The Gauntlet Wraps Up First Edition

Roanoke Star: The Gauntlet

The Advancement Foundation held the finale of its first-ever “Gauntlet” competition (think TV’s Shark Tank) at the Grandin CoLab in mid-January, handing out cash and in-kind business services to a dozen small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs who went through a series of boot camps before presenting their ideas to judges. Two sessions on January 17 were split between small businesses that were more commercially oriented and others that had a community or social aspect. Many of the entrants came from lower-income backgrounds or had overcome struggles with issues like substance abuse; The Advancement Foundation in some cases had already been working to help some of the participants in the past. Becca Parish with “Organize It Roanoke!” already had somewhat of a head start as a more established small business, working with clients to unclutter their homes and offices. Parish also appears regularly on WSLS-10’s Daytime Blue Ridge program. In order to network her with future client possibilities she was awarded a membership in the Chamber of Commerce and a free strategic planning session. “Being a small business owner starting out, it’s intimidating,” said Parish. It’s nice to know that you have people in the community backing you, that was probably the best thing. The whole process has been great. Anybody starting out in the business would be lucky to go through it.” Khalid Jones captured the imagination of the judges and was awarded one of two $1000 checks for his Community Cultivators Barber Academy, which works with ex-felons – training them for gainful employment. “My business pitch was to reverse the recidivism rate of people going back and forth to penitentiary and also [take them] out of poverty.” Jones also wants to teach financial management and other life skills – as well as how to cut hair – and that business plan led to one of the two top cash prizes awarded. What did he get out of the exercise, which started with those “boot camps” last fall? “When bringing communities together and assets from the community to build with, we can have a greater future for each one of us – and restore hope. There are some people out here that are waiting to receive their blessing.” Advancement Foundation president Annette Patterson is moving up the timetable for the next Gauntlet, which will be judged in October, with the boot camps happening before that. She was pleased to see people “from all walks of life,” come together with professionals from the business community, taking advice and developing a plan. The Gauntlet judges awarded laptops, retreats at Smith Mountain Lake for business planning, marketing and website development services, free office space and some cash prizes. To that end Patterson would like to fund drive and have more money on hand for Gauntlet 2 this fall: “I wish we had $20,000. Every single one of these folks is worth investing in.” She’ll start recruiting a second batch of entrepreneurs and community advocates to work with those new participants in May. “By October we hope to have [more] money to give away.” She’s shooting for at least $10,000. Patterson was also gratified that everyone she asked for help said yes: “Everybody is bringing their assets to the table …skills, space, whatever they have, in order to help these folks move forward.” By Gene Marrano – See more at:

Samantha Lukasiewicz

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