By Matt de Simone
The 7th Annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition finished up in May. Candace Monaghan, the owner of Beaver Dam Sunflowers in Buchanan, won the competition’s top prize.
Monaghan completed the competition one year after considering entering the program in 2020.
“I thought about doing it last year, but the timing wasn’t right,” Monaghan stated in a recent interview. “When this year rolled around, I was ready for it, entering, and was ready to see what happened.”
Monaghan entered the competition to expand her knowledge of operating a business. She managed to make connections with other entrepreneurs who she may have never met outside of The Gauntlet.
Monaghan knew that if she could win any money from the competition, she had ideas for how to spend her winnings. She explained that there wasn’t a formal business plan in place before the competition began. As the program progressed, Monaghan’s ideas didn’t change. Still, the competition helped her hone in on specific aspects of her business that initially were not a part of her business’s primary focus.
“For our business plan, I knew that I wanted to have enough money to expand our product line in purchasing a press that presses the sunflowers seeds to make oil,” Monaghan said. “I wanted to be able to expand our offerings for events throughout the year—income to help with renovations to our facilities. I also wanted to develop an insect app which notes all of the insects the flowers attract.”
Monaghan mentioned that her connections with like-minded business owners are vital moving forward. She also expanded her relationships with vendors she previously knew from the annual Sunflower Festivals that Monaghan presents in Buchanan.
Along with Monaghan’s plans for purchasing a press and expanding her business’s services, she plans to use some of the cash and prizes in kind to bolster the famous fall Sunflower Festival.
Monaghan’s Gauntlet winnings include: 8-12 hours of desktop mapping services utilizing ArcGIS mapping software (planning map or location) from Cowden Family Farms ($600); four hours of business resource strategy & commercial planning from COEUD Research ($2,400); Press Release Distribution Package from The Advancement Foundation ($400); WSLS Daytime Blue Ridge Spot from WSLS ($250); three months of business partner acknowledgments on The Journey, Approximately 5 hours consulting to confirm what can be shared on The Journey along with production time ($1,500); 30, 60-second commercial spots from Fox Radio; drone photography, videography, mapping, etc. from Kasper UAV ($1,000); three-month leadership training, weekly training focused on leadership styles, team building, running holistic business, empowering staff, time management, strengthening your business culture and building a solid foundation from RippleFX ($6,900); copy and script package for brochures or press release up to two hours from BF Consulting ($650); membership to the Botetourt County Chamber ($225); one week billboard ad from Lamar ($1,500); and $8,500 cash.
Monaghan mentioned a “VIP night” for this year’s festival that features 70 hand-made crafters and food vendors. The festival will offer 1,000 tickets for VIP guests to enjoy discounts and deals for shoppers. Virginia Tourism will sponsor the VIP night. The first 70 guests in line will receive a gift bag featuring items from featured vendors at the event.
While restrictions won’t hamper this year’s festival, Monaghan clarified that some of the measures taken during last year’s events would carry over to September’s festival.
For more information on the Sunflower Festival and Beaver Dam Sunflowers, visit beaverdamsunflowers.com.
Monaghan’s business represents one of three Botetourt County businesses that won prizes during The Gauntlet. Muddy Squirrel outdoor adventures in Troutville and The Pie Shoppe in Fincastle took home cash prizes as well. Stay tuned for their Gauntlet stories in the coming weeks.