FGCU’s Sandra Kauanui creates program for students who share her entrepreneurial drive

You can teach entrepreneurship

Tim Cartwright, a partner at the wealth management firm Fifth Avenue Family Office and recent chairman of the FGCU foundation, remembers sitting with Kauanui in the Lutgert College of Business long before FGCU had an entrepreneurship program. The two were brainstorming ideas to improve the university and enhance the local community. What would be really special, they decided, was to have an entrepreneurship degree. That’s when Kauanui leaned forward. “I’m willing to take on that challenge,” she said.

Since that moment, Cartwright has watched Kauanui go from teaching a class on entrepreneurship to receiving approval for an entrepreneurship minor then an entrepreneurship major to creating her own entrepreneurship program separate from the college of business to constructing a building on campus dedicated to the School of Entrepreneurship. “The only way we were going to be successful was if the person who led this initiative had the entrepreneurial mindset to push through boundaries and commit the kind of energies necessary to scale growth,” Cartwright says. “That’s Sandy.”

One of the greatest assets Kauanui has brought to the entrepreneurship program, Cartwright believes, is that she’s an entrepreneur first and an academician second. That means Kauanui focuses on hiring adjunct faculty with real-world experience; she’s less concerned with where they got their degrees and more interested in what they’ve done. “That’s the kind of knowledge our students thirst for,” Cartwright says. “Real-world practitioners who have sold a business or who are in the middle of scaling a business have much more connection to the business world.”

This kind of practical, hands-on connection is essential to what Kauanui and the School of Entrepreneurship set out to achieve. “At one point in time, people thought you were either born an entrepreneur or not,” Cartwright says. “But we know now that you can teach someone how to think and act entrepreneurially.”

As it turns out, an entrepreneurial mindset is important even for those students who don’t start their own businesses. Many School of Entrepreneurship grads go on to work for Fortune 500 companies. “The entrepreneurship degree is a different way of learning,” Cartwright says. “Our students know how to identify real-world problems and find solutions. And these big companies are saying, ‘We want to hire problem solvers.’” For the full article, visit.