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Sandra Kauanui, Ph.D. - Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL, US

Sandra Kauanui, Ph.D.

Expert in entrepreneurship and business management | Florida Gulf Coast University


Sandra Kauanui helps the entrepreneurial-minded build businesses, generate revenue and earn degrees.





Sandra Kauanui loading image Sandra Kauanui loading image




Sandra Kauanui is a professor of entrepreneurship at Florida Gulf Coast University. Kauanui led the team that created the curriculum for the entrepreneurship master's program and the undergraduate major and minor at FGCU. She also planned and executed the Runway Program incubator, which helps students from across campus to start and build their businesses while pursuing degrees.

Kauanui is also a professor emerita of management and human resources at California State Polytechnic University. Prior to her life in academia, Kauanui started and ran her own successful business for 20 years, providing financial, strategic planning and accounting services to entrepreneurial firms.

Areas of Expertise (10)

Organizational Behavior & Culture

Seed-stage investing

Entrepreneurial Brand & Product Management

Entrepreneurship & Community Innovation

Venture Capital and Angel Capital

Business & Leadership

Lean Startup Method

Spirituality and Entrepreneurship

Startup Businesses


Accomplishments (4)

Woman of the Year (professional)


Awarded by Gulfshore Life magazine

Wilford L. White Fellowship (professional)


"Selection as a Wilford L. White Fellow is the highest recognition that the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) gives to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the development, furtherance and benefit of small and medium sized businesses."

Professor Emerita, Management and Human Resources (professional)


Awarded by at California State Polytechnic University

Presidential Award (professional)


"Chosen by the [International Council for Small Business] President in consultation with the ICSB Chair, this award stands to represent individuals who feel a higher mandate to not just succeed, but rather to bestow their heart into the work that they produce."

Education (3)

George Washington University: Ph.D., Organizational Behavior 1997

The College of William and Mary: MBA 1992

Virginia Wesleyan College: B.A., Management 1990

Affiliations (3)

  • Roundtable of Entrepreneurship Educators of Florida : Board Chair
  • United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship : Member
  • International Council of Small Business & Entrepreneurship : Member

Selected Media Appearances (11)

FGCU dropout returns to school, starts program to motivate at-risk young adults

NBC2  tv


Sandra Kauanui talks about FGCU's School of Entrepreneurship and how it helped a student create a non-profit called Strive Hall.

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

Gulfshore Business  print


Sandra Kauanui talks about her life journey and how she helped create the FGCU Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship.

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Entrepreneurship program helping students create and keep businesses in Southwest Florida

Fox 4  tv


Sandra Kauanui talks about FGCU's new Master's of Entrepreneurship.

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FGCU student makes playing piano easier

ABC7  tv


Sandra Kauanui talks about FGCU's new Master's of Entrepreneurship.

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FGCU celebrates $4 million donation gifted to entrepreneurs

ABC7  tv


Sandra Kauanui talks about the generosity of Brian Rist, a Southwest Florida success story.

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College's new $10M home for entrepreneurs has bright future

Business Observer  print


Sandra Kauanui talks about the opening of Lucas Hall.

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FGCU adds entrepreneurship school on campus

NBC2  tv


Sandra Kauanui talks about the opening of Lucas Hall.

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A life built on entrepreneurship leads to a legacy at FGCU

FGCU360.com  online


Sandra Kauanui talks about her life and legacy.

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University entrepreneur program enters into exchange agreement with Israeli university

Business Observer  print


Sandra Kauanui signs an MOU with Tel Aviv University.

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Teaching by example

Business Observer  print


Sandra Kauanui discusses the creation of FGCU's Institute of Entrepreneurship.

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Newsmaker Q&A with Sandra Kauanui

The News-Press  print


Sandra Kauanui responds to questions about entrepreneurship.

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Selected Event Appearances (3)

A partnership grounded in entrepreneurship

Gov. DeSantis' Business Development Mission to Israel  Tel Aviv, Israel


Catalyzing Deep Change in Regional Communities: Making a Dent in the Universe Together

Sobey School of Business  Halifax, Nova Scotia


The Spiritual Entrepreneur

Indian Institute of Management International Conference  Bangalore, India


Selected Research Grants (1)

Institute for Entrepreneurship: Runway Program & Seed Funding

Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation $200,000


The FGCU Runway Program is a free business incubator that is open to students and alumni. Participants regularly meet with an assigned Runway Program Advisors to receive feedback on ideas and progress, and set achievable goals towards launching their business venture. The Runway Program follows Lean Startup methodologies. Participants identify and validate the existence of a problem or opportunity, and then develop solutions and a plan that they can test with real customers. At the end of the semester-long program, qualified participants have the opportunity to pitch for equity-free seed funding to launch their businesses.

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Businesses (1)

West Financial

Sandra Kauanui founded this company and served as president from 1971-1993.

Selected Articles (8)

Social innovation and poster presentations: Service-learning for business students in a team-based course

Journal of Education for Business

Manegold, J., Schaffer, B., Arseneau, E., Kauanui, S.

