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John Warner

Founder, InnoVenture

John Warner has held many titles. They include CEO of InnoVenture, former senior manager of accounting giant KPMG and lead investor in the organic grocery store chain Earth Fare. But his most accurate description is thought leader. A tenacious advocate for innovation and entrepreneurship, his current company connects people who have big ideas with people who have resources to cultivate and implement them. His latest venture involves what he calls re-envisioning South Carolina's economy by developing our innovation ecosystem. He thinks big and delivers.




Keith Miller

President, Greenville Technical College

Keith Miller If you’re a Greenville Tech graduate under the age of 33, Keith Miller is the only school president you’ve ever known. In 15 years at the helm, Dr. Miller has created a pipeline of of qualified workers to area industry and provided workplace skills to thousands of local residents. This has been achieved throgh a series of innovations, like development of a manufacturing center and a culinary institute. His focus on continuous improvement at the college has earned a South Carolina Governors Quality Award.





Bob Quinn

Executive director, South Carolina Research Authority

Bob Quinn can thank his brother for his position at South Carolina Research Authority. Fourteen years older, his brother reminded him to always put his family before his career. While working a plum assignment at Oak Ridge National Lab, he remembered that advice when his daughter had health issues. This landed him in Charleston, where he began his association with South Carolina Research Authority. During his seven years of leadership, South Carolina Research Authority has fostered numerous high-impact research and economic development initiatives in South Carolina, which resulted in a $1.15 billion economic impact in 2022.





Tracy Leenman

Owner, Musical Innovations

What was Tracy Leenman thinking? She founded a musical instrument sales and repair business in the midst of the Great Recession after being fired from her job for whistleblowing. Six years later, Musical Innovations was awarded the National Association of Music Merchants Global Dealer of the Year Award, and the following year was named among the Top 100 Small Businesses in the US. The accolades  — and the sales – have continued to pour in. This mother of six established the music business program at Newberry College, passing on her expertise to future generations.





Michael Amiridis

President, University of South Carolina

Michael Amiridis, the 30th president of the University of South Carolina, traces his roots to Plato, Aristotle and Archimedes – and the garnet and black! A native of Greece with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, Dr. Amiridis began his academic career at USC. As the youngest tenured professor in the school, he was promoted to dean of Engineering and Computing and later to provost. A highly decorated academic named one of America’s great immigrants by the Carnegie Corporation, Dr. Amiridis has big plans for USC – to emphasize access and affordability, improve the student experience, and strengthen the impact of research and operational excellence.



Mike Baur

CEO, ScanSource Inc.

Mike Baur is no stranger to big awards. A co-founder of ScanSource, a leading hybrid technology distributor, he has been recognized in just the last year as one of 50 Channel Influencers nationwide and one of Greenville’s 50 Most Influential people. Starting with six employees in 1992, Baur and his team built a Fortune 1000 company with 2,300 employees around the globe, but still headquartered in Greenville. Equally impressive, the company has been repeatedly named to Fortune Magazine’s List of World’s Most Admired Companies, including this year.





Howard Boyd

President/owner, Howards Barber College and Howards Barber Shop

Howard Boydand his wife Ethel built their own successful babershop business in Goose Creek and then worked to spread their success to others, particularly to other minorities. Thirty-five years ago they drafted the training curriculum for barber students to get licensed in the state – a curriculum still in use today. Then they established the first full-service Black-owned barber school in South Carolina. Since 1986, they have trained hundreds – perhaps thousands – of barbers, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for two generations of people.


Steve Cawood

CEO, ClearWater Solutions

Steve Cawoodhas impressive business accomplishments – helping build two successful engineering firms – but his commitment to building communities makes him an icon. With his list of leadership roles in economic development, charity fundraising, business and entrepreneurial development too long to recount, he is living his motto of building communities and impacting lives. His engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood employs people in 21 offices around the Southeast, while the wastewater management company he formed, ClearWater Solutions, provides jobs for 580 people in 12 states.


Bob Chisholm

President, M. B. Kahn Construction Co., Inc.

Bob Chisholm has built a career in the construction business – as an accountant. He joined the commercial construction company MB Kahn in 1994 and has earned promotions to CFO and six years ago to president of the 90-year-old company. Kahn offers the full suite of construction services to diverse customers throughout the Southeast. Says CEO Bill Neely: “Bob is an exceptional leader who is committed to our mission, principles, and values, and who knows how to grow a successful business.”


