Executive Staff

Kay Reynolds


Kay has 42 years of economic development experience, most recently as head of the California Academy for Economic Development and Vice President of the California Association for Local Economic Development.  Read More

Carolyn Usinger


Carolyn has over 20 years experience in helping small businesses start and comply with government requirements. She developed a series of Business Start-Up Kits that were published through...  Read More

Saba Hailu


Saba has over 10 years of project management experience with an emphasis on technology market research. She has used her sociology degree and marketing expertise to assist private sector companies...  Read More

Tools for Business Success - A History

Two Visions - A Unique New Way to Help Small Businesses

In 2007, two women, from very different backgrounds, had a similar vision of a new way of delivering resources to small businesses. Carolyn Usinger, a California entrepreneur, had spent several decades creating Business Startup Kits and a Business Bookstore. She had worked with the California Chamber of Commerce and the state’s Community College Small Business Development Centers in delivering these resources.

Kay Reynolds, Executive Director of the California Academy for Economic Development and Vice President of CALED (the California Association for Local Economic Development) began working on economic development projects in 1974. Two of her primary interests were breaking down barriers to business and the efficient delivery of business resources.

The previous year, 22 UC Davis graduate and upper division students had worked with Kay to survey 142 rural California economic development websites, evaluating the level of small business information each provided. Their analysis showed that little help was being provided through any of the websites. Kay then developed a vision of a single organization that would collect, maintain, and expand online business resources; making this compilation available to local business development organizations. Because of her local economic development background, she was determined that these resources would only appear on local websites, not through state-wide organizations.

Visions Become a Reality

But, having a vision means nothing, if you don’t know how to make it a reality. In early 2007, the timing was perfect when Carolyn Usinger connected with Kay at the Academy. Carolyn had a similar vision and, most importantly, the technical skill to make it happen. Carolyn agreed to develop the Tools for Business Success, building on what she had already done, and then help The Academy and CALED deliver the new service.

With Kay’s help, The Academy received a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation that covered part of the initial costs. Resources were expanded and a central web feed was created that allowed each local host to have The Tools for Business on pages that were identical to their homepage. California’s agencies began subscribing to this new service.

This new approach to gathering and delivering business resources is unique, efficient, and builds the relationships between small businesses, potential entrepreneurs, and local organizations.

California and Beyond

In mid-2007, Carolyn and Kay formed Tools for Business Success, LLC. Kay left the Academy and CALED, to focus on the national market and Carolyn divided her time between supporting the Tools concept in California and expanding into the other states. All the while, the scope of business resources grew significantly. In December 2009, The Tools hired Saba Hailu, a marketing professional with more than ten years experience in project management with a focus on technology market research. By 2010, the Academy turned its clients over to the LLC, with the understanding that CALED members would continue to receive substantial discounts. In response to its continued national growth, the company augmented its staff with several part-time contractors to provide technical and operational support.

Today, the Tools for Business Success, LLC continues to identify new resources to strengthen small businesses, providing that information to local websites across the country. Our company does this through a subscription service with local hosts (chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, SBDCs, cities, counties, and libraries) who, in turn, use the information to help companies and potential entrepreneurs in their communi-ties. As of September 2012, The Tools has 168 clients spread across 32 states. Every day, thousands of businesses use their community’s Tools for Business Success site to start up, expand, or simply try to survive.