When Virginia-based tech entrepreneur and angel investor Pete Snyder realized COVID-19 had created an economic crisis for small businesses, his wife Burson Snyder and he began calling friends in the philanthropic community to raise funds.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our country,” said Snyder, who serves as CEO of Disruptor Capital. A former candidate for the governorship of Virginia, Snyder founded the 30 Day Fund in April 2020 as a 501(3)c to distribute forgivable loans to small businesses.
One entrepreneur who benefitted from the 30 Day Fund is Tina Miller, who owns Walkabout Outfitter, a local outdoor supply store in six locations across Virginia. “In our case, we were decimated, just decimated,” Miller told NBC News. “It was also important that somebody cared about our small business.”
The Walkabout Outfitter is among the more than 2,500 small businesses that the 30 Day Fund has assisted. “Trying to keep up with the need was a constant challenge, but thanks to the good hearts of people all across the country, we were able to raise significant funds to bolster small businesses and help them survive another day,” said 30 Day Fund board member Generra Peck.
The Snyders called it the 30 Day Fund because they thought 30 days would be the life of the fund, but more than a year has passed since the pandemic emerged and businesses are just beginning to return to normal operating policies. “Businesses have had to endure more than a year of closures and restrictions, decreased sales, staff reductions, and uncertainty after uncertainty, but The 30 Day Fund is still focused on helping small businesses in the short term and has plans to continue its tradition of entrepreneurs ‘paying it forward’ to help those in need,” Peck told the Epoch Times.
As previously reported, paying it forward implies businesses that receive funds will, in the future, reinvest money back into the fund, which will then be allocated to another needy small business owner. “We are overwhelmed with the number of people who want to help,” Snyder told Virginia Business Daily.
The Snyders financed the 30 Day Fund with an initial $100,000 in capital. “It has raised more than $45 million through all of its efforts in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Georgia, New Jersey, and Arkansas,” Peck said in an interview. The fund provides up to $3,000 to selected small businesses that apply for financing. Beneficiaries are chosen based on a three-minute video and a one-page written application, and once selected, the business owner receives the money within three days.
“We don’t have time for red-tape,” Snyder said in a statement online. “We don’t have time for delays. The VA 30 Day Fund is designed to be quick and easy. … We will provide small business owners with both funding and hope so they can keep their employees on payroll and keep working to lift our communities through this crisis.”
30 Day Fund partners include United Way, the Kimsey Foundation, and Maltese Capital. Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) and his wife Suzanne are on the fund’s advisory board.
“The 30 Day Fund has assisted other leaders to replicate its model with efforts in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Mississippi, and New Jersey,” Peck said. For example, in December 2020, Dave Portnoy, founder of media company Barstool Sports, created The Barstool Fund – an affiliate of the 30 Day Fund.
“There’s no right or wrong reason why we’re choosing one business versus the other,” Portnoy said of The Barstool Fund. “They speak to us for whatever reason. I wish we could help them all. We’re going to help as many as we humanly can and try to keep these small businesses alive. So, that’s the plan. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it’s better than nothing.”
Portnoy has stayed true to his word, raising nearly $40 million for 391 small businesses through The Barstool Fund. Businesses that have received financial assistance through The Barstool Fund include Iconic Fitness in Escondido, California, The Donut Experiment in St. Charles, Missouri, Flame Nightclub in Duluth, Minnesota, and Social House of Soulard in St. Louis, Missouri.
Roughly 43 percent of Americans have been inoculated against COVID-19, and most states have rescinded government-mandated shutdown orders. And while those changes are helping businesses return to normal operating procedures, Peck said many are still reeling from a year of hardship and uncertainty. Others are struggling with a worker shortage in states where employees can earn more collecting unemployment benefits with additional federal pandemic assistance than reporting to a job, according to media reports.
“While the challenges these businesses face today are not the same ones they faced in the beginning of the pandemic, many are still struggling to fully recover, and the 30 Day Fund continues to be here to help,” Peck said.
In January, the Snyders announced they were stepping down from the day-to-day operations of the fund. Since then, former Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng has assumed a senior leadership position.
“Even though we’ve been at this for nearly a year, we are just getting started,” Cheng said in a statement online. “The ‘pay it forward’ movement the Snyders started is catching fire all around the nation and will be helping thousands and thousands more struggling small businesses in the weeks and months to come. I look forward to ensuring the continued success of the Virginia 30 Day Fund.”
Juliette Fairley is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Born in Chateauroux, France, and raised outside of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Juliette is a well-adjusted military brat who now lives in Manhattan. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet, Time magazine, the Chicago City Wire, the Austin-American Statesman, and many other publications across the country.
This article was published in American Essence magazine.