want to hear about his non-profit organization 1 Million Shirts and see how we can join that journey, also. ( You can listen to our conversation here. )
Jason! How are you? Welcome again to the show.
I normally don’t encourage stalking of our guests. But I think you might encourage them to follow you. Where are you, whose shirt are you wearing today?
You can find all of our links at our site I Wear Your Shirt.
Today’s t-shirt is from Be Real Be You. It’s sponsored by the Girls Can Do Anything magazine. It’s just about empowering the youth to understand that they don’t need to be anyone else. They just need to be themselves.
Now. You’ve had over 500 days of this journey. What’s been the best day?
Oh, c’mon! That’s impossible to answer. Every day is its own unique story. This is the one thing that I’ve done for those 538 mornings straight where I wake up and think Ok, let’s do it. what’s happening today.
I’m not unhappy. I don’t have creative blocks.I do work long hours. I have worked a lot of days straight.
I’m addicted to my clients sending me emails and saying they got so much more than they expected.
I’m not passionate about wearing t-shirts. But I am passionate about talking with people, sharing what I’ve learned, helping people.
All my business is is customer service. Customer service is enormous...it’s the best form of marketing you can do.
When was the day you had the idea...I think I’ll wear someone’s shirt, talk about it all over social media and have them pay me for it? Describe that day for us.
It was September 21, 2008, about 3 AM. I’m a night owl so I’m up late. It wasn’t on the toilet. A lot of people think it was in the bathroom.
I owned a web design company at the time. I was thinking about how people were cutting back. There’s gotta be another solution for small business and have a fighting chance.
Social media tools are free. Businesses don’t have the time or money to promote these things in a award-winning way. Where I could do it in a creative and engaging way that could live on in all this digital content. All this stuff lives on forever.
Then the pricing structure was key. I started it at $1 on January 1, 2009. I had no following. I had 200 friends on Facebook. Started small and grew towards the end of the year.
I don’t want to cut out the small business. Yeah, I love wearing shirts for big companies. But I also want to help small business.
I’ve had small businesses send out an email blast and put up a blog post. Yeah, the big clients are nice...but getting the small companies out to talk about is part of the overwhelming success.
You know my friend, Erika Andersen, coined a great phrase in her book Being Strategic. That phrase is reasonable aspiration or hoped for future. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future with IWearYourShirt.com.
I never do anything without thinking I could be successful. That’s how I was raised.
I still want to stay as humble as possible. But I want to look forward to this thing selling out.
We have two people wearing the shirts today. And we’re opening it up for hiring for next year. What if you had 50 people around the world wearing your t-shirt?
What are more signs or metrics that point to you’re making progress towards that future?
2011 is going to be the big year. Each year the calendar opens in August. I have 5 months to sell advertising ahead of time. I have 13 days left on this year. I’m selling way in advance this year.
There’s a lot of things swirling ahead. I’m hiring people in August, launching the calendar in August. Next year I’ll have 5 people wearing the shirts ...
Every entrepreneur overcomes obstacles in their journey. What’s been the 3 biggest obstacles in your journey to-date. And how did you overcome them?
Understanding the way media and print want to talk about something. They want a full complete story. I thought the story was the idea.
All this traditional media stuff has been fantastic. But it hasn’t really impacted the business. At the end of the day the actionable items from being on CBS Evening News wasn’t that much.
It’s very hard to understanding how people consume media.
Explaining to people what they should expect to get. Everyone’s been very happy. I’ve had maybe 4 people not happy and that was because I wasn’t clear.
Katie Couric interviewed you?
Actually, Steve Hartmann, does a segment called Across America. He came to my house with a video guy. They were here for 8 hours and most of that was in my closet which was hilarious. Just told the story, talked about it and ended up being a 4-minute segment.
It’s surreal turning it on and hearing Katie Couric talk about me.
Bruce Springsteen sings his concerts to one person in each audience. Who was that one person for you on that first day, January 1, 2009?
I think it really is the previous Jason Sadler. It’s the guy working a 9-5 job felt suppressed and this gives them inspiration to reach for their goal.
I took something so simple as t-shirt and built my brand around it and monetized it. If you don’t see that then you’re not seeing the picture.
You can read and understand more and get your self into situations where you’re happier and doing the things you love.
When did you know, how did you know, that this thing was going to work?
When I started in 2008 I put up a site and emailed my friends. There wasn’t a big aha when it got started and rolled through. But when January 1, 2009 came around and I had 5 1/2 months sold...I thought When did this happen?
Even for this year, there wasn’t one moment. It’s really been a daily grind. It really comes down to the long hours and the hard work and dedication you put in.
When did you know you had to hire someone? What was the data, the experience, the headache or missed opportunity that pushed you to hire one more person?
