Creating an Environment That Works for Entrepreneurs

Creating an Environment That Works for Entrepreneurs

By Erin Ouzts, TATT Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality Task Force Chair

While much of the publicity related to jobs and economic development is often centered on larger employers, the reality is that small businesses and entrepreneurs are critical to the economic success of any community or region.

In the Upstate, many people are working to cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports individuals and small businesses. Engaging the support providers for this key economic engine has been a focus of Ten at the Top and the Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality Task Force since the early days of the organization.

Over the last year, our Entrepreneur Support Providers Network has been hearing from local and national leaders on how to continue growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Upstate.

People, trust, values, culture. How do these attributes make our Upstate region entrepreneurs, founders and business owners more successful?

When Andy Stoll, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Senior Program Officer in Entrepreneurship and overall entrepreneurial ecosystem development leader in the U.S., talked with our Entrepreneur Support Providers by Skype last November, this is what he said we needed. As you can imagine, our practical Upstate advisors, coaches, lenders, investors, SBDC & SCORE representatives, incubators, accelerators and every organization that supports entrepreneurs were a little uncomfortable with this. We were also a little uncomfortable with the region’s lack of awareness of the amazing work we do to build a thriving base of support for our entrepreneurs.

As engagement with the Economic and Entrepreneurial Vitality driver area has grown, we knew we depend on our personal networks to match our entrepreneur clients to the appropriate network. Then we gathered professionals from around the 10 counties and realized there were many resources we didn’t know about that could be exceptionally helpful. The challenge became: How do we actively connect these new links to our network and provide appropriate resources for entrepreneurs?

Stoll explained that entrepreneur ecosystems allow entrepreneurs to more quickly access the knowledge and funding they need, shortening their time to success and potential need for additional funds. To provide unobstructed pathways, we professionals need to know others in the network, understand the strengths and special skills each brings, take the time to connect entrepreneurs to the right person, and trust our peers. When I asked how to do this, he said one of the best ways is to do something together.

What could we all do together, yet separately, to support our local entrepreneurs and increase awareness Our Entrepreneur Support Providers Network (soon to be Entrepreneur Ecosystem)? How about a regional Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration? That might work! In 2018, our ESP meetings have been geared toward individual events held within each community yet promoted collectively on shared platforms to shine a light on the extent of the many organizations involved in supporting entrepreneurs, founders and growing companies.

Ten at the Top has a Regional Resource Map with Ecosystem members’ location and information easily accessible. In the Know Upstate is the regional calendar for the events. The Global Entrepreneurship Week and Ten at the Top brands on our materials will identify us as connected.


The following resources give more information about entrepreneurial ecosystems:

Entrepreneur Ecosystem Playbook (draft)
Entrepreneurs Matter
What are Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
ESHIP Summit
Global Entrepreneurship Week

Please join us…

REGISTER HERE for the upcoming Q3 Entrepreneur Support Providers Network Workshop on September 21st!



2018 Upstate Regional Summit to Feature 40+ Speakers

2018 Upstate Regional Summit to Feature 40+ Speakers

“Winning the Future” theme will infuse Opening Session, Workshops, and Keynote Address

GREENVILLE, S.C.— Winning the Future, the 2018 Upstate Summit hosted by Ten at the Top and presented by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, has confirmed more than three dozen regional leaders to speak, representing a vibrant cross-section of the Upstate’s corporate and civic community. The 2018 Regional Summit is scheduled for Tuesday, September 25 at the TD Convention Center, from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. Tickets are available via Eventbrite via for $65 per person (corporate) and $45 per person (non-profit). Registration ends September 14, 2018.

“The 2018 Upstate Summit will provide a unique opportunity for business, community and civic leaders, as well as interested stakeholders from across the region, to share ideas and discuss how to work collaboratively to ensure our region continues to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for all residents,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “We expect between 800 and 900 to attend, and are looking forward to a great event.”

