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James Gasparatos of Gigfinity

Meet James Gasparatos, founder of  Gigfinity, a social commerce site designed to connect and promote smaller businesses, jobs, and talent within Northeast Ohio. "A classic startup," Gasparatos and partner Eric McGarvey run the day-to-day operations with help from two interns.
Why did you start Gigfinity?
Eric and I were small business owners who really wanted to grow our businesses and expand our customer base. But we didn’t have the cash for marketing or the knowledge to do it effectively.  We’d go to networking events, business cards in hand, realizing that everyone else was there to do the same thing. We were a room of suppliers with no buyers. 
We even occasionally had opportunities to hire staff, but didn’t know how to advertise for them cheaply and effectively, and we didn’t have access to a talent pool. We lost out on talent and expansion opportunities, and someone else lost out on a local gig. 
So while we were all bemoaning the regional brain drain and the harsh entrepreneurial environment, we saw that opportunities, and the talent to fill them, are all here. We just need to put them in the same room. We couldn’t do that physically, of course, so we did the next best thing – bring them together online. That’s how we came up with Gigfinity. 
Why do you have such a commitment to supporting small businesses in Cleveland?
Cleveland is a great place and an underrated city, but you don’t really understand why until you see all of the creativity and entrepreneurialism that is taking hold, particularly in the last few years. Forward-thinking cities realize this and foster a creative environment to help evolve ideas and creativity into actual businesses and initiatives, which in turn bring jobs and talent to the region. It forms the basis for a thriving city and economy. I believe that this spirit and initiative will allow Cleveland to fully realize its potential over the next few years.
How did you come up with the name Gigfinity?
Eric and I had the concept for the site but we had trouble coming up with a name. So we locked ourselves in a room with a not-so-small amount of booze and began to white-board ideas. After round three or so, we realized that our site was about all about gigs -- finding them, securing them, and promoting them. The “(in)finity” part came quickly after that. I think we also considered “GigMonkey,” and “Gigamagoo,” but those seemed less appealing once we had some water and ate something. 
What advice would you give to someone starting a company in Cleveland?
Know your environment and become as integrated into the community as possible.  A small business typically doesn’t have the resources to just blanket its target market with advertisements and effective marketing initiatives – it usually has to grow slowly and by grass-roots. Growing a solid reputation by word of mouth is key to establishing a bond with the community you intend to serve. 
Where do you see Gigfinity in five years?
At the end of the day, we want Gigfinity to have a meaningful impact on regional commerce. We want to give consumers the tools to truly buy local and support the businesses in their community. Additionally, if we can keep talent in the region by hooking them up with an opportunity they may not have found by looking at bigger, national job boards, we will have accomplished what we set out to do. We think that Gigfinity can be successful in other regions as well, so we intend to introduce the site to other areas in the next few years. 

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