It was more of a should than I had to. Evan was behind the scenes from the beginning. He worked at Ustream at the start and he was there every single day and introducing me to people and helping with ideas. After so many phone conversations I said I can’t think of anybody better than Evan.
You use social media a little bit, right? What all do you use?
Flickr, Youtube, Facebook, Ustream, Twitter, the website is built on Drupal.
If you were paring it down to just three tools or resources, which ones would they be? Why?
Ustream, Twitter, and the website.
YouTube is great. But I haven’t had anything amazing happen there. I’ve had videos with 20-30,000 views. But Ustream is more social. I have all these people come through and watch. I chat with everybody I can. It gets hectic.
Twitter. There’s 70 million people on it.
Facebook is much bigger. But it’s more closed-off.
What are your three social media tips for nascent media empire-builders?
I have a personal YouTube video where I share stream of consciousness content. Peter Shankman talks about good content = viral content.
Give people a schedule. Give them something they should expect. People need structure. There are 30-50 people waiting on my live video show.
Don’t be someone you’re not. You have to be yourself. If you’re a sarcastic guy, then be yourself. If you’re not an entrepreneur then just grasp that and hold on to it.
The next question is either tricky-sounding or very simple. You walk between two distinct worlds: traditional and innovative. You’re business model is innovative, but its operation is still traditional. You use social media and then traditional media interviews you while they scratch their head, filled with envy perhaps.
There’s no way you can say social media is bigger than traditional media. But social media is so fast.
There’s a fine line between using social media to get yourself in front of traditional media. It’s not about being extravagant.
You need the balance of traditional media. that was the thing for me. Has it effected my business as far as sales go? Probably not. But has it helped with speaking gigs and consulting? Yes.
Social media opens the door to traditional media. Peter Shankman is a great example. He’s using traditional email list with HARO, Help a Reporter Out, to help people get in front of a Wall Street Journal reporter.
You really have to use both. You can't sit in just one.
This is the world of startups and entrepreneurs. This is where jobs are created. This is where our economy recovers. Yes?
Let’s say President Obama is on the line for you right after the call. He wants you to come share your successes, tips, knowledge. You do. Right in the Oval Office. First thing he does is give you a T-Shirt, right? What would be your first three tips you’d share with him to help more people have your success?
That’s a very loaded and tough question. I’m very young and new to this business stuff.
The one thing I don’t understand is why...they don’t give more money to entrepreneurial people. I’d rather see some of that bailout money go to the entrepreneur who has that renewable energy to power that car with no carbon footprint.
I wish there would be a little more slice of the pie for small business and entrepreneurs.
You have all these people who are hungry out of work and talented. But you give these people some kind of chance. You take a great mind and a great thinker...
Tell us about your non-profit organization. What is it? What’s its reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future?
Two months ago I could have told you this very quickly.
Our original goal with 1 Million Shirts was I thought we’d take these t-shirts to a village where poverty is high, not so much clothing. The original goal was to ship t-shirts to rural villages. Very quickly the aid and non-profit world came thundering down on the detrimental qualities of dumping t-shirts in rural areas.
Since then, I’ve been talking to people and we shifted focus. T-shirts can be used for disaster relief. They need clothing on their back and possibly they’ll be distributed to homeless shelters.
But the big thing is that now it’s going to be 1 million shirts for 1 million minds. The goal is to create scholarships and look forward to the next 5-10-15 years of schooling.
That’s unbelievably is There are over 500 million kids in Africa under the age of 15. There’s a huge group of people who need and want education and be the forward thinkers in their area.
I want everyone around the world to mail a shirt in and you include $1. All of the money will go towards awarding scholarships.
Everyone can get involved. You can go in the closet and grab a couple of shirts and throw a couple of dollars in a package and help bring education to those who want it and need it.
Let’s say we talk again next year, 2011. What will talk about with you, your success?
I really hope that when we talk June 2011 that I can sing the praises of 4 other people and sing their praises of how awesome they are. I hope I’m still happy putting on a t-shirt every day. I’m helping small businesses share their message.
I just want to have fun, create great, great content, enjoy what I’m doing and continue to give value back to people.
You’re a leader. Leaders are readers said Jim Rohn. What are you reading that’s wowed you this year? Books, blogs, mags, whatever.
I’m not a huge reader just typically for the sake of time. I get my news from twitter and my facebook news feed.
Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk. I bought 40 copies and gave away to my followers.
Linchpin, by Seth Godin.
Delivering Happiness, a pre-signed copy. I hope to be able to read it on a flight this week. Anything going on with Zappos is going to be great.
Where on the web can we find you?
Everywhere with IWearYourShirt.