Doors open at 7:30 am with the Summit’s B2B Expo sponsored by ScanSource, providing networking and continental breakfast until the Opening Session begins at 9:00 am.

Opening Session Panel

The Opening Session of the 2018 Upstate Regional Summit, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, is entitled “Is South Carolina and the Upstate Well Positioned to ‘Win the Future’ in Economic Development and Job Creation?” Speakers are set to include:

    • Frank Davis, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd
    • Beth Land, Site Selection Group
    • Nelson Lindsay, South Carolina Department of Commerce
    • Trey Pennington, CBRE
    • Moderators: Amy Wood, WSPA-TV; and John Lummus, Upstate SC Alliance
Breakout Sessions

The Summit will continue with breakout sessions involving presentations by and discussions with Upstate leaders through the lens of Ten at the Top’s five Regional Driver areas: Winning the Future Around Education and Workforce Development; Winning the Future Around Mobility and Connectivity; Winning the Future Around Innovation and Technology; and Winning the Future Around Creating Vibrant Communities. Each Summit participant chooses two of the four breakout sessions. Each breakout sessions lasts 45 minutes with a short break in between.

Winning the Future Around Innovation and Technology

Speakers are set to include:

      • Susan Brami, Spectrum
      • Glen McManus, ReWa
      • Lelia King, Build Carolina & Carolina Code School
      • Moderator: Rob Krulac, CU-ICAR

Winning the Future Around Creating Vibrant Communities

Speakers are set to include:

        • Phil Hughes, Hughes Investments
        • Jil Littlejohn, Greenville City Council & the Urban League of the Upstate
        • Blake Sanders, City of Easley and Town of West Pelzer
        • Nancy Whitworth, City of Greenville
        • Moderator: Jennifer Evins, Chapman Cultural Center

Winning the Future Around Mobility and Connectivity

Speakers are set to include:

          • David Bruemmer, Adaptive Motion Group
          • Leesa Owens, Michelin North America
          • Nick Rigas, CU-ICAR
          • Moderator: Doug Webster, Carolinas Alliance 4 Innovation

Winning the Future Around Education and Workforce Development

Speakers are set to include:

            • Joanne Avery, Anderson School District Four
            • Ronnie Booth, Tri-County Technical College
            • Brendan Kelly, USC Upstate
            • Carlos Phillips, Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce
            • Moderator: Ansel Sanders, Public Education Partners
Connections Corner

New to the Summit experience this year, participants may visit Connections Corner during the Breakout period. Connections Corner, sponsored by GSA Business Report and Limestone College, allows Summit participants to engage in conversation with community leaders around specific topics of interest, as a way of cultivating more and deeper connections and collaborations among those who share areas of passion, interest, or industry.

During Session One, the topics and confirmed conversationalists in Connections Corner are as follows:

Future of K-12 Education
Dr. Burke Royster, Greenville County School District
Dr. Richard Rosenberger, Anderson County School District 2

Role of Technical Colleges in Reducing the “Skills Gap” for Manufacturing
Henry Giles, Spartanburg Community College
Dr. Jermaine Whirl, Greenville Technical College

Importance of Higher Education and Advanced Degrees for Future Workforce
Dr. George Petersen, Clemson University College of Education
Dr. Paul LeFrancois, Limestone College

Promoting Multi-Modal Transportation and Mobility in the Upstate
Keith Brockington, Greenville Pickens Area Transportation Study
Ty Houck, Greenville County Trails Director

How can we promote Sustainable Growth in the Upstate?
Sue Schneider, Spartanburg Water
Lisa Hallo, Upstate Forever

During Session Two, the topics and confirmed conversationalists in Connections Corner are as follows:

Providing for the Needs of Our Growing Senior Population
Catriona Carlisle, Meals on Wheels of Greenville
James Bennett, Upstate Home Health

Creating an Ecosystem to Support Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses in Your Community
Erin Ouzts, Spartanburg Angel Network
Dave Eldridge, Tri-County Entrepreneurial Development Corp