Chris Fraser

Principal and managing director, Avison Young

Chris Fraser is well-known as a leader in the Charleston community, even by those who have no idea that he works in commercial real estate as Managing Director of Avison Young’s South Carolina and Savannah, GA offices. As incoming chair of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, former chair of the Charleston County School Board, chair of the Trident Tech Foundation, and so much more, he has served his community with distinction for years. A passionate and compassionate leader, he leads the Avison Young Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council.


Scott Glass

Chief, Operations Division, US Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District

The entire state owes a nod of thanks to Scott Glass.  As Supervisory Civil Engineer for the Charleston District of the Army Corps of Engineers, he played a pivotal role in the half-billion-dollar Charleston Harbor deepening, which allowed the newest gargantuan ships to transport goods into and out of South Carolina. Leading a team of 30 that delivered high quality designs ahead of schedule for the project, he is responsible for expanding a key economic driver for the state.


Dave Pardus

CEO, Total Beverage Solution

Pour Dave Pardus a Guinness! It’s the company that gave him the beverage sales and operational experience he needed to launch Total Beverage Solutions in 2002. His full-service beverage solution company has grown annually for 20 straight years to $100 million in revenue, making it a Top 20 Fastest Growing Company in South Carolina. Dave’s innovations have improved service through strategic collaborations and leveraged relationships with nascent brands. He’s been named an Honorary Knight of the Brewers' Mash Staff, which, let’s face it, we all wish we were.


S. Richard Hagins


If you think S. Richard Hagins’s business resume is impressive, you’re right. But you should see a list of his community involvement. He has served in board positions at the Greenville Chamber, the Greenville YMCA, the State Ports Authority, Habitat for Humanity Greenville and Upstate Warrior Solutions. He’s a charter member of 100 Black Men of the Upstate. All that follows 23 years in service to our nation in the US Navy, which led to the founding of his facility services company, US&S Inc. He’s won a slew of awards including SC Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014.


Tim Hardee

President, South Carolina Technical College System

Tim Hardee keeps cutting his prices and delivering on his promises. Who wouldn’t buy what he’s selling? Dr. Hardee serves as president of the South Carolina Technical College System, whose tuition gets increasingly affordable as the state keeps unveiling new scholarships. In addition, the 16 technical colleges in the state boast a 90% job placement record. Combining his passion for education and cycling, Dr. Hardee rode his bicycle 800 miles around the state to visit all 16 technical colleges in his own Tour de Tech.


Tee Hooper

Co-owner and board chair, Find Great People

It's Tee Hooper’s second go-round with the icon designation, having previously served as IKON Office Products’ Southeast Regional President for a decade. Today he is co-owner and board chair of Find Great People, a talent acquisition and human resource consulting firm. He’s also in the business of helping great people succeed in his many community volunteer ventures covering mentoring, veterans support, health care, poverty alleviation and more. He also chaired the state Department of Transportation, a $1.2 billion agency responsible for 42,000 miles of road.




Mary Thornley

President, Trident Technical College

Mary Thornley isn’t just the president of Trident Technical College; she is synonymous with it, and with the transformational power of education in the Lowcountry. Leading the school for more than 30 years, Dr. Thornley was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 2020, the state’s highest honor. Through innovative initiatives, creative partnerships, and outreach to the community, she has transformed the small technical college where she began her career as an adjunct professor into a diverse education juggernaut preparing students for 21st century jobs.


Jim Irvin

Owner/partner, Firefly Distillery

Jim Irvin is one of the innovators you can thank for Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka. A residential builder for years in the Lowcountry, he and his wife purchased a farm in Wadmalaw and opened a vineyard. That led to a relationship with wine distributor Scott Newitt, and they joined forces to create Firefly Distillery. They’ve given us a Muscadine wine vodka, sweet tea vodka made from tea grown next door, and various other drinks. Recently they moved to the banks of the Noisette Creek and launched a concert venue.

