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American Academy of Entrepreneurs

A unique mentoring program, the American Academy of Entrepreneurs (AAE) pairs seasoned second-stage entrepreneurs with business owners who are in earlier phases of second stage. Participants are able to learn from each other, give back — and grow their networks and businesses.

The American Academy of Entrepreneurs (AAE) is an invitation-only mentoring program that pairs seasoned second-stage entrepreneurs with business owners who have entered second stage more recently. The goal is to share lessons learned, expand networks and accelerate growth.

Our founder, Ed Lowe, believed that entrepreneurs are the backbone of the American economy, and he often talked about the need to break through “brick walls,” referring to the challenges that entrepreneurs face as they try to scale their businesses. Ed also believed that great things happen when entrepreneurs come together.

An important part of the program is the caliber of participants. AAE mentors are incredibly talented and successful second-stage entrepreneurs who are paying it forward by donating their time to help others on their entrepreneurial journey.

The program typically spans a six-month period and includes the following components:

Retreats — The program kicks off with a three-day retreat. Designed to be highly interactive, this workshop looks at mentoring best practices, helps participants prepare for their six-month engagement and pairs up mentors and mentees.

Monthly calls — After the retreat, each mentor-mentee pair meets for six 90-minute Zoom calls.

Midpoint check-in — After the third set of meetings, mentors get together for a Zoom session to share best practices. Similarly, mentees participate in a virtual roundtable to share their progress toward goals or issues they may be facing.

AAE spotlight: Missy Rogers and Lyla Corkern

Missy Rogers of Noble Plastics and Lyla Corkern of Finding Solace entered the AAE program in 2022. Both Louisiana business owners admit they were puzzed at being paired together as their industries were vastly different. Noble Plastics is an injection molding manufacturer and robotics integration firm while Finding Solace is a private counseling agency.

“How our businesses scale and what finances look like are very different,” says Rogers. “Yet during our first one-on-one Zoom meeting, it was like there was magic.” As a mentee, Corkern also had some initial misgivings. “I remember wondering what we would talk about,” she says. “Yet it’s been mind-blowing how much we have in common.”

“Many were the times I wished for a mentor — a mentor to help me through those scary and challenging times. Someone who’d been there. Someone whose experience I could tap, to reassure me that I wasn’t alone in my obsession.”
— Ed Lowe

Feedback from participants

“AAE, facilitated by the Edward Lowe Foundation and sponsored by LED, is the most influential and inspirational professional development opportunity I’ve experienced. Our business, and my personal and professional life, have been greatly influenced through this incredible network of industry leaders.”

— Jennifer Lynn Simpson, CEO and chief experience officer of Bespoke Experiences in New Orleans, Louisiana

“The AAE’s support of entrepreneurs, particularly in their personal journeys as small business leaders, is inspiring and much-needed in a world where things change so rapidly. The AAE provides the opportunity to learn from others facing similar challenges and wins, something I’ve found invaluable in growing my business and developing my skills as a leader and business owner.”

— Jody Hayden, owner of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate LLC in Empire, Michigan​

“My mentor provided much needed perspective, insight and encouragement. Having such an experienced, caring and supportive sounding board has truly been instrumental in helping me maintain balance during highly trying times.”

— Kay Stanney, CEO and founder of Design Interactive Inc. in Winter Park, Florida