Carolyn Usinger of ReadyConnect

We caught up with Carolyn Usinger, founder of disaster-recovery communications company ReadyConnect.

Why did you start ReadyConnect?
I have a passion for helping businesses succeed. My earliest careers were involved with foreclosures and bankruptcies. After those experiences, I wanted to devote my life to helping businesses succeed. I started by creating a series of kits to help people create their businesses easily, with the California Chamber of Commerce.

While I was doing that, my house and home office burned in the 1991 Oakland fire. It changed my whole life. I began to look at disasters through new eyes. I learned that 50% of local businesses don’t survive a disaster. Of the ones that do, another 50% are gone within 3 years. Disasters have a very long-tail effect of small businesses.

What are some of the things we don’t understand about disaster recovery?
Even well-meaning attempts to help can backfire. For example, a truckload of bottled water or a load of plywood may be donated to the community, and undermine sales that could have gone to struggling local businesses. Without accurate insights into what a community needs, efforts to help often don’t hit their intended target. ReadyConnect facilitates communication, coordination and recovery. It pulls the community together. As we say, “Don’t face a disaster alone.”

During a disaster’s immediate aftermath, consumers don’t know which businesses are open, which are closed, which may have supplies that they need. Employers may have difficulty finding out the status of employees. During power outages, cellphone batteries run low as people make multiple calls to family, friends, and employers.

I began doing research through chambers of commerce and started to create a toolkit. As I learned more about the needs of businesses following disaster, that tool morphed and grew. It became a resource to help business and people connect to each other.

Since then, the number of natural disasters and the intensity of the destruction has magnified. ReadyConnect was created to make recovery a reality, supporting local businesses and individuals with a community network. My goal is to provide toolkits to every community in the country, to enable them to start recovering on Day 1 instead of starting from scratch.

How does your product work?
Our toolkit is hosted online for business and we offer a mobile for end users. We’re beginning with Chambers of Commerce, so every member business receives an online toolkit at no charge, and their employees and families can purchase as many mobile apps as they wish. Anyone can purchase the mobile app, so we expect that our subscriber base will grow organically through these personal connections. If you’re connected, you want your friends and family to be, too.

The businesses create disaster plans and the employees who have the app can build their own family disaster plan. One of the features people appreciate most is that we keep their contact lists up to date and enable them to have fast, efficient, battery-preserving “one button” communication with all those people. But it is much more than a communication tool. Perhaps the most important element of ReadyConnect is that we help businesses themselves to the Ready-Connected Community in the aftermath of a disaster. They will be able to notify consumers of crucial supplies in stock. If they’re scrambling to re-open, they can let people know their re-opening date and sell vouchers to keep cash flowing. This is absolutely critical, because many businesses that survive that first year following a disaster will eventually succumb to poor sales. The disaster doesn’t end when the media coverage does.

How does this differ from what Facebook is doing?
Facebook offers a “safe” notification, which is a simple way to notify friends and family of your status–if you’re all Facebook subscribers. Now imagine, following a disaster, trying to remember who you have reached and then having to still communicate by phone or text with the individuals you’ve missed. Another serious issue is that Facebook and other social media sites are rife with scams and rumors, even well-meaning misinformation. ReadyConnect provides forums that are vetted by local community leaders. Users can ask questions and get reliable answers. We’re a source of trusted information. We can start disseminating information before the disaster center opens five days after the fact. We provide a platform on which to organize the recovery.

We recognize that not all disasters are big, natural disasters. A fire or broken pipe can close a business, too. So we’re offering ReadyConnect as a tool for “everyday” recovery.

What are some challenges you’ve faced?
People don’t want to think about disasters. And it’s human nature not to prepare—it’s called “denial”. So we are approaching “preparation” with tools that businesses can use every day, as well as during these epic events. For example, a tool to “broadcast” updates to your employees if you’re experiencing a sudden closure, that enables them to easily view work schedules and cover shifts.

