William Evelsizer will tell you preparing his company in time for the holiday season is like trying to sprint a marathon.
There’s setting up the website and software, working with nonprofits and hiring staff, all of which needs to come in time for the Christmas season.
The Lewisville resident has founded a company designed to “save Christmas” that will allow children to meet Santa Claus virtually.
Evelsizer first got the idea about seven years ago when he ran into a friend at the mall. The friend had to endure a one-and-a-half-hour line in order for his children to see Santa, and as they approached the front, an elf presented a sign stating that Santa had gone to lunch. For Evelsizer, it was a catalyst.
“Immediately, in my mind, it was like ‘There has to be another way to visit Santa more efficiently,’” he said.
At the time, however, the technology needed for what would eventually become “Santa’s Club” had not yet fully developed, and the consumer interest in digital products and services wasn’t where it needed to be.
Seven years later, as a pandemic altered lives and traditions for a seemingly unknown period of time, Evelsizer got a call. The caller, interested in hearing about Evelsizer’s business ideas, was also a lifelong friend — the two had shared locker space in the fourth grade.
At the time, Evelsizer didn’t think to tell his partner about Santa’s Club until after he hung up. He couldn’t wait to call his friend back to tell him about the seven-year-old idea, he said. In June, he pitched the idea, and in July, they started putting pen to paper.
By mid-October, the website for Santa’s Club had officially launched and the company began accepting pre-orders.
While the virtual opportunity comes on the heels of a spring and summer season rife with virtual alternatives to regularly-scheduled events, Evelsizer sees the company’s goal going beyond a reaction to a pandemic. For him, it’s the evolution of a tradition — and he wants to be at the head of it.
That includes adding personalized touches to an experience that might otherwise feel lacking compared to an in-person visit with Santa. The virtual visits with the Christmas hero will last five minutes compared to the roughly 30 seconds a child gets to interact with him in person, Evelsizer said, and through pre-provided information about the child, Santa will be able to have personalized conversations during that time. In addition, Evelsizer said, the video footage will be archived and saved as a memory for families.
“What was once a Polaroid picture is now archived video footage,” he said.
Instead of using what Evelsizer will call “off-the-shelf”video meeting products, the company has developed its own video meeting software, he said. Added to that are the green screens, high-definition cameras and lighting that allow children to see Santa on-screen in front of a roaring fire.
“You can literally see the flames kiss the back of Santa’s shoulders, the embers shooting up in the air,” Evelsizer said. “It’s very lifelike. But the idea for us was to really push the envelope in terms of technology. I want the kid at some point in time to feel they’re in a movie with Santa.”
The company’s efforts include finding partnerships and beneficiaries to fund virtual Santa visits for those who may not have the option for an in-person visit. Evelsizer uses the example of children in hospitals who may not be able to visit because of heightened health concerns in the midst of a pandemic.
“We’re not here to simply monetize a visit from a child standpoint with Santa,” he said. “Our goal is to save Christmas for children across America.”