The Gauntlet: Entrepreneurial course has Buchanan/Botetourt focus

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Green Gauntlet banners that went up on Main Street, Buchanan, last week marking the start of the program involving the town and Botetourt County.

The third annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition is under way and part of the focus this year is on building small businesses in Botetourt County.

The Advancement Foundation sponsors the program that brings together entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs, puts them in working groups and then helps guide them through the process of developing their own business plans.

These cohort-working groups meet together each week until the end of April to develop their business ideas, with each studying feasibility, exploring business models and developing their business plan.

Over 65 entrepreneurs are in the program this year, including several from Botetourt County.

The Fincastle Herald and its sister newspaper, The Vinton Messenger, will be following four of the entrepreneurs during the course of the program. Holly and Jonathan Hart are interested in eco-tourism in Botetourt and Roanoke Counties, while Lois Hines is from New Freedom Farm in Buchanan and Heather Oltmanns from Vinton is considering a children’s consignment shop.

Last week, entrepreneurial community flags went up in Buchanan and Vinton to call attention to the communities’ desire to embrace small business development. Buchanan is one of the focal points for the participants in the program to consider for locating a business.

The Advancement Foundation leverages resources from across the community in order to build collaboration that encourages small business development. “The Advancement Foundation is committed to providing comprehensive support for our entrepreneurs,” President Annette Patterson said. “We have partners in Botetourt and Roanoke County Economic Development Departments, the Small Business Development Center, Virginia Tourism, Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development and many local businesses.”

“The Gauntlet has the potential to introduce entrepreneurs to a small-town community with great access to Interstate 81 and the Blue Ridge Parkway,” Buchanan Town Manager Mary Zirkle said. “Those who recognize the value of location, cooperation and community support will benefit from a partnership with Buchanan.”

She noted the green Gauntlet banners that went up Main Street “are signs of new growth as spring approaches.” The town last displayed banners along Main Street in 2011 to celebrate the town’s bicentennial. Since then, she said, new opportunities are developing as the town embraces the James River and the new Natural Bridge State Park to host more visitors.

During the course, the community will be asked to participate in potential customer interviews in order to receive unbiased feedback.

The Gauntlet courses are Tuesday evenings at the Vinton War Memorial and repeated on Thursday mornings at the HIVE in Vinton.