ROANOKE, Va. – Tuesday is International Women’s Day and we’re celebrating women around the world and here at home.
This year, female entrepreneurs make up more than half of the participants in the state’s largest business program and competition, The Gauntlet.
The Gauntlet is a 10-week program for entrepreneurs across southwest Virginia who are looking to start or expand their business. The course teaches them how to write a business plan and connects them with mentors and resources to succeed.
Annette Patterson, President and Founder of the Advancement Foundation, the organization behind the Gauntlet, said it’s important to support female entrepreneurs.
“Business development gives women a sense of freedom, an opportunity to be moms and do other things that they enjoy doing, but also to make their mark on the world. We are thrilled to be able to bring together resources and knowledge and be able to share that with them,” Patterson said.
$300,000 worth of cash and in-kind prizes are up for grabs at the end of the competition.
Founded in 2007, the Advancement Foundation works to build up businesses in our community. Most notably, it’s built-up Main Street in Vinton and continues to expand. The Advancement Foundation has a footprint across the Roanoke and New River Valley as well as Southside and Central Virginia.
Patterson said more than half of the businesses they help each year through the gauntlet business competition are women-owned. This year, 57% of participants are female.
“It’s powerful, particularly for women, to let them know that they aren’t alone, that they are being celebrated by their peers. It is super, super important that we need to hold each other up. It’s so meaningful and it gives us such courage to continue to move forward,” Patterson said.
Patterson previously worked in higher education and started the non-profit that now helps hundreds of ambitious entrepreneurs like herself.
In fact, six of its seven employees are female, and in the non-profit’s board of directors, Becky Freemal is also female.
Here’s more video coverage on how The Gauntlet is celebrating female entrepreneurs.