There’s the obvious problem of government agencies being consumed with major infrastructure issues such as repairing roads or levees or putting out fires. But when it comes to recovery, we find that different agencies are “siloed.” There is not good integration of resources. Disaster centers are not enough. Without clarity about a community’s needs, agencies may not be providing the right help. We have built this company to deliver what FEMA is asking for, a “Whole Community Approach.” Unless you own your own business, you can’t understand the urgency of keeping your doors open. A weeks’ closure can be the difference between life and death for many local businesses. Folks in government don’t experience this kind of traumatic job insecurity, so their ability to relate to this situation can be limited. Meanwhile, a owner may be paying salaries to employees even when they have no sales and revenue. Many sacrifice themselves to keep their teams going, expecting that recovery will be faster.

In speaking with cities, we’ve learned that they’re willing to spend $30,000 on a reverse 911 system yet don’t understand why they should invest 10% of that cost to enable their community to recover. That has been eye-opening. Chambers “get it” because they’re part of the business community, so they’re our target market for the rollout.

Where is ReadyConnect now?
This is a very exciting time—we’re launching in five communities in California: Palo Alto, San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, Encino and Culver City. We’re working through Chambers of Commerce because they’re already connected to community businesses and they get it. Ironically, businesses receive the least amount of support after a disaster, and yet healthy businesses are key to the recovery of the entire community. ReadyConnect is filling a gap, and we’re very excited about the future.

Mentor Moment: Carlo Luri

Sharing a conference table with Adams Hub mentor Carlo Luri is always surprising. Pick his brain, and you’ll discover education and career experience that spans chemical engineering, sales, finance, regulatory compliance, manufacturing, environmental sciences, agriculture and…whiskey distilling. As head of governmental affairs for Bently Enterprises, Carlo is hard at work on legislation to form new category of distillery for Nevada, the Estate Distillery. (More on that later.)

As a mentor, Carlo says one of the greatest challenges is “not to put too strong an imprint on the advice you give.” That thoughtful attitude is also apparent as he interacts with Adams Hub incubator companies and members of Entrepreneurs Assembly. He recognizes that different people approach company-building differently, having worked in the build-and-flip Silicon Valley culture and as part of the family-owned Bently Nevada.

His journey to Northern Nevada began in New York as the son of Northern Italian immigrants, took him to Geneva, Switzerland for high school, and then back to New York to attend Cornell. Armed with a degree in chemical engineering, he began a career in…sales. After seven years he was back at school, this time at Rutgers University, where he received a Master’s in Environmental Science. His career path eventually led him west, to a Silicon Valley startup that was cleaning up old semiconductor manufacturing sites.

“That was where I learned that the sales forecast for every startup was, Year One, $1 million, Year Three, $10 million, and Year Five, $100 million,” he laughs. “That’s where I also learned the lesson about managing investor expectations.”

After a stint with a Southern California environmental cleanup company, his next role took him to Nevada to work with Costner Industries Nevada Corp (CINC). In sales for CINC, Carlo traveled the globe prototyping and testing the company’s liquid-liquid centrifuge technology, which had gained notoriety as a solution for cleaning up oil spills, in the pharmaceutical sector. Carlo’s education in chemical engineering proved invaluable in highly technical, industrial sales.

Seven years into his work with CINC, he met Don Bently, founder of Bently Nevada. Bentley, a peripatetic engineer-inventor, was involved with a long-term engineering venture, but, Carlo says with admiration, “One day he said he wanted to make fuel.” Bently was in the biofuels industry for ten years, until the market became too difficult. The Bently sons eventually took over the company from their father, and their mini-conglomerate in Minden now includes Bently Ranch, which was founded in 1997 and produces grassfed beef. Bently Ranch is moving toward all-organic production that will include farming grains for the distillery.

And that’s Carlo found himself in the whiskey business. Carlo has been involved with the Minden Heritage Distillery project for last 2 years, which includes the renovation of a former flour mill, a building on the National Register of Historic Places, to modern LEED standards.

Carlo’s professional role in the company, which prides itself on its people, went from sales to operations and found its way to governmental affairs. As Director of Governmental Affairs at Bently, he deals with local, state and federal officials, or, as he likes to joke, “I’m in charge of the government.”

Somewhere in all of this Carlo managed to get his MBA from UNR, too.
“But now I realize I probably should’ve gotten a law degree!” he says.

The launch of Bently Estate Distillery will be much sweeter if SB189 is passed, creating a new Estate Distillery category. Alcohol production is highly regulated in Nevada, and organized into three tiers: a company can be only a producer, wholesaler, or retailer. While Craft Distilleries would remain small-batch producers at a maximum of 50,000 cases, Estate Distillers would be able to produce at volume, using ingredients grown on the premises, like estate wineries, and sell their product to distributors.

