The view from the Entrepreneurship classroom with Areli, CHS student intern

After having completed Principles of Business and Marketing, I’m now in Entrepreneurship I, an elective course taught by Carson High’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructor Billy McHenry. The class provided me with an opportunity for my first internship, here at the Adams Hub. I work directly with entrepreneurs who are starting companies, in a professional business environment.

Last year, Mr. McHenry’s class focused on how to manage our money and make smart decisions with it. It gave us a great foundation for thinking differently about money. This year we’re getting hands-on, and learning how to truly run a business. During our time in this course we create an original business plan, which we eventually present to Mr. McHenry, in hopes of moving on to the “Shark Tank” event, where we then compete for a cash prize that could help us start our own businesses.

I’ve learned some incredible things and worked with some remarkable people, including some who have helped me create a more professional business plan. Molly Dahl, who also works at the Adams Hub, has been a consistent support for the students in the business program as well as myself. Because of her, we’ve learned things we would have never imagined working on, including mindfulness, customer service, teamwork, presentation skills and more. Ms. Dahl is an anchor and constant inspiration to the students in this program.

With her have come other supportive Adams Hub mentors including Miya McKenzie, Matt Westfield, and Peggy Borgman (who I also get the pleasure of working with). They have all come into the business program and shared their knowledge and expertise with the students. Ms. MacKenzie has shared the latest thinking on how to truly “think outside of the box” before starting a business. Matt Westfield has presented a class on how to make a successful business pitch and win any audience over. Peggy Borgman, who has been a small business owner, discussed her experience with running her own company and the importance of offering world-class customer service.

The members of the Adams Hub team have left their mark in the Carson High business program and furthered the love of business we Entrepreneurship students share!

June Mentor of the Month: Karol Hines

Karol Hines has spent five years as a volunteer supporting the development and growth of the entrepreneurial community in Northern Nevada. Today, she serves as the Executive Director of Entrepreneurs Assembly. (EA) In addition to serving as a volunteer with EA, she was a board member of both NCET and Entrepreneurship Nevada, curated the Reno/Tahoe Digest, and participated as a preliminary judge in several Sontag Plan competitions and as a final judge for the Governors Cup Business Plan competition. Karol’s professional career, spanning over thirty years in New York and Silicon Valley, included technical leadership and executive management positions in several startup companies. We are proud to call Karol our June Mentor of the Month!

How did you get involved with Entrepreneurs Assembly?

Coming out of retirement after moving to Reno from the Bay Area, I decided that I wanted to work with small companies and startups to help them get started, grow, prosper and lift the economy. Through a lot of –something I love to do–I ended up on the Board of Directors of Entrepreneurship Nevada and NCET (Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology). Somewhere along the way, I had the opportunity to take a shortened version of Matt Westfield and Rod Hosilyck’s seminar on starting a business. This is the now the Jumpstart class they teach at UNR. It was during that time that I found out about the Entrepreneurs Assembly Startup Incubator (EASI) workshops. From the first time I attended an EASI workshop on a Saturday morning in February 2013 as a mentor, I knew I had found a place where I could use my extensive experience with startup companies in the tech world of Silicon Valley to help aspiring entrepreneurs and participate in a meaningful way to help boost the economy of Northern Nevada.
 
What unique perspectives does a female mentor bring to the table?
        
For my entire life, I have been surrounded by males. I was a “tomboy” growing up with four brothers.  When I was very young, my dolls, dress-up clothes and other girlie play things sat on the shelf while I negotiated with my brothers to play with their trucks, bikes and such. It wasn’t until well into my career as VP of Development for a rapidly growing software company in Silicon Valley that I realized my career was in jeopardy because of bias and perhaps jealousy from newly hired senior executives, all male. I tried to play the game without realizing that they were not threatened by my superior ability to execute, but just did not want a woman in the board room. I learned that women need to work together, play the game a bit differently, teach each other the rules and choose the right mentors that will help them embrace their unique qualities, skills and perspective.

How would you describe your style?

My mentoring style is much like the management style I used with my employees and the style I used as a management consultant with my clients. I am a coach. Rather than telling people the “answers” when they often don’t even know what questions to ask, I will often ask questions to help lead them to reveal what they didn’t realize they knew and or realize what they don’t know. That sounds a bit circuitous, I know.  But sometimes that is just the point. It’s like a mining expedition to help people find that vein of precious metal, that spark, that passion in them that will allow them to believe in themselves and be willing to take on the risks necessary to start and build a business.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself!

Whenever I need to get in touch with who I really am, I go fly a glider or tell stories about my career as a nationally ranked competition glider pilot. I had always wanted to learn to fly–be a pilot. But the twists and turns of life, including my career, kept veering me off that course. When the opportunity came to take an introductory flight at Sky Sailing in Fremont, CA, it coincided with having fewer personal obligations and time commitments. Within a year, I had soloed, gotten my license and bought my first glider. It wasn’t long before I reached out to find accomplished glider pilots (all male, of course) to mentor me to start flying longer distances away from the home airport–we call it cross-country flying. Flying in small local events led to first managing and then flying in Regional and National competitions. My “mentors” remained my friends, but they became my competitors, so were not so much mentors any longer, even though most of them were always above me on the scoresheet. This was another lesson of how lonely it can be for an accomplished woman in any business, sport or other endeavor that’s dominated by males.

I found my passion on that first flight in Fremont and it really did change my life. The ability to pursue that passion with just my own drive and skills to rely on was very freeing. The confidence I gained from pushing myself to complete a flying “task”, getting myself into and out of trouble, trusting myself to make decisions quickly, not deriding myself if the decision turned out to not be the best and using the information gained to make the next decision, carried over to all other aspects of my life.

When I work with entrepreneurs, particularly women, I try to discover both their deep-seated passions and their insecurities. It’s more difficult, at least for me, to get men to reveal their insecurities. I find women often are more forthcoming about their insecurities with other women. If they can get to that point and find the magic that turns those insecurities into strengths, that’s when I get…well, I have to be clear with myself that I am helping them soar and hold back from soaring myself!

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.

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.