New Orleans native Stew Krane has made a career in hospitality and entrepreneurship – two cornerstones of the city’s economy. After working at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where he served as sales manager of the sixth-largest convention center in the nation, Krane was interested in exploring the latest iteration of the city’s economic boom: entrepreneurship. Now working in marketing at The Idea Village, Krane sees firsthand the breadth of entrepreneurial talent in the city. At the core of The Idea Village is a mission to identify, support, and retain entrepreneurship in New Orleans. In fact, Krane counts entrepreneurship as having a direct impact on how people think about New Orleans – it’s about more than Mardi Gras, and as entrepreneurship has blossomed, “the perception has started to shift to thinking of New Orleans as a place to work and learn,” he says.
That revitalized perception has also given way to impressive stats regarding entrepreneurship. Whether receiving the No. 1 ranking for brainpower from Forbes or the fact that New Orleans leads the United States by 56% in regards to the number of startups per capita, we can confidently say that we’re right up there with hubs like Silicon Valley and San Francisco – no really, we are: Forbes again ranked us the No. 3 city winning the IT jobs battle after (you guessed it) Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
We spoke with Krane about his professional experience past and present, in addition to what it means to be a millennial in the city (Krane received a Millennial Award for his outstanding professional and community efforts). Learn more about Krane below!
How long have you lived in New Orleans?
I am lucky and proud to be a born and raised New Orleanian. I’ve spent my whole life here, with the exception of four cold academic years up north at the University of Michigan. (Go Blue!)
Tell us about your past experience working with Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. What was it like working with local professionals in convention services while serving thousands of exhibitors and attendees who chose New Orleans to host an event?
Working at the Morial Convention Center was a wonderful benchmark in my career. Our local team of hospitality professionals is absolutely unrivaled in creating extraordinary experiences for the millions of visitors to New Orleans every year. Every day I was pushed to innovate and exceed expectations, not by our customers, but by the incredible individuals I worked with. I’m grateful to have been part of the amazing team that makes New Orleans a world-class destination.
What do you find is the biggest draw in conventions and meetings choosing New Orleans as the host city?
Pretty much any city can host a typical meeting, but New Orleans continues to lead the industry because of what we offer outside of the meeting. Once everything on the agenda has been addressed, visitors are able to step outside to engage in our incredible culture, dine in our world-class restaurants, and meet the friendliest locals in the world.
How has the growth in business and entrepreneurship affected tourism in New Orleans?
New Orleans’ tourism and hospitality industries have flourished alongside our thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Up until recently, people only associated New Orleans with Mardi Gras, drinking and revelry. As our local businesses and entrepreneurs have blossomed, the perception has started to shift to thinking of New Orleans as a place to work and learn (as well as party). Without that shift, I don’t think you’d see us landing some of the incredible successes we’ve had lately, such as Major League Gaming’s World Finals in October or Collision Conference next April.
As an award-winning millennial, why do you think New Orleans has been so successful in drawing in a younger generation for business and entrepreneurship?
I think there are a few reasons we’ve been so successful in that regard. First of all, New Orleans has always been a city that inspires. From Edgar Degas to Trombone Shorty, artistry and innovation seem to simply float in the air, and we’re just now seeing that take effect on the business world.
We’re also blessed with such a supportive community. Whether it’s just waving to your neighbor or helping someone move a ladder during Mardi Gras, we take care of our own. Non-profits like Propeller, LaunchPad and the Idea Village have institutionalized that for entrepreneurs, and now we even have a festival to celebrate them with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Young entrepreneurs are able to draw strength and inspiration from our community and city. I don’t think that could be said for anywhere else.
What do you think New Orleans would look like without tourism? How does tourism and hospitality affect New Orleans?
We were founded as a port city, and have always been one. The flow of travelers walking through the French Quarter has been as constant as the flow of the river, so I don’t think anyone would recognize New Orleans without tourism.
Today tourism and hospitality businesses employ almost 80,000 New Orleanians, so that’s one obvious effect. However I also think it helps us stay humble, because we see tourists every day who come from all over the world just to catch a glimpse of the wonderful city we live in. For me, that’s a constant reminder of how lucky we are to live here.
What do you love most about New Orleans?
The people. For all the reasons New Orleans is a unique and wonderful place, her residents have always been the ones making the music, cooking the food and throwing the parties. Without our family, friends and neighbors… as the saying goes, it might as well be Cleveland.
What would you like to see New Orleans accomplish in the future?
I would like to see New Orleans continue to evolve. When I was growing up, I don’t think I could have imagined what the city looks like today. The Saints have won the Super Bowl. We’re poised to become the hub of entrepreneurship in the South. I’d hate to limit our future with a certain milestone, but rather I think we should just keep pursuing the incredible path we’re already on.
NEW ORLEANS WILL…