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The foundation’s entrepreneurship initiatives focus on second-stage growth entrepreneurs because of the important role they play in economic prosperity — and the need to distinguish them from startups and other types of small businesses.

We define second-stage companies as having 10 to 99 employees and $1 million to $50 million in annual revenue, although these are loose boundaries. What’s important is that second-stagers are powerhouses when it comes to job creation and revenue generation. For example, between 1995 and 2013, second-stage companies comprised only 13 percent of U.S. establishments, but generated 35 percent of all jobs and about 35.4 percent of sales. In addition, second-stagers often have national or global markets, which means they bring outside dollars into the community.

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Stability is another hallmark of second stage. Research shows that 80 percent of startups die within five years of their inception. Yet second-stage companies, which already have customers and products in place, are concentrating on growth rather than survival. They’re expanding into new markets and introducing innovations that impact their industries. With greater financial bandwidth, they’re typically able to offer more diverse, high-quality jobs and provide better benefits for employees. Large corporations may pull up stakes and move when wooed by relocation incentives, but in our experience, second-stage entrepreneurs are devoted corporate citizens with deep roots in their communities.

In contrast to startups and micobusinesses, second-stagers have different needs to continue growing. Our programs address their challenges, which range from expanding into new markets to creating internal infrastructure to embracing new leadership roles. Click on the tabs below to learn more.

Combining its expertise in entrepreneurship and peer learning, the Edward Lowe Foundation hosts leader retreats for second-stage business owners, key managers of second-stage companies and leaders of entrepreneur support organizations. Curriculum varies depending on a group’s specific needs, but typically addresses the unique challenges of second stage and enables participants to sharpen leadership skills, think differently and make faster, better decisions.

Another format introduced recently is single company retreats: If a second-stage entrepreneur has participated in a past retreat with other business owners, they can bring their staff to BRV for an educational experience.

PeerSpectives® roundtables, which typically involve eight to 12 business executives from noncompeting industries, provide a confidential forum where participants can share their challenges and experiences — and enhance their leadership capabilities. Hallmarks of the program include: trained facilitators, a focus on sharing experiences rather than giving advice and a structured protocol that ensures a balanced discussion.

Economic Gardening takes an entrepreneurial approach to regional prosperity. Often referred to as a “grow from within” strategy, it helps existing companies within a community grow larger.

In contrast to traditional business assistance, economic gardening focuses on strategic growth challenges, such as developing new markets, refining business models and gaining access to competitive intelligence. Economic gardening specialists help CEOs identify which issues are hindering their growth and then leverage sophisticated tools to deliver insights and information that CEOs can apply immediately.

Because second-stagers are so focused on growing their businesses, they frequently fly under the radar, and their contributions often go unnoticed by policymakers, economic developers, community stakeholders and even the media. To increase awareness for these important growth entrepreneurs, the foundation has established various recognition initiatives including  Companies to Watch®, an awards program format developed specifically for second-stagers.

We also conduct a series of online articles, Second-Stage Rockstars, to examine the ongoing contributions of second-stagers. The stories chronicle not only companies’ economic growth, but also how they may be transforming their industry, creating empowering workplaces or excelling as corporate citizens.

Companion Documents

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Significance of Second Stage
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Leader Retreats at BRV
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PeerSpectives Roundtables
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Economic Gardening
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What people are saying ...

“When it comes to understanding second-stagers, the Edward Lowe Foundation really gets it — not only the issues we’re dealing with, but how to approach us. Entrepreneurs are a different lot. We don’t want people to tell us how to do things. Yet Dino and his staff have a unique ability to understand the character of the entrepreneur, of being able to dig into issue and getting us to think differently without turning us off.”      

                     — Larry Kooiker, founder and CEO of Agritek Industry in Holland, Michigan

 

“I didn’t even know what second stage was until I came to a retreat at the Edward Lowe Foundation with my WPO group. At the time, I was having challenges in my business and didn’t really know why. It was really eye-opening for me to hear Dino say this was common, you’re in a different phase of your business and you have to operate differently.”

— Jena Gardner, president and CEOof JG Black Book of Travel in New York

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