Craig Scharton Takes Over Role as Ten at the Top’s Entrepreneur Ecosystem Facilitator

    Craig Scharton Takes Over Role as Ten at the Top’s Entrepreneur Ecosystem Facilitator


    Ten at the Top is pleased to announce Craig Scharton is taking over responsibility for its entrepreneurship initiatives, commonly referred to as the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem.  He replaces Erin Ouzts who volunteered for 10 years before officially creating the role in 2019.  Erin is retiring from her work at Ten at the Top to focus on other ecosystem needs and family.

    “Supporting entrepreneurship and specifically the service providers who support entrepreneurship within our region has been a key driver area within Ten at the Top since the beginning of the organization,” said TATT Executive Director Dean Hybl. “Erin Ouzts has done an amazing job cultivating relationships and building awareness of the importance of having a strong entrepreneur ecosystem. I especially want to thank her for all she has done to support entrepreneurship in the Upstate.”

    “Erin will be tough to replace, but we are very fortunate to have Craig Scharton moving into the role of facilitator for the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem. Craig has great experience working with businesses and entrepreneurs and is the ideal person to continue TATT’s work building the collective capacity of support providers and entrepreneurs in the Upstate.”  

    Scharton, who moved to the Upstate in June 2022, has over 35 years of progressive experience leading diverse teams in non-profit and public service environments to execute meaningful and innovative projects to improve the standard of living in local communities.

    “Craig’s well-rounded experience and welcoming personality make him a great fit for this role.  The Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem will benefit from his knowledge and ability to bring people together around complex topics,” said Erin Ouzts.

    In Fresno City, CA, he built ecosystems of support for entrepreneurs and support providers as Senior Director, Economic Development with One by One Leadership, president of the California Main Street Alliance, as a Fresno City Council member, owner of a restaurant, director of Central Valley Business Incubator for Water and Energy Technology, and multiple positions with the City of Fresno and Downtown Fresno Partnership.

    While working with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) (similar to SC MEP), he strengthened CMTC’s relationship with 40+ partner organizations to realize an additional $100 million + in additional sales for small and medium-sized manufacturers.

    He taught urban entrepreneurship at Fresno State University as an adjunct professor for 14 years and created the Fresno Downtown Academy which received the International Downtown Association Award in 2016.  Craig has been a featured speaker at multiple events, including the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) National Conference, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California Workforce Association, and the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies. 

    Scharton has experience on multiple boards, including the Fresno Community Development Financial Institution, Jane Addams Community Development Corporation, and the President of the California Main Street Alliance.

    “Erin Ouzts has built out an incredible framework for entrepreneurs and those who support them. I am honored to be able to build on her work,” said Scharton.  I love building communities to support our independent businesses from home-based cottage businesses to downtown retailers to local manufacturers. Every sector has a role in growing our entrepreneurial ecosystem.” 

    ‘What serendipity to find someone who will seamlessly take over for Erin Ouzts who is such a pro herself at bringing together people and organizations to continue to build a healthy Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem!’  said Justine Allen, Ten at the Top Program Manager.

    Scharton will continue the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem’s mission to increase the ecosystem’s ability and capacity to help entrepreneurs be more successful faster.  The quarterly Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem, Innovation Leaders Coalition, and Rural Entrepreneurship Leaders Coalition groups will continue to meet.  He will focus on continuing to create awareness of the multiple entrepreneur resources available through the resource navigator and connecting disconnected entrepreneurs to the ecosystem.


    About Ten at the Top

    Comprised of public, private, and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. For more information, visit 

    Freedom Mobility Plan Presentation Recap – February 24, 2021

    Freedom Mobility Plan Presentation Recap – February 24, 2021

    Michael Forman, GSP International Airport

    Thank You Sponsors

    Milliken & Re-Wa

    Freedom Mobility Plan Presentation

    Michael Hildebrand, Executive Director, Upstate Alliance

    Matthew Rehnborg, Transit Planner, Greenlink

    Q & A

    Q: Why not evaluate every neighborhood that has an existing shape file?

    A: Greenlink has an established relationship with the Nicholtown neighborhood leadership which is active in addressing infrastructure components. Nicholtown also has a historical record of community engagement and activities. The committee wanted to use time and resources wisely to produce a successful demonstration.

