Gauntlet Ceremony 1st Place Winner Awarded $23k in Prizes

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Candace Monaghan, owner of Beaver Dam Farm Sunflowers

On Thursday, May 27th, The GAUNTLET Business Program & Competition held its 7th Annual Graduation & Awards Ceremony, proudly awarding more than 55 local entrepreneurs cash and in-kind prizes to help start or expand their businesses.

During an unprecedented year, on February 9th, 104 businesses entered The Gauntlet Program and attended 10 consecutive classes to build a business plan. At the end of April 26th, 56 businesses moved on to the competition portion of The Gauntlet by submitting their business plans for local community business leaders to judge. The first-place winner of the competition was announced on May 27th at The Vinton War Memorial as Candace Monaghan, owner of Beaver Dam Farm Sunflowers.

Candace grew up on and still lives on her family’s farm that dates back to 1900. Growing up she worked on the dairy farm milking cows twice a day and bottle feeding the baby calves. In 2016, her father decided to plant 20 acres of sunflowers on the farm and Candace thought the farm could capitalize on the sunflowers and their unique beauty by having a festival.

She manages all aspects of the event from coordinating the planting dates, contacting craft and food vendors to scheduling weekday events like sunset dinners and goat yoga. The event has grown to tens of thousands of visitors over its two-weekend period.

“The Gauntlet provided me with business connections and opportunities that I feel I would not have otherwise been introduced to had I not participated. The business classes each week alone were a valuable learning experience”, said Monaghan.

Candace is the second woman to win The Gauntlet competition. Last year’s winner, Lisa Broyden, owner of GERMZAPP Hand Washing Monitoring System, was the first woman to win The Gauntlet Program. Over 70% of the 140 entrepreneurs who participated this year were women.

“The Advancement Foundation’s GAUNTLET Business Program and Competition provided $26,000 total of cash and in-kind awards, which jump-started the further development and production of GermZAPP units” says Lisa Broyden, 1st place winner of Gauntlet 2020, “Our first large scale trial has begun in the Montgomery County Public Schools, just in time to support Governor Northam’s plan to help schools open safely in 2021. Thank you, Advancement Foundation and Gauntlet.”