They said that Santa knowledge should be guarded like treasure. Well, I'm not that kind of dragon.
There are many Santa schools available throughout the U.S. and a lot of other unofficial "get-togethers" where new Santas can learn from the feet of those who have been doing this for much longer. I've always wanted to attend a conference or a school, but have lacked not only the funds but also the opportunity cost just didn't pan out.
"Opportunity cost" is defined as: "the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen." In my case, paying for food, accommodation, travel, and the tuition cost were more expensive than me taking off 3 days of work (by about $2000). So, as a young father who's income goes to help support my growing family, I couldn't justify sinking that much into an experience I don't know would give me EVERYTHING I desired to learn as a representative of the man at the North Pole.
There are other online resources, but none to the standard I thought would help other young and starting out representatives. When creating the Jr. Claus Workshop and reflected on the problems I encounter, including cost, when wanting to better myself as a Santa Claus representative.
Problem 1: Networking
I wasn't introduced to the Santa Claus community until my 3rd season. Many groups on Facebook are virtually unfindable unless you know what they're exactly named. I stumbled upon these groups by being friended by other Santas when they eventually found me. It's difficult to network and ask for advice from afar when you have no way of finding these groups from a simple internet search.
I was alone my first two seasons, and it was miserable. There wasn't anything readily available to quickly answer my questions. There were no "how-to" videos on where to get a good traditional beard. There were no videos I could google and find to give me ideas on actual boots I could use for being Santa. There were no blogs telling me what Santa goods worked for this or for that, I was lost without a mentor.
None of the resources I have since found popped up with an easy internet search. I needed a clear, concise, and helpful resource where I didn't have to keep adding things to my bookmarks bar.
Problem 2: Cost
Even if I was available to fly out to a good Santa mentor, there is no guarantee I would have the funds to fly or remember everything they'd teach me in a short period of time. Going to a Santa school is on my list, but I'd much rather invest in a higher quality set of boots or suit so I can continue to do what I do without looking like I'm wearing a Halloween costume. Buying good quality suits, gloves, boots, a belt, a beard, etc., is expensive and keeps my savings for blowing $2000 just to go out to a Santa school (and having a budget for spending more money on Santa goods for sale there) to a very very low amount.
Problem 3: My Way or the Highway
Even as a part of the Santa community there's this sour attitude from many of the older generation who think that their way is the best way. Their attitude is more of: "Get a cheap suit and smoke all you want because the kids don't notice." and "If you don't have a real beard, you're not a real Santa, or a real man for that matter!"
I don't like this approach to a magical storybook classic father figure. Many of those who are stuck in their ways are leaving legacies, tarnished at that, for those that follow them. I stopped accepting friend requests from people who had "Santa" as part of their name or their profile photo was them in a Santa suit because that's not who they are. Santa doesn't belong on Facebook commenting about U.S. political sense and sharing things that just aren't appropriate to share as a Santa representative.
But these men will last another 20 years at best, and the younger generation want to start learning NOW. We want to learn how to advertise on the internet, how to make good quality content, how to manage our social media presence, and how to do the best with what we've got without having to wait for retirement.
Problem 4: Lack of Quality Education
There are Santa "how-to" videos out there, don't get me wrong. YouTube has a few (which I've contributed to) and there are more on privately owned websites. But what I saw just wasn't good enough. Those making these videos seemed to accept a low quality of production and pass it off for something that it could never be. Out of focus videos made on web-cameras with awful lighting just didn't give the clear instruction I was trying to obtain from home.
I know I'm being a bit picky here because I'm an artist and a video guy, but there's no point in making a hands on "how-to" video if the quality is so low it can't show the audience what the video was originally made to do! If I had the funds, I'd fly all over the world to meet with and interview Santa representatives to get great content to publish on this site. But that is an impossibility at the moment. *Sigh* (If only the reindeer flew year-round!).
The answer to my problems was to create what my demographic needed. A place for young men interested in becoming Santa apprentices, or for those fresh retirees who are willing to learn and haven't already become spoiled and set in their ways (can you teach an old dog new tricks?). I have a basic knowledge of being a Santa. I know what struggles come from not having the funds or a mentor nearby who takes things seriously.
It didn't help that those I admired and respected also told me my videos belonged somewhere else so young eyes wouldn't find them, and that I should stop making them altogether. They said that Santa knowledge should be guarded like treasure. Well, I'm not that kind of dragon.
"But, Stu, why do you charge then if you believe Santa education should be free?"
After all the time I've spent writing, filming, editing, and producing videos, staging and photographing objects, reaching out to others to collaborate, and spending all that time away from my family, is it wrong of me that I want this to pay for itself? Is it wrong that having a membership not only provides an extra security measure to the information on this site but also pays for the webhosting and the subscriptions that must be used to display the content I've made?
If I could, I'd wrap this site up in a box with a ribbon and gift it to every young man who wanted to learn. I'm not selling Santa education, that's free. I'm selling access to a site that contains hard earned resources and videos I spent weeks and weeks on. And I'm not being stingy about it either, it's open to anyone who wishes to support this ongoing endeavor.
Yours as always,