Kevin Mills

President and CEO, South Carolina Aquarium

Half a million people come to see Kevin Mills every year. Well, him and the South Carolina Aquarium, home to the Sea Turtle Care Center, the Great Ocean Tank, sharks, otters and more. As president and CEO for the past 17 years, Mills has transformed a top attraction into a conservation center, turtle hospital and STEM-based learning center with an economic impact approaching half-a-billion dollars. Doing so has required strong vision and collaboration with the private and public sectors.


Sharon Wilson

Founder, Wilson Associates

Sharon Wilson doesn’t just sell real estate. She pushes it forward. An early adopter of new technologies and tools during her 40-year career, the founder of Wilson Associates has mentored dozens of younger agents while ranking in the top one percent of all Coldwell Banker agents internationally.  A GSA Business Report 2020 Woman of Influence, she founded her independent real estate firm to bring a dynamic new synergy to Greenville’s real estate market and has succeeded in building a $300 million enterprise from scratch.


Neil Whitman

Owner/founder, Dunhill Staffing Systems

Neil Whitmer will find you staff. From working for others in the staffing business to running a staffing franchise to buying the company and running it independently, he has always done it better than anyone. Upon joining Dunhill Staffing Systems in Charleston in 2001, he earned the designation of best new office and top producing owner in the system. Then a bevy of performance awards including top office nationally, top consultant and $1 million producer faster than anyone had ever done. Now he owns the company and the accolades keep pouring in.


Mary Jo Romeo

Founder, MJR Consulting

What do Facebook, Amazon, The New York Times, LinkedIn and Delta Airlines have in common? They’ve all hired Mary Jo Romeo to help them unleash the potential of their employees. A communications expert, strengths-based coach and sought after facilitator, she coaches individual clients, sales teams and C-suites. A Columbia University Certified Executive Coach, she is beloved by her clients. Said one who took a class for women at the YWCA, “I have seen her inspire and grow countless female leaders into the executives they are today.”


Bruce White

President and CEO, Bank of Travelers Rest

Bruce White is the Bank of Travelers Rest. His father founded the bank with eight others in 1946, and in 1977 Bruce ascended to president. Though he has stepped back from that role, he remains CEO. During his tenure, the bank transformed from tellers stamping passbooks with monthly interest to automated payroll and mobile apps. Now with 10 branches and $1 billion in deposits, Bank of Travelers Rest remains a relationship-first business. It’s a family business too, as Bruce’s three children represent a third generation of bank employees.


Jane Sosebee

President, AT&T South Carolina

Jane Sosebee is an accomplished female executive in a male-dominated field.  Rising through the ranks at AT&T to the role of statewide president, she leads the company’s legislative, business development and community affairs activities. Recently she has been dedicated to helping close the digital divide in South Carolina so that everyone has access to fast, affordable internet service. Named a business person of the year and a most influential person in Columbia, she says her greatest title is mother to two daughters.


Nicky McCarter

President and CEO, Defender Services

When Nicky McCarter joined Defender Services 43 years ago, it produced chemicals for cleaning factories in three states. During his 10 years as president and CEO, he transformed its work to outsourcing janitorial, maintenance, groundskeeping and related services to a variety of industries in 11 states, employing 3,000 people and producing $100 million in revenue. A recipient of Clemson’s highest alumni award with a building named for his family, he also coaches Little League and focuses his company on diversity and inclusion outreach.


Ernest McNealey

President, Allen University

Ernest McNealey has reinvigorated Allen University in his six years as president. Named one of the top 10 hidden gem HBCUs, Allen has instituted a master’s program in divinity, earned approval to offer online and associate degrees, added to its roster of undergraduate majors and returned football, softball, women’s soccer and marching band to student experience, all under Dr. McNealy’s watch. He was well-prepared for the position having served as president of another HBCU, Stillman College in Alabama, for 16 years.


Steve Townes

President/CEO/founder, Ranger Aerospace and ACL Airshop

Steve Townes makes aviation and aerospace companies better. If the term “private equity” sends a shiver up your spine, meet Steve Townes. A West Point grad who served in the 75th Ranger Battalion, he’s co-founder and CEO of Ranger Aerospace. He and his team buy, sell and consolidate aerospace operations and add operational improvements that spur growth.  One recent consolidation quadrupled the company size in five years, yielding 60% internal rate of return. Ranger has won Deal of the Year and Deal of the Decade awards.