Over the past two years, a group of 22 second-stage Missouri small businesses increased sales by $10.7 million, made capital investments of $8.2 million, and added 74 jobs.

These businesses were beneficiaries of research and advice from leading experts in a customized consulting program called Elevate. Targeted at second-stage businesses, Elevate is sponsored by the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation.

Second-stage businesses, also called traded sector businesses, are typically businesses that have 10 to 99 full-time employees, $750,000 to $50 million in annual sales, and the opportunity to grow beyond their current market area.

Economic development often focuses on large business retention and expansion and small business startups.

“We saw a gap with second-stage, growing companies not having the resources to scale,” said Travin Shelton, director of growth services, about the Missouri SBDC’s decision to implement the Elevate program.

Elevate fills the gap by providing resources, frameworks and information to help second-stage businesses grow and succeed.

Conducted by phone and a secure online portal, the Elevate program consists of engagement and peer learning.

The engagement piece entails each business owner being paired with a team leader. Together they determine the business’s right next steps. Then specialized consultants, vetted by the Edward Lowe Foundation, provide data and share best practices related to the business’s particular needs.

The peer-learning roundtables, facilitated by Edward Lowe Foundation experts, bring the participants together to confidentially share their experiences and discuss their most pressing issues.

“It is all about providing assistance to build sustainable, scalable and successful businesses,” Shelton said.

Participants in the first two cohorts have given the Elevate program a 94% approval rating. The 2023 cohort of the program is set to begin this spring. For more information, contact Travin Shelton at or your local SBDC (

Read about the specific experiences of some of the businesses that have participated in the Missouri SBDC's Elevate program.

Writer: Victoria Stokes