Because second-stage entrepreneurs are so focused on their businesses, their contributions often go unnoticed by the media, policymakers, economic developers and community stakeholders. Thus, celebrating growth entrepreneurs and communicating their value is part of our mission.
The CTW recognition has benefited High Caliber Karting and Entertainment externally and internally. “You get a ton of media coverage that you couldn’t pay for,” says founder Jordan Munsters. “For employees, it validates that, rather than drinking our own Kool-Aid, we really know what we’re doing. The award is also aspirational and gives our team members an understanding they need to continuously pursue high quality.”
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 special strengths, such as having a distinct competitive edge, deploying a new technology in a traditional industry, 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 and Colorado, 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 extend the life of CTW beyond the awards ceremony, local hosts and sponsors 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. “Unlike other awards that become dust collectors on your desk, Companies to Watch is an ongoing opportunity,” says Bonnie Alfonso, CEO of Alfie Logo Gear and a 2009 Michigan CTW honoree.
The Edward Lowe Foundation Founders Award recognizes individuals and organizations who advance our mission of “championing the entrepreneurial spirit” with a focus on second-stage companies. Award recipients demonstrate exceptional leadership in collaborating with the foundation to advocate for second-stage entrepreneurs and work directly with them to accelerate their growth.
The first Founders Award went to Louisiana Economic Development in April 2022, recognizing them as a national leader of second-stage support.
In August 2023, a second award was presented to David Galbenski, who piloted our Entrepreneur Emeritus initiative and E2 Fund (a vehicle for individuals who wish to contribute to the foundation’s endowment).
Design of the Founders Award trophy pays homage to Ed Lowe, who took an ordinary product, Kitty Litter, and worked relentlessly to build a multimillion-dollar company. Ed often referred to his business as his “Golden Cat,” and he used the Golden Cat image as a symbol of excellence and achievement.
A copy of the trophy, along with photographs of award recipients and a portrait of Ed and Darlene Lowe, are featured on our Founders Wall. This display is located on the lower floor of the Tower of Tomorrow, our major meeting facility at Big Rock Valley.