Because second-stage entrepreneurs are so focused on their businesses, their contributions often go unnoticed by the media, policymakers, economic developers and community stakeholders. With that in mind, celebrating growth entrepreneurs and communicating their value is part of the foundation’s entrepreneurship mission, which it carries out in a variety of ways.
Among these is Second-Stage Rockstars, a series of online articles that examines the ongoing impact of second-stage companies. These stories chronicle not only second-stagers’ economic growth, but also how they may be transforming their industry, creating empowering workplaces or excelling as corporate citizens. Below are some recent Rockstars; others can be found in our archives.
Companies to Watch
Companies to Watch® (CTW) is an awards program developed by the foundation specifically for second-stage entrepreneurs. CTW honorees are selected not only for their past and projected growth, but also their special strengths, such as having a distinct competitive edge, deploying a new technology in a traditional industry, establishing external markets and attracting new dollars to their region or serving their community in some special way.
CTW launched in Michigan in 2005 and has been conducted in several states. Ongoing programs are held in Michigan, Florida, Colorado and Indiana, where they are run by local hosts who collaborate with public and private interests to create a culture of support for second-stage companies.
Awardees tell us this recognition has benefitted them in a number of ways, from raising their visibility in the marketplace to boosting employee morale. “To know the marketplace has recognized us as an up-and-coming company gives employees a sense of pride and satisfaction,” says Luke Ford, founder of My Computer Works in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They feel better about working here, that they’re part of something special.”
To extend the life of CTW beyond the awards ceremony, local hosts and sponsors of CTW provide various post-event opportunities to assist honorees, ranging from media coverage to networking events. In addition, the foundation holds exclusive leader retreats for CTW awardees at Big Rock Valley, which enable them to take advantage of our leadership curriculum and interact with other second-stage entrepreneurs from around the country in a peer-based learning experience.
What people are saying ...
“We started the company because we thought we had something special to offer the market, and being a Companies to Watch winner helps validate that. Yet perhaps more important, it’s very motivating. It doesn’t mean we’ve arrived, but signals that we are on the right path — and challenges our organization to continue to play up to that level.”
— Kevin Fahl co-founder of Alternative Mechanical LLC in Grand Rapids, Michigan