As a fifth-generation New Orleanian, Blake J. Stanfill has a lot of love for the city. “It’s the spirit of New Orleans that I enjoy most,” he says. “Whether it’s Second Lines on Sundays, hearing the ‘Brown Beat’ of bounce music, the smell of red beans on a Monday, being called ‘baby’ by a stranger, feeling the buzz of the city on a Friday of Jazz Fest, or seeing Indians under the bridge, New Orleans and its essence speaks to my soul.’’ As the Director of Growth at trepwise, a local impact consulting firm, he’s also crafting custom solutions for the problems businesses, nonprofits and government agencies face here in New Orleans and beyond.
Stanfill has broad experience at the intersection of the public and private sector, boasting a career in economic development, education and financial risk management, as well as entrepreneurial strategy and analysis. Prior to working at Trepwise, he co-founded an alternative lending start-up, LendStand, which provides working capital solutions to underserved businesses working on public contracts. He also worked in education management at the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board. He earned his B.A. from Duke University, a Master of Finance from Tulane University and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
At Trepwise, Stanfill guides the firm’s business development and expansion strategy by leveraging data to identify and pursue growth opportunities and partnerships for the company. “We are advisors and strategic partners to organizations and individuals,” he says. “We bring processes, structure and analytical minds to identify and solve the problems our clients face. Whether its board engagement, marketing, operational processes or financial strategy, we work cross-functionally to add value to the entities we serve. Trepwise has worked with a variety of organizations in the city, including Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Business Council of New Orleans, IBERIABANK, Idea Village, Pomegranate Hospitality, Bart’s Office Moving and Tulane University.”
Currently, the advisors at Trepwise are helping a large manufacturer of heritage food brands develop and execute a five-year strategic plan. “This work allows us to flex our facilitation, marketing, operations, financial analysis and growth strategy muscles,” Stanfill says. “Simultaneously, we’re setting metrics and organizational benchmarks for a non-profit that is committed to increasing the number of African American males in the teaching profession. This breadth and diversity of work is what excites me most about working at Trepwise.”
When identifying and pursuing growth opportunities and partnerships for Trepwise, Stanfill says that the advisors look to identify needs that cut across several organizations. Then, they look to align their services with the pressing needs of a particular industry or field.
“If there are gaps between what we provide and what a market requires, then we strategically partner with individuals or entities that can augment the services we offer to prospective clients,” Stanfill explains. “All of our client work is custom and crafted to the needs of the organization. In order to create unique solutions, we have to understand — at a granular level — what makes an organization tick. As such, stakeholder engagement — the process of extracting information and data from the people closest to a company — is what we pride ourselves on. Feedback from these board members, executive team members, staff, customers and collaborators often drive the insights that help us unearth unique problems and original solutions for our clients.”
Stanfill’s long list of achievements includes being a Mayoral Fellow with the City of New Orleans in the summer of 2010 just as Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu began his first term. “Under the Mayor’s Advisor for Economic Development, Aimee Quirk, I helped prepare the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA)’s 501c3 application, organized the initial board of directors retreat and supported the founding executive director search, amongst a host of other projects,” he says. “Seeing how the organization has flourished in the eight years since those arduous early days has remained one of my favorite professional undertakings.”
He also speaks with students at local high schools aboout starting businesses and incubating ideas. “Along with incredible parents and an expansive support system, one thing that altered the trajectory of my life was constant exposure to high-performing African American peers and an array of black professionals,” Stanfill says. “As a result, I find it critically important to show kids and adolescents that a person who looks like them and went to the schools they went to and played at the parks they play at could pursue a career in business and entrepreneurship. I try to help the at-risk youth I mentor understand how they can channel their passion and skills in productive, entrepreneurial ways.”