    Q: Do you see using this as part of a governmental approval process for projects in new and existing neighborhoods?

    A: Hopefully in the future a system can be developed that is beneficial to municipalities and counties. The UMA’s Active and Livable Task Force is currently working on a short trip survey (two miles or less) to determine how community members they take short trips and how these trips may be improved.

    Chat comment: Proximity to schools could enhance opportunities.

    Please provide feedback on the Freedom Mobility Plan to Michael Hildebrand of the Upstate Mobility Alliance at and /or Matthew Rehnborg at

    Upstate Comprehensive Plan Review Update

    Phil Lindler, Greenwood City/County Planning Director

    Kyle Dool, Clemson intern, is working on phase two to include transportation and water/sewer services and will present final findings in early May. Please email Phil at or Justine Allen at with any questions about the comprehensive plan review.

    Next Meeting – March 24 on Spartanburg’s Northside Initiative

    Registration Link

    Senator Tim Scott’s Small Business Policy Advisor and Greenville Area SBDC Manager to Speak on PPP Second Draw

    Senator Tim Scott’s Small Business Policy Advisor and Greenville Area SBDC Manager to Speak on PPP Second Draw

    Greenville, SC | January 26, 2021 – On Wednesday, February 3rd, the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem will host a “PPP 2nd Draw” virtual workshop from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. This event is open to the public and is specifically for professionals or organizations that support and advise business owners, entrepreneurs or non-profits.  It will feature Kunal Parikh, Policy Advisor for Senator Tim Scott, and Earl Gregorich, Area Manager of the Greenville Small Business Development Center.

    “Having assisted in the development of both the first and second round of PPP loans, I am excited to provide insights on how small businesses, lenders, and others can help the most vulnerable Americans,” said Kunal Parikh, Policy Advisor for Senator Tim Scott. “These small business owners have put it all on the line, and we owe it to them to help them get back on their feet. When they succeed, America succeeds.”

    This workshop will include a comprehensive panel discussion on key changes and provisions in the new economic recovery act, including $10,000 EIDL Grants, PPP, and SBA Debt Relief Extensions. Guest speakers, Kunal Parikh and Earl Gregorich, will emphasize the differences in PPP 1st Draw and 2nd Draw, answer questions and provide critical information on associated deadlines.

    “Business owners are facing several challenges right now. Unfortunately, navigating assistance options may be one of them,” said Earl Gregorich, Area Manager of the Greenville Small Business Development Center (SC SBDC). “The SC SBDC works diligently to simplify the path to the correct programs and to clarify the application processes.”

    The Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem, an initiative of Ten at the Top, consists of all organizations and people who work to support entrepreneurs and all types of business owners at all stages in every industry.  It works to increase the capacity and ability of the ecosystem to help entrepreneurs be more successful faster by ensuring entrepreneurs receive the support and information they need.  The UEE conducts regular capacity and capability-building workshops targeting Entrepreneur Support Organizations and facilitates a strong social network through events and other networking or information sharing tools.

    Click here to register for the “PPP 2nd Draw” workshop hosted by Ten at the Top’s Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem. To learn more about the resources provided by the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem, please click here.


    Comprised of public, private and civic leaders across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to build regional trust and consensus through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to encourage quality growth and enhance the economic vitality, natural and cultural resources and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow.

    Click here to view PDF version of this press release.

    Entrepreneur Essentials

    Entrepreneur Essentials

    James Bennett, Founder, Upstate Home Health Care Solutions

    If you’ve ever been to a theme park, you know that roller coasters are generally the main attraction. In order to appeal to everyone, most parks have varying degrees of roller coasters ranging from the kiddie rides to those that nearly defy gravity. Usually, the thrill of the roller coaster ride lasts no more than 5 minutes; however, for the life of an entrepreneur, they experience the emotional ride of a roller coaster every day. In 2011, I made that leap into entrepreneurship when I started my home care company. There have been many loops, dips, twists, highs & lows on this entrepreneur journey and I have discovered a few essentials that will hopefully help the next generation of entrepreneurs.

