In the Gauntlet Business Program and Competition, which originated with The Advancement Foundation (TAF) founder and president Annette Patterson, 70 entrepreneurs from 50 starting or expanding businesses are “studying the feasibility of their proposed business, exploring business models, and developing business plans.” The Gauntlet process will conclude with an awards ceremony on May 11 and the awarding of $200,000 in cash and prizes.
Lois Fritz signed up for the Gauntlet with the goal not of establishing a business, but of making her existing non-profit New Freedom Farm sustainable over the long run.
One strategy she seems to have mastered already is how to raise funds. During the annual “Roanoke Valley Gives” day on March 15, donations of over $57,000 were made to her organization, from over 650 donors.
In addition, New Freedom Farm, pending official calculations, may qualify for incentive prizes including $5,000 for taking second place in most dollars raised, $10,000 for first place to the nonprofit with the most unique donors, and $5,000 for first place in the “Small but Mighty” category.
“Healing Humans through Horses” is the mission of New Freedom Farms. Fritz describes it as a “safe place for veterans suffering from PTSD/TBI, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and secondary trauma.”
Fritz said it is a “sanctuary” not only for humans, “but it is also a place dedicated to providing a safe haven for its equine residents. Much like the veterans we serve, our horses have come to us from stressful situations, the auction circuit or from kill buyers who would otherwise have taken them to slaughter. In light of their journeys to us, we believe it is the essence of the horse that makes our program unique. New Freedom Farm offers veterans an opportunity to participate in an unstructured, interactive equine environment at whatever level works for them.
“As a non-profit, I am not looking to make any money, just to be able to be sustainable to best serve the veterans’ needs,” Fritz said. “We work off of donations and faith; there is no charge to the veteran.”
New Freedom Farm is located in Buchanan in Botetourt County about two miles off of Interstate 81.
“Roanoke Valley Gives” is an initiative of the Foundation for Roanoke Valley. Their goal is to “raise funding for participating Roanoke Valley nonprofits in a 24-hour period while bringing attention to the work and worth of each participating organization.” They accept tax-deductible contributions for the non-profit organizations via their website at https://rvgives.givebig.org/c/rvgives.
More than 150 non-profits signed up for the event this year with a goal of raising $500,000— up from last year’s goal of $150,000. However, at the end of the day on March 15, $718,089 was received in donations. The official results were to be announced at an awards luncheon in Roanoke on March 22.
Roanoke Valley Gives takes as its mission “enabling people who love their community to easily give back.” They are especially focused on helping smaller non-profits like New Freedom Farm.
“The Roanoke Valley Gives Day was truly amazing,” said Fritz. “I worked on it by myself for three months, and then in the past month had three other volunteers working on it, $10 at a time. Not asking for large donations just $10 from each donor.”
Fritz says she was awake for 36 straight hours with the Roanoke Valley Gives day.
“I believe I was successful by asking for just $10 from each person and sharing my mission in healing humans,” explained Fritz. “I did not have any professional help; I just shared my testimony.”
The Gauntlet classes and competition Fritz is participating in are covering all aspects of starting up or expanding a business from writing a business plan, to determining the basic needs to start-up, to figuring out how many employees they will need to run the business successfully.
Fritz said that one of New Freedom Farm’s most basic needs is “a place for veterans to come inside – with climate control.”
“For example, last Thursday a World War II veteran met with me and it was too cold to sit outside or in the barn, so we had to sit in his car while he talked,” Fritz said. “New Freedom Farm really needs office supplies, a copier, a computer, and even a vendor set up (so when we go to events we can look and present professionally).”
As for the number of employees she will need, “I will continue to be the sole worker with a core group of volunteers. I am beyond blessed with the core group of volunteers I have.”
New Freedom Farm will be hosting its first annual “Spring Fling” on Saturday, April 1, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. with no charge for admission. The public is invited to attend. There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, raffles, children’s activities, vendors, music, and obstacle trail demonstrations. The event will also include a groundbreaking for the pavilion in honor of Vietnam veterans and a building dedication in honor and support of those same veterans.
The guest speaker will be World War II veteran Carlos Showalter.
Fritz welcomes visitors to New Freedom Farm by appointment as well by calling 540-855-1158 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The farm is located at 6118 Lithia Road in Buchanan.