Do you support entrepreneurship as an economic-growth strategy? If so, you're in good company. Since 1985, the Edward Lowe Foundation's primary focus has been second-stage companies â€” those that have moved beyond the startup phase and are poised for continued growth.
If you're looking to help communities create the kind of culture entrepreneurs need to flourish, from starting a brand new initiative to enhancing your existing services, youâ€™ll want to check out our diverse portfolio of programs listed below.
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.
Information — the new currency of economic development
Economic gardening represents a new way of supporting growth companies and letting business owners know how important they are to their local economies. Instead of offering traditional incentives like tax credits or real estate discounts, economic gardening programs enable entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) and economic development organizations (EDOs) to offer something that can be even more valuable to local CEOs: strategic information that’s customized for his or her company.
To do this, teams of skilled researchers mine sophisticated databases and use high-end tools related to search engine optimization, geographic information systems and social media marketing. Some examples of their assistance include:
- Identifying and prioritizing sales leads and business opportunities.
- Refining companies’ core strategies and business models.
- Using social media to connect with customers and create buzz about products or services.
Like all foundation programs, our economic gardening initiative is designed with the second-stage business in mind. Our virtual model enables time-crunched CEOs to participate in an economic gardening network without leaving their offices.
Need data? YourEconomy.org (YE), our free, online research tool, tracks the performance of more than 44 million U.S. businesses (including 24 million active ones) across time, providing detailed information about job creation and establishment growth at the local, state and national levels. It’s data that’s easy to access — and easy to understand.
The YE website draws its raw data from the National Establishment Time-Series (NETS), a longitudinal data source from Walls & Associates. Among YE’s features:
- A super-fast platform.
- New metrics to sort statistics, such as three key employer sectors (noncommercial, nonresident and resident establishments), with resident establishment data further subdivided into five business stages.
- The ability to dig deeper into three key factors that produce growth: net openings, net expansions and net relocations.
- A handy section that enables you to rank states and MSAs by employer category sectors, stages and growth factors.
Bottom line, these metrics provide a new lens to view the business composition of your community and growth trends of your companies — and see how that growth is reflected in new jobs and sales.
Although YE’s dataset is large and detailed, you don’t need a doctoral degree in spreadsheet design to use it. You don’t need to spend hours reading tutorials, and you don’t need an economist standing over your shoulder to interpret the numbers. Finding unique, relevant data is a simple matter of jumping on the website and clicking your mouse. No hassles, no headaches.
Companies to Watch
Companies to Watch (CTW) is among the foundation’s key programs for entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) and their communities. At the heart of CTW is an awards program to honor second-stage companies for the critical role they play in our economy and communities. Companies to Watch’s collaborative model is also a powerful vehicle to energize the entrepreneurial community in your state.
Companies to Watch is designed to rally around second-stage establishments, their communities and the organizations that support them. In a nutshell, the program starts with a forward-thinking ESO:
- Each state program is hosted by a local entrepreneur support organization.
- Involvement is sought from every player in the business community to serve as champions, nominators and underwriters.
- The Edward Lowe Foundation oversees the application and selection process, working with the local host throughout the CTW experience.
- A big bash is held to celebrate the winners and their supporters.
Year-long programs are available to bring continuous value to the winners and their communities, such as PeerSpectives Roundtables and Economic Gardening technical assistance.
If you’re looking for a new high-value/low-cost program that promotes and strengthens your entrepreneurial community, PeerSpectives Roundtable System (PRS) may be just the thing you need. We believe strongly in the power of peer learning, and in the value of our unique PRS protocol that focuses on sharing experiences rather than giving advice.
The PRS protocol brings consistency to the quality and timeliness of topics and ensures a balanced discussion not dominated by any one issue or individual. While the procedures may sound strict at first, they have been proven time and again to help the group retain its focus and to help the entrepreneur really get to the core of his or her issue.
The PRS protocol was originally designed with the leader of a second-stage company in mind. Over the years, we’ve found it works for many professionals who find themselves in a position of leadership and possess final decision-making authority. These leaders, regardless of their position or business focus, often encounter decisions they have never faced before.
These tough decisions involve various stakeholders, including:
- Business associates
- Family members
Issues may revolve around such topics as:
- Company culture
- Personnel decisions
- Direction of the organization
- Product development
- Succession planning
As a leader of an organization you may wonder where to turn for help. It’s not always appropriate to take certain issues to family members, boards or even a business adviser. By being part of a PeerSpectives roundtable, you can rely on your peers, whom are either currently “living it” or have already “been there, done that.”
PRS is a great complement to Companies to Watch (CTW) and Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Programs (EG) as it keeps those entrepreneurs engaged beyond the initial point of impact. Don’t have a local CTW or EG program in your area? No problem! PRS has proven its worth as a stand-alone program, too. Take a look at the list of our current licensees.
Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) are often brought together to explore a regional issue or opportunity. While these sessions can be meaningful, they often do not result in direct action, leading to frustration and an inclination to hit the delete key the next time an invitation hits the ESO’s inbox.
In contrast, Assets2Action requires action. Conducted over a nine-month timeframe, the group spends three months with a foundation facilitator and six months working as a group to identify and implement a project that will drive sustainable change in their region.
The purpose of Assets2Action is to:
- Bring together like-minded ESO leaders who are committed to taking action.
- Identify the strengths and gaps of the region in serving all business stages.
- Listen to the entrepreneurs’ voices and compare their views with the views of the ESOs.
- Discover how entrepreneurs are being served, paying close attention to gaps and duplicity.
- Better understand the types, sizes and growth of regional businesses using YourEconomy.org data.
- Establish trust among regional ESOs and identify tangible ways to work together toward a mutually defined goal.
- Honor an accountability procedure for the group that enables the ESOs to stay focused and committed for a duration of nine months.
"Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind."
— Friedrich Nietzsche