Heather Jackson (fourth from left) is pictured receiving her award during the 5th Annual Gauntlet Award Ceremony.
Photo by Roanoke Valley Television, RVTV-3
Laura Wade (fourth from left) is pictured receiving her award during the 5th Annual Gauntlet Award Ceremony.
Photo by Roanoke Valley Television, RVTV-3

By Matt de Simone

Contributing writer

Last month, the Gauntlet Business Program and Competition concluded a two-month competition for local entrepreneurs. The program gives local businesses a chance to network with other businesses advancing every entrants’ ideas and opportunities. Businesses from Botetourt, Alleghany, Roanoke, and Salem competed for $330,000 in cash and prizes. The Gauntlet awarded two local businesses the Silver Award for their respective models.

Thrive by Heart is a life coaching practice developed by Laura Wade, who is a passion test facilitator and mentor. “I offer workshops and mentoring designed to empower people to live from soul to goal,” Wade explained. “I help people go inward to discover and reveal their inner light. Through processes designed to help people discover their passions and align their lives with what they love, I support them in releasing limiting beliefs from the past, making conscious choices in the present to create a life they love.”

Wade took advantage of the resources the program provided Thrive by Heart. “The Gauntlet opened my eyes to all the amazing resources for businesses in the area like The Advancement Foundation and the Small Business Development Center,” Wade continued, “I realized that there are many people and organizations who are invested in entrepreneurial success and want to help.”

The Gauntlet encouraged Wade’s business as well as other participants to continue evolving their business models beyond the competition. She explained, “I was inspired by previous Gauntlet participants whose businesses have taken off. Since I am a visionary, participating in the Gauntlet helped me get more grounded in the operations side of my business, to be more strategic in how I plan to expand.”

Expansion appears to be the first plan of action for Thrive by Heart. Wade stated, “Part of my expansion will be funded by the awards received. Thrive by Heart received a social media consultation with Treehouse Collaborative which I will use to determine the best approach to brand and promote Thrive by Heart. In addition, I was awarded three hours of PAonDemand, a personal assistant service which I will use to implement the social media strategy and the use of Lancelot’s banquet room for a women’s conference I am offering this fall.”

Wade mentors by phone or from her office in Daleville. She offers workshops at various locations. Her next workshop, “Create A Life You Love,” is June 30 at the Unity Church of Roanoke Valley.

Heather Jackson founded InStead Marketing last August. This new company entered the Gauntlet to benefit from the program’s resources and help build an already strong specialty. InStead is an experiential promotion company that helps launch, refine, and market brands to marketplaces. Jackson, who’s been in the event industry for 23 years, explained the Gauntlet gave her new business a chance to share ideas with other businesses. A series of pitches and brainstorming slowly refined each business owner’s final plans for the competition.

“You have to pivot,” Jackson said when explaining her journey through the Gauntlet, “after you sit through the classes and talk to the other business owners, you find that there may be a different need in Roanoke so you change the way your business is built.”

InStead Marketing recently helped an event in the Wasena area and is currently working with the Clean Valley Council and its Riverfest event scheduled for June 29 at Smith Park in Roanoke.

Jackson plans to use her Gauntlet award money to hire a graphic designer to create a new logo for her company, hire an accounting firm, and get an office space in the Grandin area to have her company closer to other new businesses in order to continue to build her brand locally and beyond.

For more information about The Gauntlet Business Program and Competition, please visit The Advancement Foundation’s homepage: www.theadvancementfoundation.org.