What is on the Horizon for Economic Development in the Upstate?
Heather Jones, Greenwood Partnership Alliance
Patty Bock, City of Spartanburg

Development Trends and Challenges in the Upstate
David Feild, Colliers International
Todd Horne, Clayton Construction

How do we recruit future talent to the Upstate?
John Lummus, Upstate SC Alliance
Allen Smith, Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce

Keynote Address

The Summit will culminate with the Summit Keynote Address sponsored by Greenville Business Magazine. Ten at The Top is excited to welcome Polly LaBarre as the 2018 Upstate Summit Keynote Speaker. Polly LaBarre is the Co-author of Mavericks at Work, Co-founder of Management Lab and Founding Writer at Fast Company. For more than 20 years, LaBarre has used her writing, business consulting, and speaking to help organizations unleash and organize human potential in ever more powerful ways.

More than 70 organizations across the Upstate support the 2018 Upstate Summit as sponsors and make the event possible, including BlueCrossBlueShield of South Carolina, Spartanburg Water, Fluor, WSPA-TV, Greenville Business Magazine, Skyline Exhibits & Design, Palmetto Technology Group, USC Upstate, Piedmont Natural Gas, ScanSource, GSA Business Report, Limestone College, Upstate Business Journal, Hughes Investments and In the Know Upstate.

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

Clean Fuel, Clean Air: Energy Office’s Efforts to Clean Up

Clean Fuel, Clean Air: Energy Office’s Efforts to Clean Up

by Sharon Purvis

Ten at the Top recently hosted an event called “A Cleaner Future: A Look at Air Quality, Sustainability, and Energy Innovation in the Upstate,” which covered topics ranging from health issues to homebuilding to transporting groceries more sustainably.

In the focus area of transportation, Maeve Mason and Landon Masters from the SC Office of Regulatory Staff Energy Office gave a presentation about their organization’s Transportation Fuel Action Tool—and if you’re scratching your head, wondering why the Energy Office is talking about transportation, Masters offers this statistic in answer: 29% of energy consumption in South Carolina is due to transportation (compared to 32% industrial use and only 22% residential).

With that in mind, the Energy Office has a suite of tools and initiatives aimed at making that consumption more efficient—among them, the above-mentioned Transportation Fuel Action Tool, which helps companies and organizations that own fleets of vehicles to audit and analyze their fleet, factoring in intangibles such as public opinion, political will, economic development, and more, in order to inform decisions about a possible move to alternative fuel sources. Masters notes that in areas where electricity is generated by coal, making a shift to electric vehicles may not be much of a gain in terms of clean energy, but the tool takes that into consideration based on the user’s region.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, there are also a variety of tools for individuals to make informed decisions about their fuel consumption, whether they’re buying a new or used car, wanting to find alternative fueling stations, or looking for information to read up on the subject. There are mobile tools as well for locating fueling stations and comparing fuel efficiency, emissions, and costs among different vehicles.

As part of the Palmetto Clean Fuels coalition (PCF), Plug In SC is an initiative whose aim is to increase the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by making charging stations visible and easy to find, using signage, pavement markings, and designated parking spaces. It wasn’t enough to simply provide the charging stations, Masters says, because many times they were tucked away behind a concrete wall in a corner of a parking garage. True, EV drivers will find them because they need them, but part of making them visible is creating awareness in other drivers that charging stations are plentiful and accessible.

A comprehensive state energy plan is in the works—a collaboration of stakeholders putting together a vision for the future of energy in the state and recommendations about what is needed to get there. One of those recommendations came from the transportation subcommittee: Lead by example, particularly when it comes to the adoption of alternative fuel sources and modes of transportation.

“We’ve been working with our stakeholder groups and state fleets to identify goals for adoption of alternative fuel vehicles statewide from a public fleet perspective,” Masters says. “We’re hoping that we can include a recommendation for a state goal, and that goal can be established and we can work using the tool that we have to help fleets make that transition.”

