Leaving a Legacy
Trumpet, New Orleans
Robbie Vitrano has trouble defining what he does for a living, but look almost anywhere in his hometown of New Orleans, and you will find his footprint.
It's there at the Icehouse, a 12,000-square-foot, $1.5 million commercial real estate development in the once-flooded Seventh Ward. The building is owned by and serves as the headquarters for Trumpet, Vitrano's branding agency. The development boasts an 80 percent occupancy rate; its 10 tenants include start-ups, nonprofits, and small companies that all share Vitrano's passion for serving New Orleans.
Across town is Vitrano's macrobiotic fast-food joint, Naked Pizza. When he discovered the place, in 2006, it was a single-store outpost called World's Healthiest Pizza and was sorely in need of a makeover. "Their pizza box gave you a dissertation on your colon," Vitrano, 47, says. He intervened, helped rebrand the business, and became a partner in the company last year. Naked Pizza has since begun selling franchises; it has six locations and plans to open about 75 to 100 more over the course of the next 12 months.
Go to the visitor center on St. Charles Avenue, and Vitrano's legacy is there, too. After Katrina struck, he set aside all of Trumpet's out-of-town accounts to focus on New Orleans. One way he did that was by creating an international ad campaign for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau -- complete with a flashy website, 24Nola.com, designed to prove New Orleans was still very much alive, 24 hours a day. "As a result of our contract with him, we doubled the visitor spending in 12 months," says Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the bureau.
And then there's The Idea Village, the business incubator that Vitrano co-founded in 2000. It has churned out about 570 businesses, which have collectively generated more than $87 million in revenue and created about 1,000 jobs in New Orleans. "If you were to map out the entrepreneurial network here in the city, Robbie's one of the key hubs," says Tim Williamson, the other founder of the incubator and the current CEO.