Echoing a common trait of entrepreneurs, Carlo states, “I fix problems.” When asked about a “day in the life” of a problem solver, he cites an amusingly concrete example.

“There’s this light pole in front of the distillery that we really need to have removed,” he laughs. This “do-whatever-needs-to-done” attitude gives him keen insight into the issues of the small business owners he mentors, who out of necessity must wear many hats.

He believes his breadth of work experience also enables him to approach problems with an open mind. “If you’re a marketer, you may approach challenges as marketing problems. If you’re a finance person, it’s a finance problem. I have a lot of experiences to draw on and I think that helps me give balanced guidance.”

When not lobbying the state legislature, you’ll find Carlo enjoying the great outdoors, often with his fifteen-year-old sons. They mountain bike, paddleboard, kayak and ski. Carlo recently helped to launch a new interscholastic mountain biking league for middle and high schools. He’s also active on the Carson Valley Trails Association board.

Why does he mentor?

“It’s a learning experience for me. I’m always learning new stuff. I like to keep my finger on pulse of what’s going in community, business, technology. I like to have fun and give back.”

2017 EDAWN Award for Adams Hub

Adams Hub has been chosen as the recipient of the 2017 EDAWN (Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada) Award for Program of the Year. The award was presented on March 30th during 10th annual Technology Awards at the Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa. The NCET Technology Awards celebrate the individuals and companies who have greatly enhanced the growth and prestige of the technology . The Awards recognize the people and resources that have played an integral part in contributing to the growth of our community.

City officials and local experts meet with a group of visiting Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellows at the Adams Hub for Innovation in Carson City, Nev. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.
Photo by Cathleen Allison

“We’re delighted to receive this honor,” said Miya MacKenzie, Chief Professional Officer of Adams Hub for innovation. “We’ve kicked off lots of new programming in the past year to support entrepreneurs and small businesses. This award is validation that those efforts are making a difference.”

New program launches in 2016 included a Carson City chapter of Entrepreneurs Assembly, the award-winning Nevada nonprofit; a Pre-Accelerator program facilitated by Kevin Lyons; Research Ninjas, on-site Carson City Librarians who assist clients and community businesses with deep research using proprietary databases; and Lunchbox Learning, monthly sessions with subject matter experts on a key business-building topics. A 2017 addition is “Motivation Mondays,” one-on-one entrepreneurial-effectiveness coaching with Diane Dye Hansen of What Works Coaching.

“Adams Hub has extended our programs beyond traditional incubation,” explained MacKenzie. “Our goal is to foster and increased employment throughout the Northern Nevada business community.” To that end, a number of the ‘s services are offered to community businesses and non-profits. “We’re building an ecosystem that supports peak performance for the entrepreneur and solopreneur,” she said.

Last Call: Our Next Pre-Accelerator

Want to push your start-up into overdrive?? The Adams Hub Pre-Accelerator is a challenging five-week program for high-growth-potential startups. The program enables you to validate assumptions about your business model while focusing on milestones and increasing customer engagement. The pre-accelerator is led by entrepreneur Kevin Lyons. Only 4-6 companies are accepted into a program session, and there is no cost to the your company if you’re selected.

To apply for the Pre-Accelerator, please fill out our online application. Learn more about the pre-accelerator application process by contacting

Hub Client Profile–Ludela

LuDela is an innovative maker of next-generation “smart” candles whose motto is, “Better Light, Better Lives.” Founder Jamie Bianchini has chosen Adams Hub to incubate his startup.

Your candle-lit dinner is about to get disrupted. LuDela is committed to offering the safest, most convenient, feature-rich candlelight in history. Imagine lighting an entire room full of candles in your home with a touch of a button on your smartphone. Or having a candle that self-extinguishes if it’s knocked over or if something is sensed above the flame.

A unique IoT (Internet of things) play, the LuDela Smart Candle has caught the attention of a major catalog company Frontgate and Brookstone for a holiday launch. Other channels, including Target and QVC, are also courting LuDela to roll out a low-tech version of LuDela called the Perfect Pillar.

