by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor

Stephanie Brauchle, aka Steph Danielle in social media circles, was thriving in New Orleans until basically the entire wedding planning industry was shut down overnight due to COVID-19.

“I was working in New Orleans in the Hospitality and Tourism industry specializing in VIP weddings when COVID wreaked havoc on my business. Everything just dried up and I was in denial that the industry would come back. When it didn’t, I had to come up with a new plan. I looked at my strengths and what value I could offer and it occurred to me that I had the skills to help small business owners thrive along the gulf coast,” Brauchle said.

That realization of her own talents, skills and values to the business community inspired her to start up her own operation called “Small-Business Co-Pilot”.

Brauchle hit the ground running with blog writing and other marketing support for clients, then she expanded her services into project management, human resources services and content creation. Before long, Brauchle had reached her initial max goal of ten continuous clients in her portfolio.

Brauchle’s concept was clear. She would become not only an extra helping hand, but someone who could come in and help manage anything under the sun that the client needed— like a small-business mercenary.

“A lot of what I do is take the burden and pressure off of small businesses. They have someone in their corner thinking outside the box. I am not just an employee or marketing person who will be hired to do a task. I am that person in their corner who is devoted to their success,” said Brauchle. “If it is tough or complex or just too time consuming to be properly handled by an already busy small business owner, then I step in and give the assist,” Brauchle explained.

Brauchle began working immediately to grow her business by having conversations with business owners. She quickly realized that it would be a good business model and there was a strong need for her services. “I saw it as an opportunity to reach out to connections that I have made and I started offering my services at a very low rate. That was the concept and the business model I started with. I think my clients immediately realized the added value my business created for them,” Brauchle said.

According to Brauchle, some small business owners confuse her business model with consulting. Brauchle balks at the terminology. She considers herself more of a co-pilot who is there to serve and help, which is a philosophy that she framed her entire business model around.

Brauchle’s face lights up and she is all smiles when she discusses some of her recent wins. “Some of my favorite accomplishments thus far is Selah Pilates and Wellness. Helping her host a flawlessly executed ribbon cutting on March 26th was satisfying for me. It was the first ribbon cutting on the coast since COVID that had multiple chambers of commerce attend. That was a big win,” she explained.

Brauchle has also set her sights on some bigger fish too. “My other biggest accomplishment is gaining a commercial roofing client. Helping them strengthen their brand and celebrate their 75th anniversary has been personally rewarding for me as well as them. Soon we are hosting an on-site job fair. The goal is to help the business grow by bringing in more talent,” she said.

Although Brauchle’s success has been meteoric, she is careful not to forget the base that got her to where she is now. “I’ve been very careful to grow this business slowly. I have had to say no to a couple of clients because either it wasn’t appropriate at the time to take them on or I can’t give them the same care and attention as my current clients. I can’t bring them into my portfolio with a clean conscious. I have been intentionally growing in short phases,” she explained.

As long as her business model holds true, Brauchle does have a plan for future expansion. “My future plan is to create departments and hire the right people to manage those departments like an events co-pilot,” According to Brauchle, other departments could be parsed out into categories like human resources or marketing.

Although Brauchle got the rug pulled out from under her due to COVID shutdowns that destroyed businesses across the country, she is grateful for the catalyst that pushed her out of her safety net and into something she loves with a passion.

Since last year, Brauchle’s area of support for clients has grown to an impressive size. She currently services clients from New Orleans to Mobile and as far North as Hattiesburg. She also has the ability to offer services to remote clients, like her first client who still relies on her out of Chicago.  According to Brauchle, all of this success and momentum can be traced back to a mantra she repeats to herself constantly.

“My motto that I use for my marketing strategy and sales style — They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.