By Matt de Simone
The 7th Annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition finished up in May. Tim Miller and Lisa Moyer of Muddy Squirrel won the competition’s Silver Level prize.
These days, people live most of their lives traversing through a digital landscape. Muddy Squirrel offers a way for their patrons to “unplug” and experience unique outdoor activities and excursions through Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
“When we started about six years ago, our focus was mainly on kids,” Miller said in a recent interview. “We did a lot of summer camps, backpacking trips, and that’s where we established the business model to do things for kids.”
As time went on, more parents asked Muddy Squirrel if they offered activities focused on adult participation. The Gauntlet competition was Miller’s and Moyer’s chance to wrap their heads around providing memorable experiences for adults.
Before the start of the competition, Miller and Moyer were figuring out their business model. They researched the market and what unique outdoor adventures Muddy Squirrel could offer. They also looked to expand their selection of events and experiences in Botetourt.
“We don’t have a background in business,” Moyer added. “For me, (the competition) was about learning the business side of (Muddy Squirrel). I think we’re really good at what we do as far as creating, directing, and putting on the events.”
Muddy Squirrel isn’t Miller’s and Moyer’s full-time gig. Miller is the Education Coordinator at Mountain Castles Soil & Water Conservation District. Moyer is the Director of Graduate Education at Stevenson University in Maryland. Both were pretty busy in 2020.
“It was a really stressful time of year for both of us with our other jobs,” Moyer said regarding their path to competing in the Gauntlet, “with COVID and everything being a really stressful and time-consuming time for me, especially for me and my job.”
Muddy Squirrel benefited from the networking aspects of the competition. Miller and Moyer met other like-minded participants who offered their stories and experiences that helped Muddy Squirrel recreate their business plan.
Moyer mentioned the competition was challenging because of the time Moyer and Miller spent at the other jobs. However, they shared a meaningful experience to develop their business plan better.
“For me, taking the time to revisit everything (about our business) was a big part of the motivation for us to enter the competition,” Moyer added.
Miller mentioned how great it was to work with their mentors in the competition. Their networking experience helped them take the time to think about the big picture and what they wanted to do with their model.
Currently, Muddy Squirrel offers their experiences exclusively in Botetourt County. Some of their popular adventures include the Buchanan Tri – a 2-mile road running, 13-mile cycling, and a 5-mile kayaking triathlon in and around Buchanan.
“A lot of our events are gateway events,” Miller mentioned. “We have a lot of people who have never done anything like (the Tri) before. The distances are reasonable, and it’s not super-daunting to run a couple of miles, then kayak, and then swim. Hopefully, many (participants) move on to other (outdoor events) afterward.”
Muddy Squirrel plans to use the $1,700 winnings for signage and supplies for its Harvest Tour in September. The event is in partnership with Stoney Brook Vineyards in Troutville and the Botetourt Farmers Market. Participants start the cycling event at Stoney Brook, then cycle their way through Botetourt County, visiting different farms along the way. The event returns to Stoney Brook for a farm-to-table meal provided by Pomegranate Restaurant.
Additionally, Muddy Squirrel will participate in The Blue Ridge Gran Fondo, a part of a national series of cycling events. The Blue Ridge portion takes riders through Fincastle, Buchanan, and Troutville on October 10.
For more information about Muddy Squirrel’s outdoor experiences, visit muddysquirrel.com.