How This Entrepreneur Has Created An NFT Platform To Ensure First Nations Artists Actually Get Paid

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Provvy founder Alisha Geary
Indigenous art has never been more visible across the world, with designs popping up on face masks, clothing and social media. Alisha Geary, who has been working with First Nations artists since 2017, wants to make sure these creatives are getting paid.
According to the 27-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, technology and social media have provided opportunities for Indigenous artists in terms of greater exposure. However, they also pose the increased risk of people screen-grabbing the artwork and repurposing it, without the original artists receiving compensation.
Realising the struggles Indigenous artists face in maintaining control of their artworks, Geary launched Provvy. It's a tech platform empowering artists, particularly Indigenous artists, to claim ownership of their work as well as monetise it through tokenising their art into NFTs and selling usage rights to their art.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are digital tokens representing real-life objects such as works of art, music and videos. They're essentially pieces of code storing information about a unique digital file, and are becoming an increasingly popular method to buy and sell digital artwork. 
After graduating from university in 2017, Geary founded Faebella, an activewear line that incorporates First Nations artists' designs. Since then, she's helped these artists with licensing, but it was only last year that she launched Provvy, where NFTS were introduced to the creatives.
"In doing that [launching Faebella], I found that artists weren't really familiar with how licensing works, which actually made them quite vulnerable when they were dealing with businesses and there was a bit of a power dynamic at play in those cases," Geary tells Refinery29 Australia.
Explaining that she "started becoming the mediator for the truth for businesses and artists", Geary says it took time away from her focusing on her activewear brand. However, it did allow her to identify "a gap in the market," which is how Provvy was born.
A 2018 parliamentary inquiry into Indigenous art and craft found that 80% of First Nations souvenirs sold in Australia were fake. Referring to these statistics, Geary says "Indigenous artists in particular are often taken advantage of in their artwork," and NFTs can help protect them.
"NFTs address a couple of issues that artists have when they monetise their artworks, one of which is maintaining ownership of their artworks, but also having a really clear, transparent record of ownership," she explains.
"Once they sell their paintings, for example, for $1,000, if it's sold seven times down the line, that's sort of where it ends. They didn't really get to see where that artwork has gone and who owns it now and don't get an effect from those additional sales.
"Whereas NFTs have that really transparent record of ownership. They also have the ability to have royalties encoded in it so that as soon as it's sold seven times nine times down the road, the artist will benefit, which I thought was incredible."
Photo by Maria Boyadgis
Alisha Geary
While NFTs have become very popular, Geary says she always alerts clients of potential risks. "I would just advise them on the bad side of NFTs which can be, for example, people screenshotting artworks, either in person or online, and minting as NFTs without their permission and posing as the artist.
"And that problem can come about when marketplaces don't have a due diligence process in place to verify that the artist is actually the artist, and it's sort of a free for all for a lot of marketplaces."
With various businesses of her own under her belt, Geary explains her entrepreneurial career has been aided by mentorship programs, grants and pitching competitions to give her a head start.
"The pitching competitions were pivotal in helping me start the startup business with the activewear brand," she explains.
"In the beginning, I had no access to money... and I was working part time at uni throughout the entire university journey to pay for my rent and everything like that. It would have taken me a long time to save up the capital."
Having had this experience made Geary's recent partnership with female-shopping app Her Black Book make a lot of sense, when she spoke at the organisation's Up Close, powered by Samsung Galaxy’s International Women's Day event that offered two grants to budding entrepreneurs. Now, her activewear line Faebella will feature in Her Black Book's Festival of Her, where online shoppers can access curated deals from female-founded brands from now until March 14. 
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