Jamie Bianchini recently relocated with his family from the Bay Area to Minden, Nevada, to enjoy a slower, saner pace of life.


“I grew up biking and skiing in the Sierra Nevada,” he says. In fact, the idea for LuDela was born on a bicycle trip through West Africa a decade ago, where Jamie survived a common but deadly phenomenon: a candle fire in the guest house where he was sleeping. He was stunned to learn that candle fires and toxic kerosene-lamp fumes are a major cause of death in developing countries. So LuDela was designed from the start to give back. Partnering with the charity Books for Africa, LuDela donates solar lights and books to communities in need with every LuDela candle or refill purchase.

Jamie partnered with top Silicon Valley product development firm SurfaceInk to create LuDela’s elegant, solutions. LuDela candles use patent-pending design and technology to deliver a safer, more convenient experience of the world’s most adored source of light and ambiance: fire. Now it’s time for the next step in the company’s growth.

“There is so much interest in LuDela candles and our mission as a social venture,” he says. “It’s what we dreamed of, and now we have to execute.” Currently, he’s raising funds to enable the company to finalize development and move into mass production to fulfill holiday 2017 orders from large retailers.

To scale the company, LuDela is seeking local impact investors in the Northern Nevada and Tahoe areas, “someone who wants to make the world a better place and also achieve great financial returns,” says Jamie. LuDela’s technology has already caught the attention of the press, including Tech Crunch, Gizmodo, C|net, Popular Mechanics and Thrillist.

Why did he make Adams Hub his entrepreneurial base camp?
“I needed to get out of the garage, where it was cold and the kids were running through,” he laughs. “I like the energy, and being around smart people who add value and make the process of starting and growing a company so much more enjoyable.” Whether he is in a mentor meeting or collaborating with a Hub intern on his social media campaigns, Jamie’s intense dedication to his mission is obvious.

“We’re going to shine a bright light from the Tahoe region,” he says. “I can’t wait to share what we’re up to on the 22nd at our Open House.”

LuDela will be hosting a Happy Hour/Open House in The Studio @ Adams Hub, on Wednesday, March 22 at 4:30, followed by a product demonstration and company presentation at 6 p.m. RSVP to Jamie Bianchini at

Artrepreneurs Workshop Series Debuts in Carson

A new four-week arts marketing workshop series for Northern Nevada “Artrepreneurs” is taking aim at the cliché of the Starving Artist. The workshop promises to help visual artists, artisans, and performing artists achieve business success as they follow their creative passion.

The series is a unique collaboration between the Nevada Arts Council, The Carson City Visitors Bureau and Adams Hub for innovation. Mark Salinas, the new Arts & Culture Coordinator at CCVB, will be sharing his knowledge and experience, along with an extensive list of guest speakers and subject matter experts. The workshops are practical, tactical sessions that help participants build skills, and will culminate in a final event, a show at The Studio at Adams Hub.

Topics include the creation of a compelling web presence and social media strategies for artists. Artists will also learn how to define and express their unique personal brand and tell their story through effective documentation. The workshop series includes hands-on skills labs, including sessions with a professional photographer and videographer, as well as a segment on writing artist biographies and profiles and honing an artist’s “elevator pitch.” Also included will be a session on sales skills. The workshops will explore the channels through which artists can generate revenue and visibility, including galleries, venues, fairs, grants and residencies. A highlight of the final workshop will be a panel discussion with experts from the art world.

The workshops will take place on four consecutive Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., beginning May 3rd and ending May 24th.

Space is limited to 20. Applications are available on our registration site.
Five seats were added and the new application deadline is Monday April 17.

Participants are asked to contribute a materials fee of $49. Refreshments will be provided.

Mentor Moment: Dr. Bob Whitcomb

Dr. Bob Whitcomb teaches courses at Western Nevada College and serves as an Adams Hub Mentor. WNC’s 101 course is taught in the Studio at Adams Hub, bringing students into the business incubator environment and exposing them to entrepreneurial culture. Bob brings passion, joy and a sense of humor to his work as a as well as a mentor. He has a unique gift for putting others at ease and challenging them to grow at the same time. Dr. Whitcomb divides his time between Northern Nevada and Alaska, where he spends four months of each year.

