Small Business Q&A: Atlanta's Santas
This East Cobb booking agency represents Mr. and Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer and photographers in Greater Atlanta.
St. Nicholas, also known as Father Christmas, Santa Claus, St. Nick, or, according to Cheech and Chong, ”the guy wit da hair on his jaws,” represents the spirit of generosity and love to Christians and others around the world.
Atlanta’s Santas owner Steph Seibert keeps her booking agency business in perspective: “All the men I represent are Santa’s helpers. The real St. Nicholas is not seen.”
According to the nonprofit St. Nicholas Center, the third-century Bishop of Myra is the patron saint to an expansive list including: lawyers; judges; the unjustly condemned; sailors; perfumers; pawn brokers; bakers; the poor; lovers; and children.
It is believed that St. Nick was born to wealthy parents in what is now Turkey and was orphaned at a young age which led to his joining the church and donating his inheritance to help the needy. St. Nicholas’ life’s work includes a number of miracles that are basis for traditions that are celebrated during Christmas.
“The first thing I look at in a potential Santa is his personality,” Seibert said. “Each has to audition for my kids. If they like him and I trust him, we work on his looks.”
Seibert, 29, checks the backgrounds of all her subcontractors, except for her father, Ted Jackson, who is the reason Seibert started her business.
Jackson first portrayed Santa Claus 20 years ago at a church costume party. He co-founded Peachtree Santas of Georgia with Steve Bailey in 2008. The non-profit social group has over 200 members, according to Seibert.
Atlanta’s Santas has non-exclusive representation of 27 Santas, 3 elves, 4 photographers, seven Mrs. Clauses and reindeer. Seibert is responsible for administration, hiring talent, booking jobs, coordinating schedules, marketing and says she uses her community theater background.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I have three children, ages 10, 4 and 4 months old. I like that my work is seasonal and gives me time to be with my family. I also like working with the group of people that I do. I get to decide who I work with. Most people don’t have that choice.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. I like the diversity. We have different income levels, religions, races. I really enjoy that.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. I work out of my home. It started out of necessity. In 2007, my husband, daughter and I were living with my parents and my father lost his job right before Christmas.
We needed to earn a house payment or loose the house. I just got serious about helping and got bookings for my father, as Santa, from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.
The next year I made the business official, registered the name, put up the web site, got a business license.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. It runs in the family. (Big smile.) I’ve been an elf since I was 10. My 10-year-old daughter just did her first gig as an elf with her Papaw.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We have a Santa who rides a Harley and speaks Spanish. We’ve got a black Santa and a Santa who is a minister who has married a couple as Santa.
We do grown up parties. My dad just did a woman named Virginia’s 60th birthay party. Yes, dad told Virginia there is a Santa. (Smile.)
Santa can deliver gift cars. Usually someone will hire a Santa on the day after Christmas to drive up in a surprise, late present.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. I saw there was nothing like it in this area. I have a low dollar investment, I use my home computer. A friend did the website for her college final. I pay her an annual maintenance fee and have printing costs for business cards.
My business has grown each year.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Research. I’m blessed to have started my business in this day and age. I can research things I need to know about legal matters or marketing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. We do family events, small business appearances, big corporate to-do’s. People don’t realize what a looked-forward-to tradition having Santa come to your party can become.
Steph Seibert, owner/elf