For more information about how your organization or you as an individual can conserve fuel, consider alternatives, and make an impact on South Carolina’s air quality, visit Palmetto Clean

Working Towards Sustainable Mobility

Working Towards Sustainable Mobility

by Sharon Purvis, Ten at the Top

Last October, Ten at the Top and various stakeholders launched Connecting Our Future with a kickoff event that looked at the region’s transportation needs, where we’re going, and how best to get there.

For the past several months, those stakeholders—individuals from public, private, and civic organizations ranging from freight, logistics, and industry to education and healthcare—have been working together to create a regional vision for transportation, mobility, and connectivity in the 10 counties of the Upstate.

In March of this year, a Connecting Our Future idea exchange was convened to explore both issues and possible solutions (click here for the presentation from that forum), facilitated by consultant Stephen Stansbery of Kimley-Horn. Other team meetings have been happening regularly to keep momentum going and to allow coalition members to continue talking to one another.

On Tuesday, a Public Rollout Event was held at the TD Convention Center with a group of more than 220 stakeholders–although Ten at the Top executive director Dean Hybl says he doesn’t want the term “rollout” to give anyone the impression that there’s a finished product and the work is done. Instead, he wants to change the way we think about implementation. “What we’re trying to do is to create a culture to enable projects, encouraging people to come together to solve problems instead of completing a project,” he says.

Our Region’s Challenges

Stansbury gave an unvarnished look at the challenges facing our region that will need to be addressed in working towards sustainable mobility. Among those, one of the biggest is that we are a very auto-dependent region, with only 2% of the population using some other means than a car to get where they need to go. Geographically, there isn’t much to restrict sprawling growth—and that growth is happening quickly, with Greenville being the 3rd fastest-growing community of its size in 2015–2016. Additionally, we are a freight-heavy region, not only being in the middle of the Charlotte-Atlanta corridor, but also being home to manufacturers whose products are destined for wide distribution and export.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is that the need is outpacing resources when it comes to addressing mobility issues, which means some out-of-the-box thinking is needed from individuals and groups who may not be used to working together.

Impacts to Our Region

Representatives from three stakeholder groups—elected officials, workforce development, and energy—gave perspectives on ways that mobility issues impact us.

Terence Roberts, now serving his fourth term as mayor of Anderson, talked about the lack of funding for public transportation and how it affects low-income individuals, relating the story of seeing four people waiting in 90-degree heat for a bus with their groceries, some of which must have been perishable. And seniors who don’t drive and don’t have family to drive them may miss medical appointments, which affects healthcare. “How do we serve those individuals?” he asked.

Janice Moss, head of human resources for the staffing company redi-Group, addressed the challenges of finding and keeping qualified workers when there is a large group of untouched workers who don’t have access to transportation. Yes, we can recruit from out of state and bring workers in, but looking at the lack of public transportation to manufacturing facilities here in the Upstate would allow access to a wider group of workers who are already here—and that’s why redi-Group joined Connecting Our Future.

Clark Gillespy, senior vice president of economic development at Duke Energy, painted two pictures, one of what is, and one of what could be. The first was all too familiar: You’re sitting in your gas/diesel powered car on I-85 between Pelham Road and the 385 interchange at 6:00 in the evening, with fender benders and brake lights as far as you can see. The pollution, lost productivity, wasted fuel, insurance claims, and general frustration don’t paint a pretty picture. In his second picture, though, the gas-powered cars have been replaced by electric vehicles; tractor trailers are in their own designated lane; self-driving cars make for fewer accidents; and the air is cleaner and quieter.

Next Steps

Wrapping up the event, Leesa Owens of Michelin North America shared the story of how the world’s first automobile accident, involving one James Lambert of Ohio in 1891, spurred policymakers to start thinking about how to regulate this new technology—things like speed limits, brake lights, licenses, and safety features did not exist and needed to be created in order to keep the public safe as we plunged into the future of cars.