Why do you Mentor? I’ve been a teacher for a long time, and I love seeing the ideas and successes of my students. Being at the Hub enables me to see people come in with great ideas, then help them craft these into something that’s viable, workable. Creative people generate great ideas, great concepts, and many have great strength in their field, but they don’t have that business acumen you need to be successful. That’s why I’m so delighted to partner with the Hub. We get to use our skills and passions and share them with others.

Why did you focus on marketing? I’m a marketer by training and by nature. The root of marketing is meeting needs. How are we meeting customer needs? Marketing is fun. If I’m not having fun I’m not going to do it. Marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s gratifying to see students take advantage of the resources here at the Hub. For example, the Carson City librarians are bringing these amazing databases here, and when students sit down with them to explore markets, they can discover unmet needs. Putting the tools and inspiration together is what we’re all about.

Did that naturally lead to mentoring? Mentoring is a blast. You bring your perspective, you’re not trying to impress anyone. You’re just offering your ideas, sharing your experience. It’s exciting to see the light bulb go on, or give someone an idea that will help them solve a problem.

How else do you give back?
You know, non-profits have a serious struggle to attract talent. One of the things that we do is have students work with non-profits, build a non-profit experience base. It’s important as a manager and people benefit from that. That’s the caring, compassionate side of me that wants to help people. I’ve never cared about the money.

What’s your Alaska life like? I’m in Alaska for three months each summer, and one month during the holidays. I have dogs, a house, friends. I kayak, hike and run away from bears. If the barge doesn’t make it up for 2 weeks there’s no food in town, so everyone has a larder. Ben & Jerry’s is eight bucks a pint! I have to go to the yarn shop to get internet. Everyone knows your business. It’s a different way of life.
I mentor in Alaska, too, I can’t help it. Marketing is very unsophisticated there. But the local culture there is very interdependent, everyone just naturally helps each other. Houses burn down every winter and the community comes right out to help.

What was your career path? I graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA because I wasn’t interested. I told my parents I was going to be an auto mechanic. One day I got in an accident I realized I couldn’t bend over engines for the rest of my career. I went back to college, and had a very dynamic marketing instructor; he was great, and so was the next one. I decided that marketing was what I wanted to do. I truly believe that marketing is the soul of the business. Because it’s about customer needs. It’s how I look at the world.

When I decided to teach for a living, it changed my world view. Then I had to work out what students needed to be successful. I don’t want my classes to just be a bunch of theory. Kids do their own marketing plans in the marketing class, they write training plans, HR manuals. It’s very practical, real-world, and hands-on.

I knew I wanted to teach when I was in college, and when I graduated, I decided to go to grad school and got an assistantship in 1985, found I enjoyed that and I’m good at it. One-on-one, few-on-one, is best for my teaching approach.

How did you find your way to Carson? I had a pivotal moment when I worked for Home Depot. I was HR manager at the store in Juno, Alaska, and for a store with a staff of 100, I had to hire 125 new employees each year. We had incredible turnover. I decided to go back to teaching in colleges, but I really wanted to work at a college where I could teach these first-job people. I was drawn to the opportunity to help regular students who wanted to get their first job. I love to work with that population.

When I got the offer from WNC, I loaded up my pickup truck with six boxes, rented an apartment in Carson City sight unseen, and slept on the floor for the first six weeks. It was an adventure. WNC has been open to letting me create a my own curriculum. I remember how hard it was to learn when I wasn’t engaged, so I work hard to make my classes very engaging. The college is truly committed to the community. Education is the economic driver. Bringing my class to Adams Hub has helped my students to start thinking outside the classroom box. I encourage them to take advantage of everything that’s going on here.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? One of the neatest things happened to me last year. A former asked, “Are you the Bob Whitcomb who used to teach in Maine?” Turns out he had friends who both had been students of mine, many years ago. These kids had ended up getting married. I reconnected with this couple. They told me, “You just need to know you changed our lives. Your style of management and instruction changed our lives. You are one of the significant people in our lives.” I had no idea. All I did was what I do. That’s the reward of teaching.

Over the years, I was fortunate to meet people who were willing to develop me, to cultivate me. It’s great to take the time to stop and thank the people who taught us. I’m blessed to have people in my life that took me for what I was, and helped me achieve my potential.

