As of last Friday, only two Botetourt businesses applied to participate in this year’s Gauntlet competition. The event’s kickoff in-person networking event takes place on Feb. 5 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Vinton War Memorial at 814 E. Washington Avenue in Vinton.
There is still time for local entrepreneurs to register with a chance to be awarded part of the $300,000 cash/in-kind prize pool.
New program participants can learn more by visiting The Gauntlet’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TAFGauntlet). There, visitors can find out how to register for the competition and sign up for the upcoming kickoff event.
This dynamic 10-week business development program that helps entrepreneurs at any stage start or expand their business. As Virginia’s largest event of its kind, the Gauntlet teaches aspiring or existing entrepreneurs every aspect of owning a business, and provides networking with passionate entrepreneurs—in addition to winning a variety of cash and in-kind prizes.
This year the Gauntlet, founded by The Advancement Foundation (TAF) and President and CEO Annette Patterson, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The first class—a virtual one for orientation—takes place on Jan. 30, followed by an in-person kick-off event at the Vinton War Memorial on Feb. 5. Classes then continue weekly on Tuesdays through April 2 on a virtual platform. Entrepreneurs who wish to compete for awards submit and “pitch” their business plan. The winners are announced at the Graduation and Awards Ceremony at the Vinton War Memorial on May 23.
The Gauntlet program works with local community leaders in over 50 communities across Virginia to identify and foster business development and entrepreneurial ecosystem building goals in alignment with local, regional, and state priorities.
The Gauntlet is open to everyone—whether they are just in the idea stage or ready to expand an existing business.
The program includes a network of over 300 business professionals and industry experts who provide specific and critical support to the participating entrepreneurs—one of the most valued aspects of the program.
Gauntlet organizers say that over $3 million in cash and in-kind awards have been distributed over their 10 years to entrepreneurs who are investing in properties which may have long been vacant, creating local jobs, and contributing to growing tax bases in their communities.
Some of the primary objectives of the Gauntlet program include:
- Uncovering and developing entrepreneurial talent in small and rural communities all across Virginia
- Providing a meaningful and substantial learning experience for entrepreneurs who are interested in starting or growing a business
- Connecting program participants with other business talent (over 1,000 Gauntlet Alumni and over 300 industry experts)
- Identifying local and regional business professionals and industry experts who support entrepreneurs and their activities
- Identifying local stakeholders and service providers who have an interest in donating cash and/or in-kind services to be awarded directly to their local entrepreneurs who participate in the program
- Identifying and attracting venture and other types of capital investment (e.g. grant opportunities, loan funds, etc.);
The primary benefits of the Gauntlet program to participants include:
- Access to Intellectual Capital: the program provides the opportunity for exposure and development of the skills necessary to create or grow a successful business venture;
- Access to Financial Capital: the program provides an opportunity for cash and in-kind awards to for new or expanding business ventures and access to other local, regional, state, federal funding opportunities that have been identified;
- Access to Social Capital: the program provides connections to over 1,000 Gauntlet Alumni (entrepreneurs), industry experts, mentors, and community leaders who foster opportunities to share business experiences, create collaborations, and encourage innovative thinking.
There are also benefits of the Gauntlet for the communities involved:
- Fostering innovation and promoting economic development (job growth, property purchase/lease, local money circulation, additional tax revenues, increase in the tax base, stronger property values, etc.)
- Enhancing the community vibrancy and quality of life in communities through the establishment and promotion of new/expanding technology, agriculture, main street retail, service, entertainment, and food/beverage, outdoor recreation and tourism, gig and many other types of business that help attract and retain new visitors, residents, and workforce members.
For more information or to register, visit https://theadvancementfoundation.org/the-gauntlet.
~ Fincastle Herald staff report