As the New Year dawned, Jason Sadler was still getting used to signing his new last name, which he acquired after selling the rights to his surname in an online auction for $45,500.
Now known as Jason HeadsetsDotCom, the 30-year-old entrepreneur and University of North Florida fine arts graduate, had worked four years wearing advertising shirts for companies in his IWearYourShirt.com business. Then, he came up with the idea of selling his last name for a year.
Jason is still waiting for the legal process to work its way through the courts to legally change his name and for the state to change his driver’s license. In the meantime, he’s changing his name across social media sites.
“My new friends at Headsets.com understand that’s a process out of my control,” he said of the official name change and driver’s license change.
Other than the money, why would Jason be willing to sell his name?
“Throughout my life I’ve had three separate last names, none of which have carried any real meaning for me or my sense of identity. So earlier this year, when my mom let me know she’d be going through a divorce, it occurred to me that shedding my last name might actually make a lot of sense to me,” he said.
In an auction that ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 12, there were 35 total bids from 25 bidders. The bidding heated up between PawnUp.com, an online pawnshop, and San Francisco-based Headsets.com, which describes itself as “America’s leading provider of office telephone headsets.”
When the smoke cleared, Headsets.com was the top bidder at $45,500.
The CEO and founder of Headsets.com, Mike Faith, said in an email that Sadler’s offbeat idea was a perfect fit for his company.
“After winning the bid, we flew Jason up to San Francisco to come to our holiday party. He brought his girlfriend. We hope they get married, so then we get two names for the price of one,” Faith said.
The amount of money he doled out didn’t seem to bother Faith.
“Yes, $45,500 is a lot of money, but it’s been worth it many times over already,” Faith said. “We’ve had hundreds of people ask us if we can buy their last name, too,” he said. “We like wacky things.”
Three years ago, Headsets.com offered free headsets for life for anyone who got a tattoo with the company’s logo. Six people took them up on the offer.
Faith called buying Jason’s last name a “one-year inexpensive gamble” for the company that generates $30 million in sales annually.
Melissa Simpson, manager for social media for Firehouse of America LLC, the franchising arm of Firehouse Subs, likes Jason’s approach.
Firehouse worked with Jason and his team in July when they created a video to help promote a Facebook page and worked with them again in July on a series of safety videos for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
“People’s attention spans are the new currency, and Jason has found creative and fun ways to gain a lot of attention for Headsets.com. I think that rocks,” Simpson said.
“Everyone he meets from now on until the end of 2013 will ask him about his new last name. That right there is a lot of conversation happening about HeadSets.com. I’d say the company got its money’s worth.”
IWearYourShirt.com is Jason’s main business. In addition to Jason, there are two other employees.
“Through IWearYourShirt.com, we have different services we offer that range from social media marketing, social media strategy, video production, group shirting and experimental marketing,” Jason said.
“We are incorporated and consider ourselves a serious business, but we try to have a bit of fun.”
Don Nicol, who with his wife Debbie owns TacoLu Baja Mexicana restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, has used Jason’s shirt-wearing business several times, usually around Cinco de Mayo. He found it exciting and rewarding but said it was getting too expensive for his small, local business.
“He is incredibly creative,” Nicol said. “I have tremendously enjoyed a working relationship with the IWearYourShirt crew.”
“He is infectious. I love being around him,” Nicol said, adding that Jason had made some fun videos for his business.
In addition to his name and driver’s license, Jason planned to changed his name on Twitter, where he has 40,000 followers; on Facebook, where he has 20,000 fans or friends; and on YouTube, where he has racked up more than 9 million views.
He doesn’t know how strangers will react to his new and unusual last name.
“I’m certain that my driver’s license is going to get a few double-takes and questions. I’m very nervous that I’ll have to go back into the back room for additional screening at airports. I might have to start driving to avoid those security lines,” he said.
When the year is up, Jason doesn’t plan to return to his previous last name.
“I will definitely not be going back to Jason Sadler. This unique marketing idea has seemed to grab some attention, and if I don’t find a random last name in the phone book that I like, I just might have to put it up for sale again next year,” he said.
Even though he’s changing his name, he will continue with his IWearYourShirt business, though he’s changing his business model to wear shirts for longer periods of time.
“We’ve departed from our daily sponsor model to now offer weekly sponsorships exclusively. A weekly sponsorship with our team includes fun photo and video updates throughout the week on our site, as well as promotion on our social channels,” according to his business website, IWearYourShirt.com. The cost for a weekly sponsorship starts at $3,000. He also offers a monthly sponsorship starting at $7,500.
“Selling my last name was never meant to be a replacement business. I love helping the IWearYourShirt clients get exposure, content and have fun via social media,” he said.
“Some may say this is some grand sellout, but for me, it’s actually the next logical step in my business and in my life,” Jason said on his own website, BuyMyLastName.com.
What’s next for the young entrepreneur?
“We aren’t booking any clients past April 30, as we have some plans up our sleeves.”