There’s something about a bow tie that conveys polish and sophistication, a sense of being put-together and even a bit of whimsy. For Rusty Foster, the bow tie is the perfect symbol—and moniker—for his public relations firm, evoking a certain pride in their dedication to detail and their commitment to quality. Since launching Bow Tie Strategies in 2012, Foster (and his advisor, Dixie, a loveable pug whose role in the company consists of canine relations and focusing on the welfare and humane treatment of canines) offers everything from traditional PR solutions to cutting-edge business development and crisis management.
Having established its presence in the business community of Loudoun County and the surrounding area, Bow Tie Strategies has also made it part of their mission to invest in the people of the community. “I wanted to create a philanthropic division of Bow Tie Strategies that allowed us to give back to our community,” says Foster, who established the Bow Tie Fund in 2016. “I believe that if we have a strong small business community, then businesses should give back in some form to ensure that we are paying it forward every day.”
With a mission to support the arts and education focused on single-parent households, the Bow Tie Fund has a very personal “why” for Foster. “I was raised in a single-parent household, so I understand the unique challenges that a single-parent goes through every day to provide for their child,” he says. “Growing up, I learned a lot about myself by participating in band and choir. Those experiences helped mold me into the person I am today. In addition, I believe that receiving an education, regardless of what level, should be accessible and affordable.”
"I believe that if we have a strong small business community, then businesses should give back in some form to ensure that we are paying it forward every day." - Rusty Foster, Bow Tie Strategies | Bow Tie Fund
Since 2016, the Bow Tie Fund has awarded eight scholarships to students hoping to continue their education after high school and has partnered with over 75 different organizations to help them spread their mission and message. Organizations they have partnered with include Friends of Loudoun Mental Health, Loudoun Education Foundation, YMCA Loudoun County, Loudoun Hunger Relief and several high school music programs within Loudoun County Public Schools.
“We don't focus on meeting a quota or specifying we must help X number of people each year,” Foster says. “We focus our giving on the need, and the need can vary from year to year. For example, one year there may be more need for educating our communities on the impacts of mental illness, or another year, there may be more need for supporting students in music education. In addition to our community giving, we have an annual scholarship that we award to a Loudoun student to continue their education. That continued education can range anywhere from community college or a four-year institution to trade school or receiving a license. The only requirement is that each applicant must come from a single-parent household and have graduated from high school.”
Over their past six years in operation, the Bow Tie Fund has a great deal to take pride in. “Some of our greatest accomplishments include assisting Equality Loudoun to organize the most sought-after pride festival in Northern Virginia, assisting the YMCA Loudoun County fund [to help] students to attend summer camp at no cost to the students and, of course, providing scholarships to assist students in furthering their education,” Foster says.
Naturally, as a non-profit, the Bow Tie Fund faces challenges. “There is so much need and there are only so many resources to go around,” Foster says. “Unfortunately, we have to pick and choose which individuals and organizations we support, even though they all need assistance. For example, last year we received 48 letters of inquiry for our annual scholarship. We only provide one scholarship, but several of those students needed our help.” Currently, funding comes from individual donations and proceeds from an annual summer concert series managed by the organization.
In reaching and impacting his community through the Bow Tie Fund, Foster finds a sense of accomplishment and reward that only comes through genuine altruism. “I love the people that we work with and hearing their stories about how the scholarships have impacted their lives, or about how our partnership helps educate the public on mental health challenges or how we helped a high school band program travel to their most recent competition,” says Foster. “This is all an incredible part of what we do through the Bow Tie Fund and making that kind of difference in someone’s life is unbelievably gratifying. I’m proud to give back in this way to the community that I love so much.”