Keith Scott, of Electric City Transit, challenged those assembled not to leave it to transportation providers to be the only ones thinking about these issues. Solving the Upstate’s transportation issues will take years, he said, and other groups need to partner with those in transportation in order to find solutions. “Will you join us at the table?” he asked. “ And how long will you stay there?”

To take a seat at the table, visit the Connecting Our Future website and find out more about how you can be involved.

Speakers Announced for A Cleaner Future Workshop

Speakers Announced for A Cleaner Future Workshop

GREENVILLE, S.C.— Ten at the Top (TATT) has announced the speakers for A Cleaner Future: A Look at Air Quality, Sustainability & Energy Innovation in the Upstate Workshop, which will be held on August 17 from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the TD Convention Center. This event will focus on how innovation and technology is helping individuals, businesses, institutions and governments enhance air quality and environmental sustainability whether it be in the home, while traveling or in the business setting.

“Continuing to improve air quality and sustainability in the Upstate is vital to both the physical health of Upstate residents and to the economic health of our region,” Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top, said. TATT has coordinated with the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee for this initiative.

“We are fortunate to have a great group of dynamic speakers for the workshop who will provide attendees with a wide range of ideas and tangible ways to improve air quality and sustainability while in many cases also saving money and resources,” Hybl said.

Event programming will feature the following:

Opening Session
Focus: Current status of air quality in the Upstate and how air quality impacts the physical health of Upstate residents.
• Karen Schwartz, Vice President of Performance Management/Support Services, Bon Secours Health System
• Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top
After the opening session, attendees will hear from the following presenters from three distinct market segments: home, transportation and business.

Focus: LEED Certification & Energy Efficiency
• Todd Usher, Founder and President, Addison Homes
• Lynda Shafer, Strategy & Collaboration Manager, Duke Energy
Focus: Transportation Fuel Action Tool (TAT)
• Maeve Mason, Deputy Director of Energy, Palmetto Clean Fuels Coalition
Focus: Whether it be from installing a solar farm on the roof of your manufacturing facility or instituting sustainability practices in warehouses or trucking fleet, there are a variety of decision making steps a company uses to make investments that support the environment as well as the company bottom line.
• Fraser League, President, Quick-Crate America
• Chris Trajkovski, Vice President of Transportation for Fleet Maintenance & Assets, C&S Wholesale Grocers
The workshop will culminate with lunch and a keynote wrap-up panel.

Keynote Wrap-Up Panel
• Michelle Abbott, Director of Sustainability, Duke Energy
• Weston Dripps, Executive Director of the Shi Center for Sustainability, Furman University
• Paul Pruitt, Director of Corporate EHS & Engineering, Milliken & Co
• Karen Schwartz, Vice President of Performance Management and Support Services, Bon Secours Health System
Additional sponsors include Piedmont Natural Gas and ReWa. A Cleaner Future tickets cost $20 and may be purchased here. Advanced registration is required, and space is limited.

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

Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2018 Mid-Year

Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2018 Mid-Year

It seems like only a short time has passed since we were wrapping up 2017 and making plans for approaching 2018, yet in seemingly a blink of an eye six months have passed and I am now reflecting on what has transpired so far in 2018 and what is yet to accomplish over the next six months and beyond.

Ten at the Top began 2018 with a determined effort to maximize our limited staff resources to focus on collaborative capacity building regional initiatives that support our mission of enhancing economic vitality and quality of life in the Upstate.

As part of that strategy, we moved fundraising and marketing from a full-time staff position to an agency contract and made the focus of both of our full-time staff members other than myself to be around program and initiative management.

If the first six months are any indication, those moves were the correct decisions.


Unlike many similar organizations, TATT receives very little government funding and are not a membership driven organization. This approach has been critical to TATT’s success as we annually have more than 400 organizations and businesses from across the region with representatives on our committees and engaged in our capacity building efforts without the barrier of having to make a financial commitment.

