Combining its expertise in entrepreneurship and peer learning, the Edward Lowe Foundation hosts retreats for two key audiences: leaders of entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) and leaders of second-stage businesses. 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.

Get Smarter …

  • Get Smarter

    As entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) strive to build more vibrant, prosperous communities, more organizations are targeting second-stage companies due to their contributions to job creation. Yet serving second-stagers is a completely different ballgame than working with startups, self-employed individuals or businesses with less than 10 employees.

    Our ESO leader retreats are specifically designed to help economic growth organizations:

    • Understand how to find second-stage entrepreneurs, grab their attention and win their trust.
    • Deliver the right tools and resources to help these growth companies continue to expand.
    • Work with other ESOs to learn best practices, leverage resources and build a supportive entrepreneurial culture throughout their region.

    The foundation also holds retreats for second-stage entrepreneurs. These retreats help entrepreneurs address the unique challenges they encounter during second stage, from refining core competencies and business models to building senior management teams to embracing new leadership skills.

    In both our ESO and entrepreneur retreats, there is an emphasis on peer learning. Curriculum is relevant and hard-hitting so participants walk away with a clearer vision and are armed with new tools and techniques to be stronger, more effective leaders.

    Learn more …

  • Why It’s Important

    Granted, there are plenty of leadership programs out there. So what makes our ESO and entrepreneur leader retreats exceptional?

    • We speak your language. As an ESO that supports other ESOs, we work with organizations like yours every day and truly understand the challenges you face. What’s more, second-stage entrepreneurs — a group that has been largely underappreciated and underserved by most regions — are our core competency.
    • Retreats are led by professional facilitators, who are experts in peer learning and unleashing the group genius in the room. This ensures for a balanced discussion among participants, maximizing their takeaways and value gained for time spent in sessions.
    • Relevant content. This isn’t just theoretical or nice-to-know information. Each program delivers new concepts and tools that participants can begin to apply immediately. Curriculum is structured as a continuum so each retreat builds upon the participant’s previous experience. For example, new modules have been added to address organizational change and conflict, enabling leaders to better manage “growing pains” so their organizations become more resilient and innovative.
    • An inspirational environment. Big Rock Valley, our learning campus in southwest Michigan, is comprised of 2,600 acres of forest, prairie and wetland. Many activities are held outdoors, and the Tower of Tomorrow, the foundation’s primary retreat facility, provides dramatic views of surrounding woodlands so attendees remain in touch with nature even when they’re indoors. Our overnight guest quarters are equally unique. Retreat participants stay in renovated railroad boxcars and farmhouses that date back to the 19th century.
  • Implement Programs

    Because we are structured as an operating foundation, groups that attend leader retreats at Big Rock Valley (BRV) must be aligned with our mission and guidelines. Individual entrepreneurs or business owners can attend a retreat when they are affiliated with an ESO, such as Women Presidents’ Organization or Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

    Costs for retreats vary, but typically run about $700 per person for nonprofit groups and $1,500 per person for for-profit groups. Programs usually span three days and two nights and costs cover all lodgings, facilitation and meals.

    Once a group has signed up to hold a retreat at BRV, our team will help you select the curriculum that best fits your group’s desired outcomes. (Although retreats are held throughout the calendar year, our schedule typically sells out six months or more in advance, so we encourage you to plan ahead.)

    For more information or to sign up your group for a retreat, contact Rita Phillips.

  • Info For Retreat Attendees

    To help you enjoy a memorable and productive retreat experience, we would like to briefly explain the process and supply you with other useful information.


    Big Rock Valley (BRV), our 2,600-acre learning campus, features some of the most beautiful scenery in the Midwest. As part of your retreat, you will participate in short (15 to 30 minute) hikes and walks, as well as other outdoor activities.


    Country casual, which is even more relaxed than business casual. That means truly comfortable clothing, particularly for the outdoor activities. Jeans are a wardrobe staple at BRV, and you may want to pack a light rain jacket, hat, athletic shoes or hiking boots. Bringing a pair of backup shoes is also a good idea.


    Find more about Weather in Cassopolis, MI


    All meals are prepared and served onsite by our guest services staff. Most meals are served in a sit-down style according to the schedule created for your group. Although we can be somewhat flexible with schedule modifications for groups, we don’t serve individual meals at varying times.

    Social Time

    Social and personal time are both important components of the retreat experience and typically built into the schedule. Alcohol may be consumed in light to moderate amounts at planned social events and meals. (The foundation does not have a liquor license and is unable to provide or serve alcohol.)

    Unique lodging in renovated boxcarsLodging

    During your stay at BRV, you’ll most likely sleep in one of five renovated railroad boxcars with one or more “boxcar mates” and will receive your housing assignment on arrival. The boxcars reflect Ed Lowe‘s entrepreneurial imagination and flair with hotel-like amenities that include: bathrobes, towels, hair dryer, coffee maker, telephone, shampoo, lotion and soap. Boxcars are a short walk from the main conference center and meeting facilities.


    BRV is near Cassopolis, Mich., in the southwest corner of the state. Airports nearest BRV are located in South Bend, Ind., Kalamazoo and Detroit, Mich., and Chicago.

    Contact Information

    The foundation’s emergency telephone number is 269-445-4222. Our staff will take a message and locate you at any time, day or night. You may make complementary outgoing long-distance calls from your boxcar or phones located at the various meeting facilities. Computers are available to check email at the Tower of Tomorrow, which also features a cell-phone booster that improves reception.

    If you have any other questions, contact our programs coordinator, Rita Phillips.

What People are Saying

I have to admit that I was very nervous about going to the retreat. For starters, I worried about leaving my business for three days. And since I’m not a very outgoing person, events like this can be difficult. Yet I found the experience truly worthwhile.
Sandy Martin, founder and president of Green 3 LLC in Oshkosh, Wis.

Retreat Team

  • George Nelson

    George Nelson

    George is the newest addition to the retreat team, and he brings a great new vibe along with a cool appreciation for history. If you have any questions about retreats contact George.

  • Rita Phillips

    Rita Phillips

    If you’re looking for help with your PeerSpectives roundtable license or need information about retreats, contact Rita.

  • Dino Signore

    Dino Signore

    As our Manager of Entrepreneurial Education, Dino has been providing insights to CEOs and peer groups for over 12 years. Contact Dino.

"As a general rule, when the trigger of a loaded gun is pulled, a bullet is going to hit something. "
— Edward Lowe