Entrepreneurship Programs

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. Our offerings include leader retreats, CEO roundtables, strategic research and mentoring — with peer learning being an integral component of many programs.

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. Between 2015 and 2019, second-stagers represented only 16% of U.S. establishments, but generated 37% of all jobs, according to YourEconomy.org. In addition, second-stagers often have national or global markets, which means they bring outside dollars into the community.

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.

Are you second-stage?

In contrast to startups and microbusinesses, 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.

System for Integrated Growth

Are you struggling to scale your company? Do you need to build out departments and bring on more tactical expertise so you can work on your business instead of in it? The System for Integrated Growth® (SIG) provides second-stage CEOs with a SWAT team of vetted experts to address issues that impact growth, whether they are internal operational problems or external strategic ones. Areas of concentration include: Human resources, accounting and finance, operations and supply chain management, sales and marketing, global trade, succession planning, online marketing, customer prospecting and secondary market research.

The program is delivered virtually through a series of phone calls and a secure, online portal. Recognizing that second-stage entrepreneurs know their businesses better than anyone else, SIG specialists don’t dictate a particular course of action. Instead, they provide information and education to help CEOs make better decisions. In addition to being experts in their respective fields, SIG specialists operate under the guidance of the Edward Lowe Foundation to optimize their assistance to second-stage growth companies.

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. Programs are available in both in-person and virtual formats.

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.

PeerSpectives roundtables are available in both in-person and virtual formats.

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 Companies to Watch®(CTW), an awards program developed specifically for second-stagers. CTW programs are currently conducted in Michigan, Florida and Colorado.

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 that attract new dollars to their region or serving their community in some special way.

The American Academy of Entrepreneurs is a one-to-one mentoring program that pairs already successful entrepreneurs with the next generation of business leaders.

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