    Stay focused on the why! There is a plethora of reasons why entrepreneurs start their own business. Desire to build something from the ground up, corporate burn out, financial independence, solving a new problem, bad experience from a service or product and thought they could do it better, etc. No matter the reason, one of the keys to success is to always remember why you started your business. This is especially important in the start-up phase of your business. The road to building something great is long…. very long and it will challenge you physically, emotionally, and financially. It’s important to keep your “why” ever before you to help through the challenges you will face in operating your business.

    Don’t Be the Hero! Everyone loves a great movie; especially when the hero is able to overcome incredible odds to achieve the goal. Every movie, no matter the genre, are structured the same way. Each movie has a hero, a nemesis, and a mentor/guide. The sooner an entrepreneur understands they are not hero, the more likely they are to succeed. No matter if you are providing a service or producing a product, the role of your business is to be the guide for your client/customer. Your clients are the heroes and you are there simply help them write their own story.

    Utilize your community resources! As the business grows, you will experience challenges and face obstacles that may seem insurmountable; but remember you don’t have to face those challenges alone. There are resources in the community to help guide you through these obstacles so you are not re-inventing the wheel. These resources include but are not limited to the Small Business Development Center, local chamber of commerce, and Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). The sole purpose of these organizations is to equip, educate, & encourage small businesses to be successful in their industry. They are available to help the entrepreneur overcome challenges and assist in creating strategic plans to help grow your business.

    Establish your team! As an owner, you bring certain strengths to your business. You’ve developed that strength whether through your professional career, educational background, or just natural ability. However, when consider building your team, build your team around your weakness and add people based on their ability to fit within your company culture vs only their skill. Having a diverse team and a company culture where team members can thrive in their strengths can produce dynamic results.

    Never Stop Learning! As an entrepreneur, your employees are depending on your leadership. You are the person that is setting the direction and providing the vision for the company. Your employees need you to be best version of you; therefore, you should never stop learning. One of the best investments you can make is to invest in yourself. The most economical way is to read books that will stimulate your growth. It’s been said that all readers are not leaders but all leaders are readers. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars that are specific to your industry to discover innovative strategies to grow your business. Also consider attending conferences on leadership development to ensure you are becoming the best leader you can be as well as attain the skills to train the leaders in your organization.

    Define your success! Quite often, society dictates the definition of success. Usually, it is based on some quantifiable factor such as gross sales, net profit, number of locations, number of employees, etc. These factors are great and are necessary for growth; however, have you truly defined what is success to you? Have you ever asked yourself what makes you happy? What gives you joy? When are you most satisfied? What does success look like and how will you know when you reached it? These are just a few questions any entrepreneur should asked themselves to determine their own definition of success. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out you own inner voice, heart and intuition” – Steve Jobs.

    ‘Skill Up’ Platform Aims to Connect Individuals with Career Pathways

    ‘Skill Up’ Platform Aims to Connect Individuals with Career Pathways

    Upstate SC Alliance launches regional gateway to technical training programs

    Although the coronavirus pandemic has slowed some areas of the economy, within many sectors, businesses continue to grow. A new Upstate initiative highlights those sectors and seeks to connect unemployed or underemployed individuals with short-term training programs that can place them in an in-demand career.

    The platform, Skill Up, is a one-stop shop for individuals to explore the earning potential, projected growth, and training programs available for an array of in-demand careers that can be obtained with 12 months or less of technical training. In many cases, financial support is available for these programs.

    Occupations on display range from information technology specialist to pharmacy technician to commercial truck driver — and, among the in-demand occupations featured on the site, there have been 46,899 job postings in the last 12 months, with an average earning potential for in-demand careers of $72,037.

    The platform was created by the Upstate SC Alliance in partnership with the Upstate’s technical colleges: Greenville Technical College, Tri-County Technical College, Spartanburg Community College and Piedmont Technical College.

    “Our goal is to inspire individuals to acquire new skills for better paying, more resilient in-demand jobs and connect people with programs available at the Upstate’s technical colleges that can launch their careers,” says Upstate SC Alliance President & CEO John Lummus.

    The site emphasizes training programs that can be completed in between two and 12 months, informed by Strada Education Network research.

