Va. fundraiser to save small businesses hurt by pandemic goes nationwide

What started as an effort by Virginia business leaders to help small businesses battered by the COVID-19 crisis has gone nationwide.

The nonprofit Virginia 30 Day Fund provides $3,000 forgivable loans to business owners. Its goal is to keep Virginians working while small businesses waited for federal aid money to come through.

At the start of the pandemic, technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder was well aware of the economic impact it would have on small businesses.

“We also saw what was happening with the CARES Act coming out of Washington,” Snyder said. “Two trillion dollars being pumped into the economy, all with good intentions, but we all know the federal government sometimes doesn’t work so quickly.”

In April, Snyder and his wife Burson launched Virginia 30 Day Fund. Eligible businesses must be at least one year old, based in Virginia, and owned and operated by a Virginia resident.

“We focus on businesses between three and 30 employees, really what we feel is the hardest hit part of small business,” Snyder said.

The money does not have to be paid back, but businesses that recover are encouraged to return the money to the fund, so it can “pay it forward” and help more businesses in trouble. Snyder said so far six companies have given the money back, including one that added an extra $1,000.

After seeing success in Virginia, Similar 30 Day Funds — modeled on the Snyders’ — have launched in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

But a different partnership has taken things to a new level

Online sports outlet Barstool Sports joined the effort last month. The Virginia 30 Day Fund helps manage and run the Barstool Fund, and the latter operates under the former’s 501c 3 status. In a matter of days, the Barstool Fund raised more than $16.5 million to help more than 50 businesses.

“Now with the Barstool Fund, we are operating all across the country,” Snyder said.

The Barstool Fund is working on their funding drives differently than Virginia 30 Day Fund. It spotlights one business at a time, raising whatever money it needs to survive, and then moves on to another.

Back in Virginia, more than 800 businesses have been helped so far by the nonprofit, including the Old Town Deli in Old Town Alexandria.

It’s a place where Snyder often used to get takeout. Once he saw that they applied, Snyder called the establishment to talk to find out more on their request from the owner.

“He started crying on the phone,” Snyder said. “He had just lost his father, right at the beginning of COVID. His father started the Old Town Deli with him. He felt very alone and unseen, and when I called him up to fund him, he still had my number in his phone.”

Snyder said the Virginia 30 Day Fund will continue to hand out money as long as it is needed.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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