Therefore, our financial support is much more dependent on individual businesses and organizations who believe in our mission and regional value and that are committed to be engaged not only in our regional efforts, but also in financially supporting TATT. Through the efforts of our Fundraising Committee, staff and fundraising consultant, we have raised more funds (nearly $340,000) during the first half of 2018 than in any similar period since the organization started in 2009. However, with an expanded budget for 2018 of $500,000, we are still working to engage more partners and support over the coming weeks. In addition, Our Fundraising Committee is taking a very active role in working to build long-term sustainable funding that keeps TATT able to focus primarily on our mission.

In terms of meetings, presentations, events and other regional capacity building initiatives, the first half of 2018 has also been among our busiest with 58 regional engagements and 2,099 total participants.

Below are the specific regional initiatives that are either currently active or TATT started working with regional stakeholders to develop over the last several months:

  • • Connecting Our Future Regional Mobility & Connectivity Initiative – Driver Area: Sustainable Growth
  • • Shaping Our Future Continuing Education Workshops – Driver Area: Sustainable Growth
  • • Entrepreneur Support Providers Network – Driver Area: Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality
  • • Non-Traditional Lenders Network – Driver Area: Economic & Entrepreneurial Vitality
  • • K-12 Employability Development Initiative – Driver Area: Human Potential
  • • Upstate Education Spectrum Initiative – Driver Area: Human Potential
  • • Regional Talent Recruitment web portal and messaging campaign (in partnership with the Upstate Alliance and Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson Chambers of Commerce) – Driver Area: Human Potential
  • • Upstate Air Quality & Clean Energy Workshop Development – Driver Area: Natural Beauty & Resources
  • • #UpstateVibe365 Arts & Culture Asset Map Next Steps – Driver Area: Community Vibrancy
  • • Elevate Upstate Grants 2018 Workshop & Grant Process – Driver Area: Community Vibrancy

Upstate Education Spectrum


During the first half of 2018, Ten at the Top hosted the first-ever meeting of Upstate K-12 Public School Superintendents and College/University Presidents and Provosts. This initial meeting has led to the identification of some specific opportunities for greater collaboration among educators as well as the business community and a second meeting is now scheduled for September.

In addition, there have been several meetings of the Advisory and Technical Committees as they work to develop a regional vision and actionable strategies for the Connecting our Future Mobility & Connectivity initiative. The results of this work will be rolled out during a regional event on August 7th.

In March, TATT held the third annual PIQUE: Young Leaders Summit that connected 275 young professionals and business/community leaders from across the region.

As we move into the second half of 2018, Ten at the Top will be hosting several additional large regional events. On August 17th TATT and the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee will be holding a regional workshop called A Cleaner Future: A Look at Air Quality, Sustainability & Energy Innovation in the Upstate.

Since 2014, TATT has hosted a semi-annual regional summit focused around key issues facing the Upstate. The 2018 Summit: Winning the Future, will be held on September 25th and we are again expecting more than 800 stakeholders from across the region to participate in the half-day event. The keynote speaker is a nationally recognized author and business consultant Polly LaBarre. We also have several great breakout sessions focused around the question of what the region needs to do to be positioned for “Winning the Future” in relation to a number of key issue areas.

As we have done annually since 2012, TATT will conclude the year with our Celebrating Successes – Great Things Happening Across the Upstate event. This brunch will include the recognition of companies and organizations celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2018 as well as the awarding of the 2018 Hughes Investments Elevating Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants.

By multiple measurements, the first half of 2018 has been quite successful for Ten at the Top and our mission of fostering collaboration and partnerships across the Upstate. Yet, we know that working collaboratively and strategically on key regional issues is a marathon, not a sprint.

While we acknowledge and appreciate the many partners and great work that has occurred so far this year, we must consider this work as building blocks for ongoing efforts to grow the Upstate’s collective capacity.

I personally want to thank everyone who has been involved with TATT so far this year, whether as a funding partner, board or committee member or participant in some of our regional initiatives. You are critical not just to the success of Ten at the Top, but also of the Upstate region.

I look forward to working with you moving forward on collaborative efforts to ensure that the Upstate continues to be recognized as a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family.

We truly are stronger together.