    Strada finds that millions of American adults are aspiring learners, though two-thirds of those considering enrolling in education prefer non-degree pathways.

    What’s more: fewer than one in three adults without degrees say they understand the available career pathways, valuable skills, and details about potential education programs “very well.”

    Skill Up is an extension of the Move Upstate SC website and brand, which were launched in 2019 to attract individuals to professional jobs in the Upstate.

    “The goal of Move Up has always been to connect employers and talent. And, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to address the skills gap by shining a light on those sectors that have remained resilient,” Lummus adds.

    “Skill Up recognizes that the pandemic’s challenges may present an opportunity for some individuals to pursue new avenues. From hands-on manufacturing roles to network configuration to patient support, these careers have staying power and play an important role in our community.”

    Explore Skill Up here:

    See more on Move Up here:

    Global Entrepreneurship Week: November 16-22, 2020

    Global Entrepreneurship Week: November 16-22, 2020

    Erin Ouzts, Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem Director

    Global Entrepreneurship Week is even more important this year as we celebrate the small, large, starting and growing businesses and their owners that have worked tirelessly to keep employees and provide all of us with the products and services we need.

    The week of November 16-22, 2020, Global Entrepreneurship Week, is an annual celebration of entrepreneurship organized by the Global Entrepreneurship Network.  The Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem (UEE) launched Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) activities in November 2018 as a way for Upstate communities to celebrate their local businesses and connect to the entire Upstate through a common theme and brand.

    In 2020, Upstate communities are focusing activities on more virtual celebrations and other non-event ways to honor entrepreneurs.  We are asking local city and county councils to proclaim a resolution to support GEW, their local business owners and the many support organizations that guide them.    Ask your Mayor or County Council leader if they are aware of this.  If not, download a template resolution here and contact Justine Allen for more information.

    Upstate universities are celebrating and competing with colleges, universities and technical schools statewide on the first ever SC Innovates Pitch Competition.  Beyond student participation, multiple entrepreneur advisors and mentors around the state are judging the entries, bringing two different groups together for the common purpose of celebrating GEW.

    USC Upstate will have the first ever international sharing of ideas with entrepreneurs and innovators as they host Universidad Latina De Costa Rica in a virtual panel discussion.  CommunityWorks is partnering with USC Upstate to host another panel discussion, this one on Supporting Black Women-owned Business:  Innovative Strategies for Growth and Overcoming Challenges.

    Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship will host the final Paladin Pivot:  Connecting with Your Customers Faster and More Efficiently during Global Entrepreneurship Week.  They were also instrumental in launching the SC Innovates Pitch Competition.  Other events will be included in the UpstateVibe356 calendar.

    InnoVision Awards is hosting their annual awards celebration during GEW.  This is the premier innovation awards recognition in South Carolina.  Register here.

    The South Carolina Community Loan Fund’s Investing in Community Summit Series:  Resources for South Carolina’s Small Businesses will host a statewide panel discussion with the moderator and 2 panelists from the Upstate.

    In 2018, the UEE celebrated with gatherings, panel discussions, speakers, and social media promotions of local entrepreneurs.  2019 continued that success with multiple events spread over the Upstate.  Here is a link to the USC Upstate Johnson College of Business video of their 2018 GEW activities.

    In 2020, the Director of the State Office of Innovation in the State Department of Commerce, Laura Corder, became an official State Coordinator through GEN and has local coordinators within the state facilitating activities.  Celebrations are spreading throughout the state, so much so, that we now have our own Global Entrepreneurship Week South Carolina log!

    GEW is about more that the Upstate and South Carolina.  Events occur all over the world and are more accessible than ever this year with so many going virtual.  Access the global GEW Events calendar here and sign up for an event today!

    According to their website, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a collection of tens of thousands of activities, competitions and events aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a company.

    This November 16 – 22, GEW 2020 will rally almost every nation in the world to empower their entrepreneurs and encourage their citizens to become starters – finding new and better ways of doing things. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact, GEW 2020 is a call to action for all societies to be resilient and come together in leveraging the power of new ideas and innovation for the benefit of all.

    GEW inspires roughly 10 million participants each year to explore their potential while fostering connections and increasing collaboration within their ecosystems to empower entrepreneurs and strengthen communities.