Affectionately known to us as the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) shape the very infrastructure in which entrepreneurs operate. The foundation’s primary audience, these organizations drive policy, provide critical connections, services, and help shape a region’s entrepreneurial culture. The foundation has worked with ESOs for more than a decade to distribute our programs for second-stage entrepreneurs. Together, we are making fundamental changes in traditional economic development.

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Chambers, small business development centers, economic development offices and other nonprofit public/private partnerships dedicated to growing their economies from the inside out, form the landscape of the ESO.

Every day, ESOs strive to meet the needs of their audience within an ever-changing economic climate. They’re building partnerships, delivering services, looking for new funding, affecting physical infrastructure and raising the visibility of their organization, audience and region. With so many external demands, they are often pulled in multiple directions.

The foundation understands, better than any other organization, the needs and challenges of the ESO. That’s why we’re often looked to as the ESOs’ superhero. So we adjust our cape, put on our magic slippers (oops, wrong storyline) and fly in with a number of high-impact programs designed to build community and serve second-stage companies — businesses that can be elusive to find and challenging to assist.

Find out how these programs can help you build an exceptional community around your most valuable asset — your entrepreneurs.

Getting Started

Many ESOs are just beginning to understand the impact second-stage companies have on their region or state. The foundation provides key information to these organizations on our website and hosts a yearly retreat designed for the ESO that is ready to learn more and begin taking the first steps toward working with their growth-oriented businesses.

Peer Learning

ESOs that are already a trusted source to second-stage companies will find the PeerSpectives Roundtable System a valuable asset in bringing CEOs together in an environment that favors sharing experiences rather than giving advice.

ESOs have the opportunity to bring their second-stage CEOs to the foundation’s retreat center to experience cutting-edge leadership curriculum in a unique setting that inspires leaders to think differently about their businesses.

Assistance to Entrepeneurs

Economic Gardening provides high-end tools that help companies address specific issues around strategy, marketing research, GIS and social marketing. Implemented as either regional or statewide programs, economic gardening can be a vital resource for ESOs as they seek to offer direct and unique services to second-stage growth companies. In addition, these programs can often lead to follow-on services provided by ESOs.


As champions of economic growth, many second-stage companies often fly below the radar screen of recognition. That’s why we created Companies to Watch, an opportunity for ESOs to establish collaborative public/private partnerships and tell a powerful statewide story through the successes of companies that are innovating, playing key roles in their communities and growing at above-average rates.

Research That Supports Theory

ESOs turn to to get smart about the composition and growth of their local, regional and statewide business communities. This data provides the proof ESOs need to put credibility behind their second-stage initiatives.

For more information on how your ESO can work with the foundation, contact Penny Lewandowski. When contacting Penny, please provide the following information:

  • Name and brief description of your ESO.
  • Your position within the organization.
  • How much of your time and budget is currently devoted to entrepreneurship services.
  • What percentage of your audience is comprised of second-stage companies?
  • Programs you are currently offering to second-stage companies.
  • How you think the foundation might be of help to your organization.