Reaching for the stars — and beyond

KAPAA — Those who know Mikayla Hart believe she is a role model for Kauai students.

Hart received a Master of Business Administration from Simon Business School, at the University of Rochester, in New York on June 6.

During her time at Simon Business School, Hart, 27, reinstated the Simon chapter of Net Impact, a club that promotes social impact and environmental sustainability through business.

“My main focus is to incorporate social impact in the business curriculum,” the 2007 Kapaa High School graduate said. “There’s a big shift in that direction — to understanding how to use business to do good in the world.”

Net Impact serves as an outlet for students to share similar social passions to have discussions about how to change the world through business.

Hart, who served as president of Net Impact, considers organizing the club one of her greatest accomplishments.

“There is an idea among business students that capitalism goes against social work, but there’s a lot of people who use business to do good, and I want to highlight that,” she said.

Chris Farina, a teacher at Kapaa High School, said kids need to know that they can get a good education at Kauai public schools.

“They aren’t limited by living here,” he said. “They’re limited by their own mind. They can do whatever they put their mind to.”

It’s a sentiment Hart’s mother, Carla, echoes.

“She has proven through her actions in the last nine years since she graduated high school that anyone from a public school has the ability to accomplish their dreams,” she said.

Hart is an example of reaping the awards of hard work and dedication, said Farina, who taught Hart in middle and high school.

“You get what you put into something, and Mikayla is proof of that,” she said.

Hart is also the recipient of several awards and accolades, like the Dean’s Leadership Award, and has placed in competitions like the Hultz Prize, a business plan competition that focused on global social enterprise.

On June 3, Hart won the Tibetan Innovation Challenge, a competition that uses enterprise to help Tibetan refugees living in India.

As part of the competition, Hart teamed up with Kari Wozniak, from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, to form Tashi Organics. The business model plans to work with organic Tibetan farmers to lower harvest costs, which will offset the costs of growing Tibetan food in India.

This is not the first time Hart competed in the Tibetan Innovation Challenge. Last year, her business model earned third place, and she was presented an award by the Dali Lama.

“It was an amazing experience and a highlight of my life,” Hart said.

Originally from Hanalei and Kapaa, Hart made the move to New York two years ago to attend Simon Business School, where she got a full-ride scholarship.

She said she never set out to pursue a career in business, but “stumbled upon” a passion for it in college when she enrolled in entry- level economics and business classes at the University of Hawaii, where she earned a degree in finance and international business.

The idea of helping less fortunate people through business was intriguing, she said.

“I didn’t know how to do it until I went to undergraduate school,” she said.

Hart is the first in her family to earn a graduate degree. She credits her success to support from her ohana.

“My mom really tried to help me reach for the stars,” she said. “My support system growing up was critical to getting me to where I am today.”

There’s a long list of people, from teachers and coaches to friends and employers, who helped Hart along the way, Carla said.

“I want to thank every person who was and is a part of Mikayla’s life,” she said. “There are so many people, I feel so grateful.”

Hart will start working as a strategy consultant at Accenture Strategy in New Work City in October. First, she’ll spend her free months traveling. She plans to spend a couple days in Ecuador and South America before returning to Kauai in August.

“Travel as much as you can,” she said. “The more people you meet, and the more cultures you experience, the more opportunities you will have.”

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