The GAUNTLET Business Program and Competition 2023 expands to Southwest Virginia in Partnership with UVA Wise and Opportunity Southwest

Southwest Virginia entrepreneurs can compete for $300,000 in cash and prizes as part of a business accelerator program sponsored by The Advancement Foundation, Opportunity Southwest and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise starting this February.

The Advancement Foundation’s 9th Annual GAUNTLET, Virginia's largest business program and competition, serves both Main Street businesses and high-growth innovators. The program coordinates business resources and strengthens the entrepreneurial network of the locality and region. This cross regional network is bound together by the stakeholders in communities across the state.

“There is no greater priority for our state than the pursuit of business development and innovation. The Advancement Foundation is expanding its proven business acceleration model across the state to ensure that every community has equal access to critical resources. The collaborative platform convenes business resource agencies, community leaders, mentors, and industry expertise. The focus of the model program is to ignite a diverse group of entrepreneurs and small businesses, help them with access to comprehensive resources, and build a highly visible opportunity for communities to pledge their commitment to innovation and business development,”said Annette Patterson, president of The Advancement Foundation.

For Southwest Virginia entrepreneurs who have a business idea that needs a jumpstart or a business that is ready to scale, The Advancement Foundation’s 9th Annual GAUNTLET online program is the perfect opportunity to take action and accelerate entrepreneurial ideas into reality.

Individuals must apply by Tuesday, February 7, 2023 when virtual classes begin:

The GAUNTLET ignites opportunities through business training, mentorship opportunities, scaling strategies, and entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Anyone can participate in the program and can choose to compete for over $300,000 in cash and prizes.

The program offers a proven formula to assist entrepreneurs in the development of a business idea or the expansion of an existing business, opportunities to collaborate with entrepreneurs across the region, individual pairing with a mentor, and connection to a myriad of other resources designed to support new and expanding businesses. To date, The GAUNTLET has empowered more than 700 entrepreneurs, developed and connected a mentor network of 250 professionals, and awarded over $7 million in resources including grants, cash, and in- kind prizes.

“The partners of Opportunity SWVA are excited to help build capacity and support entrepreneurs as they pursue The Gauntlet Business Program and Competition™. The access to state wide connections, mentorship, and awards will help our regional ecosystem tremendously. I look forward to seeing Southwest Virginia represented well by the creative and innovative individuals who are working hard to make a difference here,” said Blake Salyer, UVA Wise Innovation & Ecosystem Manager.

Most recently, UVA Wise and Opportunity Southwest Virginia joined these efforts to expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem which includes stakeholders in the Shenandoah Valley, Alleghany Highland, Roanoke Valley, New River Valley, and Southside Virginia to build a strong mentor network and accelerate business growth and development by implementing The Advancement Foundation's proven model. This model focuses on highly visible programs like The Gauntlet, resource development including an extensive mentor network, capital grants, in-kind and cash resources, as well as placemaking activities such as accelerators, mixed use property sales and networking.