Founders of VoodooCru share business' beginning
VoodooCru has become a familiar name for those who enjoy the nightlife of Houma and Thibodaux.
Voodoocru.com, founded by Gregory Bridglal and Zak Miller, is a website where photo galleries are posted from different venues for special events and nightlife entertainment.
Greg Bridglal, born and raised near Queens, N.Y., traveled to Orlando, Fla. to get his degree in information systems and web management. After graduation, he began doing web design and started his own modeling agency.
"I met Zak (Miller) through the modeling agency when he started doing photography for me," Bridglal said.
In Orlando, photographs were taken and posted to promote the modeling agency.
"It wasn't really nightlife photography," Bridglal said. "We never really thought of making this a business."
Miller, from Houma, went to school in Orlando and received a degree for film and digital media.
Miller said that his influences in photography came from his mentor, a photographer from Paris, as well as his own personal style and preferences for lighting and colors.
"This is a different atmosphere compared to larger cities," Miller said. "Here, photography is a little more traditional. The less skin showing, the better. My style runs more along the lines of Maxim magazine."
Bridglal and Miller worked together in Orlando from about 2005 to 2008.
"Around that time, I started to focus more on web design while Zak did his own thing," Bridglal said.
In 2010, the pair came to Louisiana to visit Miller's hometown where they photographed people at the venues in downtown Houma and Thibodaux.
"Everyone was asking where they could go to see the pictures," Bridglal said. "We thought about just putting them on Facebook, but with my background in web design, we decided to create our own site."
Bridglal explained that Miller suggested the name while eating a bag of Zapp's Voodoo potato chips.
"It was available, so we got the domain name and started putting VoodooCru.com on a bunch of little cut out pieces of paper," Bridglal said. "We started getting hits, so we just ran with it."
Bridglal explained that in bigger cities like Miami, Fla. and New York, N.Y., people are used to photographers at the clubs. But in southern Louisiana, the first question out of everyone's mouth was "What are you guys taking pictures for?"
"We would give them the card and kind of explain," Bridglal said. "Ninety-five percent of the time, people were cool with it, but they gave us a weird look. We had to make the website work for us with the quality of the photo."
Bridglal said it took a few months for people in Houma and Thibodaux to get used to the idea.
"Once we put them on the computer we have to go through and delete the bad shots," Bridglal explained. "Sometimes they are blurry, or sometimes it's just obvious that person wouldn't want that particular picture posted."
The photographs are often posted in a gallery on the website between 24 to 48 hours after shooting.
Bridglal explained that VoodooCru had to be recognizable before it could be profitable. VoodooCru's main source of income actually comes from advertisement on its website.
"You can't just go out and expect to make money," Bridglal said. "You have to build that up. After we shot a few clubs and people started visiting the website, it was easier to get advertising."
VoodooCru does not charge the venues where they photograph, but venues do have the option to pay a monthly fee to have their event calendar posted on VoodooCru.com.
VoodooCru also started a magazine to promote entertainment and increase advertisement and knowledge about the local nightlife.
"In other cities, there are a bunch of nightlife magazines, but we never noticed any here," Bridglal said. "So we started one as a nightlife entertainment magazine to have the schedules for clubs that people can pick up and have with them to know what's going on around town."
Staff members in the Houma and Thibodaux area include Layne Becnel and Gael Cleophat.
Cleophat started working with VoodooCru after working on a few of their computers. He is also Last Call's resident DJ.
"Finding a nightlife photographer is tricky," Bridglal explained. "We're selective. Sometimes they don't have the right equipment, or they can't handle the hours."
Bridglal and Miller said they never expected VoodooCru to become the business that it is.
"VoodooCru has been an adventure," Miller said. "The best part about it is that the home base is here in Houma and Thibodaux."
Miller explained his pride in his hometown and state.
"I would like to see this become national, have a little more reach," Miller said.
Bridglal explained that VoodooCru is looking to expand, especially since Brandon Morgan, VoodooCru photographer based in Lafayette, recently moved to Seattle.
"We're currently expanding and looking for photographers," Bridglal said.
Miller said that VoodooCru has recently hired photographers in Birmingham, Ala., Nashville, Tenn., Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Our top three viewing countries are the U.S., Canada and Japan," Miller said. "I don't even know how, but we get thousands of hits from Japan every month."
The co-owners continue to nurture VoodooCru while taking on side projects.
"VoodooCru is pretty much my full-time job now," Bridglal said. "I still do web design for a few clients, and my cousin runs my modeling agency."
Miller also continues with his passion for photography.
"I'm basically an independent photographer, so I do things like weddings and model portfolios," Miller said.
To get involved with VoodooCru, click the "Opportunity" tab on voodoocru.com for information on marketing, graphic design, photography and other available positions.
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