Small-business “coach” Lisa Brann works out of an office on Pike Street to help businesses in Covington and elsewhere.
‘Coach’ doles out help as needed from Pike St. office
COVINGTON, Ky. – When businesses and entrepreneurs in Covington need assistance – whether that’s fleshing out a business plan, finding resources, navigating the red tape of pandemic-related help from the federal government, or just exploring the feasibility of a life-long dream – Lisa Brann has their back.
Brann is what’s called a “business coach.”
And from her office on Pike Street, she’s part of the City of Covington’s support network for its businesses – whether they’re established, new, or still in the idea stage, and whether they’re a one-person shop or substantially larger, with some 400 employees.
The City established a new partnership with Brann’s employer, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center (Kentucky SBDC), in June 2020, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic. And the agency opened a full-time Covington office in May 2021 so Brann can offer no-cost coaching, consulting, advising, counseling, and training.
The City has been so pleased with Brann’s work that its Board of Commissioners recently approved a one-year contract renewal.
“Lisa Brann is a rockstar,” said Ross Patten, assistant director of Covington’s Economic Development Department. “She has helped our businesses and entrepreneurs tremendously. She helped keep them afloat during COVID, and now she’s helping businesses expand.”
Brann, who is the Kentucky SBDC’s No. 2 performer in its network and serves six counties out of her office at 114 West Pike St., believes businesses need someone in their corner who is solely there to help them – someone who has no personal financial interests, who is not trying to sell them anything, and who has nothing to gain beyond seeing that business succeed.
“There is not a ‘typical client,” Brann said. “My client mix is about 75 percent in business for a year or more, 5 percent of the businesses are startups less than one year in business, and 20 percent pre-venture.”
A KSBDC snapshot of its Covington-hosted office shows its reach and success:
- 155 clients (54 percent of them women and 10 percent minorities).
- 798 coaching hours.
- 387 training attendees.
- 12 businesses bought or started, 1,036 jobs supported, and a capital infusion of $7.74 million.
City officials say Brann’s business acumen has been a beacon for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has presented many unfamiliar and unknown variables.
To expand its capacity to serve Kentucky businesses during this unprecedented time, the Kentucky SBDC doubled in size, adding 16 new staff and six new locations. Over the last year, the center has helped 2,988 business owners understand the various COVID-19 relief program and funding options, including those on the national level.
The City of Covington had multiple relief programs to protect jobs and maintain services, including a large (up to $50,000) Emergency Business Assistance award in partnership with the Kenton County Fiscal Court, and a smaller (up to $2,000) mortgage and rent payment program.
For both, the City required recipients to work with the Kentucky SBDC on business coaching, contingency planning, and accessing federal disaster loans.
That’s where Brann came in. She understood that many business owners were navigating unknown territory, and she was committed to help.
“I had clients I would call on a weekly basis because there were so many things to understand, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) was dealing with so many people,” Brann said.
When clients couldn’t reach anyone for help, she would call the SBA herself on their behalf.
“This can be very foreign to people -- to be able to be calm and say, ‘This is where I am at, this is what I need,’ ” she said.
Having a middle person mattered. Brann was able to help clients understand the resources available to them, know what the rules were, and apply for those resources.
“I think that was very valuable,” Brann said. “Part of it was knowing where to turn to and being aware of what was out there.”
Her clients praise her assistance, her communications, and her personal touch:
- “Lisa is a great resource,” said Steve Brunner, chief financial officer of Rizzo Bros. Inc., a professional painting contractor that is working on expanding its operations near the Licking River. “She keeps us informed of all SBA (Small Business Administration) programs available to our business.”
- “Being an owner operator, you often find yourself struggling to just keep your head above water,” said Jean-Paul Peyron, general manager and owner of Distinctive Dining Solutions, a Covington-based business that provides catering services for day-care and adult day-care centers throughout the region. “If it wasn’t for Lisa, we would have missed out on the RRF (Restaurant Relief Funds) completely. Having someone like her in our corner means the world to us and we will always be grateful beyond words … (she) provided ‘guidance during a dark time.’
- “As always, we can count on the Kentucky Small Business Development Center to keep us updated on business issues and especially Lisa Brann, who reaches out personally to us in addressing any needs or questions we may have,” said Russell Slone, owner of Left Bank Coffeehouse.
Brann comes with in-the-trenches “street cred” when it comes to businesses: She’s owned her own.
“I ran my own CPA firm, I’ve had successful businesses, and I’ve had unsuccessful businesses,” Brann said. “I’m not just someone who attended classes.”
Brann worked in public accounting for 26 years, worked in different firms, large firms, and her own firm. And she always worked with businesses in some capacity – sometimes paid, sometimes as a volunteer.
She worked part-time with Kentucky SBDC at its office then located at Northern Kentucky University, and when asked, she joined the office full-time in July 2020. The Kentucky SBDC is funded in part by the SBA and is hosted by the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment in partnership with regional universities, community and private college, economic development organizations, and the private sector.
While Brann’s impact can be measured in numbers, she’s more likely to talk about the power and strength of relationships. She takes pains to listen and to let clients dictate the intensity of her involvement.
“Part of what I do – and I tell everyone this – is I will help a client as much or as little as they need,” Brann said. “If I don’t hear from a client in 60 days, someone in my office will reach out to you. Things are more successful with a relationship.”
The Covington office can be found at 114 West Pike St., and its website is HERE. To sign up as a client, click HERE. To schedule a meeting with Lisa Brann, click HERE. To reach Brann, call (859) 993-7773 or email email@example.com.
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