While most college students spent their summer working retail or sitting behind a desk, Courtney VanDunk spent hers going to the beach and heading out at night.
Don’t think the senior general business major didn’t make any money though. Going to the beach and hitting clubs was her job. A job that was inspired by one of her classes and ended up earning her $10,000.
It all started when one of VanDunk’s marketing professors showed her class a video clip about a Nebraska man who sold his forehead as advertising space.
“I thought it was a really clever idea,” VanDunk said, before explaining how advertisers are always looking for ways to stand out. “It’s hard to distinguish ads from one another since you see so many a day.”
But instead of just thinking the idea was clever, VanDunk turned it into her very own business venture by selling her body as advertising space on eEay.com in May.
In addition to setting up the auction, VanDunk tried to generate publicity for herself by sending out letters to the local media. Two days after she posted her auction online she got her first break when The Record ran a story on her. Soon after, she was featured on everything from radio shows to network newscasts.
“It was absolutely crazy,” VanDunk said. “I never expected it to get that big so quickly.”
Although she wasn’t the first person to sell her body as advertising space, the media attention she attracted made her one of the most popular people to do it. She got over 100,000 hits on her auction page, but it took three different auctions for her to get a final winner – GoldenPalace.com, an online casino.
For the month of June, VanDunk had to wear temporary tattoos on her upper chest or stomach advertising for the Web site. She had to make sure she was out in public often and also had to document her outings by taking pictures.
That wasn’t all though. VanDunk sold her body as advertising for a Florida credit consultation company in July. Since she was going to Hawaii with her family on vacation, it was perfect timing to advertise everywhere from the airport to the beach.
The combination of the auctions brought VanDunk’s immediate summer earnings to about $10,000.
“It was my ‘summer job’ but it really allowed me to enjoy my last summer,” VanDunk said.
Although there were a few negatives to whole venture, including getting heckling e-mails and receiving letters from inmates, everyone around VanDunk supported her in her endeavor.
“My parents and sister were proud of the way I handled the situation,” she said. “I knew some people were going to be negative, but I just wanted to go out with a positive attitude and open people to something new.”
Her friends, for their part, enjoyed all the attention VanDunk got this summer.
“They thought it was amusing,” she said. “I had to document where I went, so they would come out and watch the reactions I got. They thought it was fun.”
VanDunk said she was also able to help others through her job. She now helps the Lexi Rose Foundation, which raises money for Neurofibromatosis.
Besides that, VanDunk said she gets letters from people who think what she did was brave and have been inspired to do the same. Just the other day, she received a letter from a little girl who said she wants to use her backpack as advertising space when she goes back to elementary school in September.
“It gives you a little warm fuzzy feeling,” VanDunk said of the letter.
After a hectic summer, VanDunk is now trying to take in everything she learned out of her innovative business venture. When asked what the best thing about her summer was, she was quick to answer.
“Just the wisdom that came out of the whole experience,” VanDunk said. “Going from being just a TCNJ student to having exposure on practically every continent. I’m pretty proud of that. It took a lot of work.”