The art scene in New Orleans is as ubiquitous as bars or bead-toting tourists on Bourbon Street. What is lacking though, is a common space for artists to put their work out. Artists for hire usually turn to Craigslist, classified advertisements, or simply depend on word of mouth to get hired. Additionally, artists find it even more difficult to sustain continual work and, often times, turn to other jobs for a steady income.
That’s where Robert Warren comes in.
As the founder of Gigsy, Warren has curated an online arena for photographers. It makes booking a photographer reliable and incredibly easy. Warren takes it a step further by making his endeavor an educational pursuit. He has partnered with the Rooted school on the Westbank to give students the opportunity to learn photography.
“We are operating on a model that we never have to compromise the quality of what we do. The fact that we can bring students on is an add on for us because we are growing that next generation of talented freelancers and we are showing them that you can profit from your passion or what you’re interested in.”
To Warren, this is both an educational and profitable venture – not more passion than business. Warren absolutely plans on growing, scaling and serving a wider population while providing both education and profit. He says his for-profit model for Gigsy is intentional due to the current economic and social landscape in New Orleans. Because of the way Gigsy is set up, it allows the endeavor to create lasting relationships with the community – it forces them to be community centered.
“The NOLA landscape is saturated with the non-profit model. I believe you create sustainable change by providing goods and services to people by engaging in business and business that is specifically focused on empowering people in your community.”
Warren made the choice for Gigsy to be profit driven because he wants to avoid the issues of scaling a non-profit, and they don’t have to follow the strict non-profit model. Because of Gigsy’s platform, the students from the Rooted school get to work for school credit as well as receive compensation when they’re out with the professionals shooting anything from events to headshots.
Bringing on students is important to Warren and the foundation of Gigsy. Warren says it’s important to give students equitable access to the arts. The students bring a different perspective because of who they are, and they’re able to create what reflects who they are in that experience.
Gigsy came about when Warren quickly realized that New Orleans is the only city where he can form a partnership with a school that would so effortlessly allow him to provide a service to students and allow them to receive school credit. He says it can’t happen elsewhere in the way it happens in New Orleans. The city not only has the educational system that is conducive for such a business, but the market itself – in terms of what people are looking for – is huge.
Warren has garnered quick success and is currently competing in the upcoming New Orleans Entrepreneur Week as one of the Blackstone Big Idea competitors. He hopes this will not only expand business, but that the people of New Orleans will realize the ease and accessibility that’s possible with searching for artists. More so, Warren hopes to revolutionize the profit model by incorporating an educational and profitable outlet for students.
“We’re an educational entity as well. We’re here to facilitate mentorship. We’re here to facilitate professional growth as well as student growth.”