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 StartGrowUpstate.com 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 www.tenatthetop.org.