Erin Ouzts, Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem Director

    By Erin Ouzts, Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem Director

    Being in the business of helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, I often hear about the lack of awareness of the over 100 organizations that support entrepreneurs in the Upstate.  Founders and business owners say they can’t find help to learn how to navigate the State or their local government’s procurement processes or how to set up Quickbooks or do market research.

    Entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) who work with entrepreneurs (this includes existing business owners), like the Small Business Development Centers, BGen, CommunityWorks, Village Launch and rural chambers of commerce say their biggest issue is creating awareness around the programs and services they provide.

    The website was built in spring of 2021 as “Your Connection to Business Resources in Upstate South Carolina” to create awareness for both the entrepreneurs and ESOs.   It is formally called a resource navigator and allows visitors to search for the ESOs, resources and events in many ways.

    As of mid-August, the site provides information on many resources available to support entrepreneurs in the Upstate:  111 organizations; 263 programs provided by those organizations and 275 events on the calendar across the 10 counties.  There are more organizations and programs waiting to be added, like the Studio Upstate, a student-run, faculty-led design firm that does most of the work of a traditional agency at a much lower price point, similar to the Clemson Student Consultant Center that supports entrepreneurs with market research, site selection, competitive analysis reports and other market research needs.

    Visitors can search the site in many ways.  On the homepage, start with the search bar right in the top section.  Scroll down a little more and for Programs, People and Events.  Scroll even further down for Featured Events and Deadlines.

    From the top menu bar, the Explore button leads visitors to a section where they can search by Resource Type (Digital Tool, Media Source, Funding, Technical Assistance, Network, Showcase, Small Event, Talent Source, Registration, Educational Program, Space, and Competition); Stage (Idea, Early, Mature, Growth); Venture Type (Agricultural, Creative, Growth Startups, Retail or Main Street Stores, Product-Based, Service-based, Technology-based, Traditional, and Restaurants or Food Service); Who You Are (Founders of Color, Students, Underserved Founders); and Industry (Arts, Media and Entertainment; Community and Economic Development; Construction and Real Estate; Energy, Sustainability and Agriculture; Food, Drink and Hospitality; Government Defense and Aerospace; Industry Agnostic; Manufacturing and Advanced Materials; Retail, Product and Personal Services; Social Impact, Education, and Youth; Technology, IT, and Cybersecurity; Transportation, Wholesale, and Logistics).

    The Programs section leads to thumbnail descriptions of all programs.  Use Filters to narrow down the Programs listed.  Visitors can filter by Resource Type, Stage of Business, Type of Business, Industry Group, Audience and Tags.  After clicking on a program’s description, you will go to a more in-depth description, a button to visit that website and another thumbnail description of the hosting organization.

    The Organizations button at the top of the homepage, leads visitors to thumbnail descriptions of people and organizations that can be filtered by What They do, Resources Provided, Ventures They Work With, Who They Serve, Organization Type and Area of Focus.

    A fun feature of the Organizations are short video interviews with members of the organization that explain how they help entrepreneurs, in what type situations they are most helpful and when they will refer entrepreneurs to others.  This allow visitors to “meet” the Upstate ESOs and determine if they are the best fit right away.

    The Events button leads to a calendar of workshops and programs for entrepreneurs wanting to learn new skills to start and grow their businesses. Events range from the South Carolina Research Authority’s (SCRA) “Pathway to a Patent” series, to “Construction Contractor Opportunities with the Asheville Airport” by Hensel Phelps and Vannoy Construction, to “Everything You Need to Know about Google My Business” from SCORE and “Specialty Crop Resource Round-Up” by ACRE (Agribusiness Center for Research & Entrepreneurship).

    No matter where an entrepreneur is on their journey, from idea to exit, StartGrowUpstate is the connecting point for business resources in the Upstate.