Julie Arsenault, Founder of PantyDrop, on the value of the Adams Hub Pre-Accelerator Program

Recent Adams Hub Pre-Accelerator startup Panty Drop is an online lingerie subscription service. Julie Arsenault, founder of PantyDrop, shared her thoughts about the experience in this mini-interview:

What was the format of the Pre-Accelerator?

“Based on Lean Startup Principles, and pulling from the Y Combinator curriculum, the 5-week program pushed us to “get outside the building” and validate customer demand for our ideas with interviews, rapid prototyping, and quick feedback cycles.”

What made you decide to join the Pre-Accelerator?

When I started the program, I felt that my growth strategy had stalled, but the program helped me narrow in on a promising niche market segment that’s helping my business get to the next level.

What did you think about your interactions with the Pre-Accelerator mentors and the participants?

Kevin Lyons and Miya MacKenzie are fantastic mentors, and definitely the people I want in my corner. With participants across stages, from the very earliest ideas to post-revenue and customers, the knowledge-sharing within the group was engaging and fun, and weekly goal-setting kept us on track and getting things done.”

What was your final assessment of the program’s value?

The Adams Hub Pre-Accelerator Program was the most impactful thing I did for my business in 2016.

Join Diane Dye Hansen for Lunchbox Learning March 21: Lead Generation with LinkedIn

In this powerful hour, you will learn proven strategies and tactics successful businesses are using to become leading experts, get more leads, and grow sales using LinkedIn. We will work through the tactics and practically apply them to your situation so you can walk out with a real competitive advantage. All attendees will also receive an invitation to a complimentary three hour masterclass through Linked University to deepen skills learned.


#Innovator Interview: YOUTH Positive with Molly Dahl

Applying principles of positive psychology to the classroom can have astounding results, as one Adams Hub mentor discovered.
“YOUTH Positive teaches real life, it teaches relationships, and it teaches growth mind-set–how and why to be happy and why it all matters.” Molly Dahl, creator and founder of YOUTH Positive, LLC, has spent 15 years encouraging teens to “live positive” and take an active participatory role in their lives and education. With over 15 years of experience in the high school classroom, both in private and public education, Molly Dahl is a seasoned professional educator.

Tell me about your teaching experience. How did your experience in the classroom inspire you to create YOUTH Positive?

I started what would become my teaching career in the English as a Second Language classroom as a teacher’s aide. About 4 years later, I found myself in my own high school classroom teaching Freshman English at a private Catholic school in Virginia. I thought I would only be there a year or two, but I fell in love with it. I love teenagers. They are so full of life and enthusiasm and are really and willing to participate full-on in life. I was there for 6 years, then moved back to Nevada to teach at Bishop Manogue High School. I was there one year, and then made the big leap to public school. Turns out, I liked it more than my experience in private education!

My classroom experience inspired me to create YOUTH Positive because my students, for 7 years, kept asking me again and again why they weren’t being taught things that really matter in life. They wanted more and they wanted “real”. So I put my studies in Positive Psychology to use and created a program for them that teaches what they asked for.

YOUTH Positive teaches real life, it teaches relationships, and it teaches the growth mind-set: how to be happy and why it all matters. They just wanted more than academics and test scores and college entrance worries. I couldn’t help but be influenced by their asking!

What sort of change did you notice in your students after implementing the youth positive approach?

They wanted to be there, in school. They were interested and engaged. They stated connecting the dots across the curriculum, making sense of what we studied in Spanish–making connections with the Spanish language to their studies in their English classes and connections with Spanish cultures with their history and world cultures classes.

They began to get that nothing is separate and unaffected by everything else, that it’s all interconnected and they can make meaning out of seemingly disparate subjects and then, boy! The lights go on and they get so excited. My students used to ask me if they could stay in my classroom all day long and if I could teach them every subject. Of course, I was flattered, but I encouraged them to find the same enthusiasm they had for my classroom in their other classes and with their other teachers.

My main goal as a teacher was to have my students step over the edge of the high school “nest” with their wings already flapping, ready to take on the world as self-sufficient, well-adjusted, happy and young men and women. I get texts and emails and little messages from them occasionally and guess what? They are thriving and enjoying it life. They are traveling and taking healthy risks and really experiencing life in person, not from behind the screen.