2019 This paper describes a course project that delivers the theoretical application of effective team processes through a unique blend of service-learning and social innovation. Through this project, student teams develop collaborative relationships with military veterans who are in the early stages of business development, resulting in both educational and social benefits for the students, veterans, and the surrounding community. The authors describe the design of the course project and partnership with veterans, as well as the interactive poster-presentation forum that showcases the results of these service-learning projects. We discuss relevant supporting theory and conclude with pedagogical recommendations for instructors.

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Entrepreneurship and the General Education Curriculum: Ready or Not?

Global Journal of Entrepreneurship

Arseneau, E.; Schaffer, B.; Randall, C.; & Kauanui, S.

2017 While entrepreneurship is now widely recognized as an essential component to undergraduate business education, it is not often available to students across multiple disciplines. Recognizing the benefits of entrepreneurship, we argue that the course is a natural fit for inclusion in university General Education curricula The purpose of this article is threefold. The first is to review why entrepreneurship programs and coursework can have difficulty gaining acceptance into existing university General Education structures. The second is to explain the process and outline how inclusion of an entrepreneurship course in the General Education curriculum can be facilitated. The third purpose utilizes the sociological theory of structuration (Giddens, 1984) to develop a process model to help business faculty deal with potential sources of resistance. We hope to provide educators with a means for developing strategies for successfully positioning entrepreneurship courses into General Education programs. We conclude our analyses with practical implications, relevant examples and recommendations for moving forward.

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Are you happy yet? Entrepreneurs’ subjective well-being

Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion

Sherman, C. L.; Randall, C.; & Kauanui, S. K.

2016 This study examines the relationship between entrepreneurs’ subjective well-being and flow, productivity, and intrinsically-based success or extrinsically-based success. Subjective well-being and flow have been studied in educational, health, and work environments; however, only recently has the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 examined well-being of entrepreneurs. In entrepreneurs it is particularly important because understanding the relationship between subjective well-being (happiness), and the factors of flow, productivity, and definition of success can influence entrepreneurial decision-making and overall firm performance. A survey of 191 entrepreneurs in Florida and California was used to collect data that was then analyzed using factor analysis, correlation, and regression. Entrepreneurial well-being was shown to increase with the presence of flow, intrinsic definitions of success, and productivity in entrepreneurs. Extrinsic factors that entrepreneurs use to define success, however, were negatively linked to well-being.

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Entrepreneurship and Spirituality: A Comparative Analysis of Entrepreneurs’ Motivation

Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Kauanui, S. K.; Thomas, K. D.; Rubens, A.; & Sherman, C. L.

2010 This article discusses a research study conducted to explore the relationship between entrepreneurs’ values, definitions of success, economic stability, demographic characteristics, and their joy at work through three stated hypotheses. For the study, we used a convenience sample of 280 entrepreneurs who responded to a 17-question survey. Utilizing the respondents’ definition of success, we found two different groups of entrepreneurs: one that was labeled ‘Cash is King’—defining success in relation to financial goals—and another that was labeled ‘Make me Whole’—defining success in relation to their own (Jungian) individuation process. The results of the study showed significant differences between the groups based on their values, behaviors and their experiences of joy at work. However, we found no significant differences between the groups relating to various demographic variables. In addition, there was no difference between the groups based on their economic stability, even though the ‘Cash is King’ group was more financially motivated than the ‘Make me Whole’ group. The study supports previous research in the field of “spirituality and work” and introduces a new model for the entrepreneurship field. The article concludes with implications for future studies to provide a better understanding of the behaviors and values of entrepreneurs based on their definition of success.

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Exploring Entrepreneurship through the Lens of Spirituality

Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion

Kauanui, S. K.; Thomas, K. D.; Sherman, C. L.; Waters, G. R.; & Gilea, M

2008 A two-stage research project utilizing grounded theory was conducted with 134 entrepreneurs to better understand their motivational factors. Utilizing spiritual concepts, researchers were able to discover a deeper understanding of the entrepreneurs. Initially, three distinct modalities of entrepreneurs were identified, which were expanded into five: ‘Make me Whole,’ ‘Soul Seekers,’ ‘Conflicting Goals,’ ‘Mostly Business’, and ‘Strictly Business’. Respondent comments that represent each of these modalities are presented and indicate various levels of dependency or independency on spiritually-oriented attributes.

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Impact of human resource management: SME performance in Vietnam

Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship

King-Kauanui, S.; Ngoc, S. D.; & Ashley-Cotleur, C.

2006 In its transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, Vietnam has achieved remarkable success. During this transition, Vietnam businesses have implemented a number of HRM practices used primarily by companies in Western cultures. This study specifically investigates the impact of three HRM practices: training, performance appraisal systems and incentive pay, on firm performance to determine if results mirror those obtained in the more highly developed economies of the West. A sample of 200 Hanoi manufacturing SMEs was surveyed regarding their practices in these areas. The result provides empirical support that training, performance appraisal and incentive compensation have positive effects on Vietnamese SME performance, with incentive compensation having the greatest impact.

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Entrepreneurship and Spirituality: Integration of Spirituality into the Workplace

Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion

King-Kauanui, Sandra; Kevin D. Thomas; and Gail Ross Waters

2005 This qualitative exploratory study is based on interviews with 35 entrepreneurs on spirituality and work. Specific questions included (1) What visible actions and behaviors do entrepreneurs employ to espouse spirituality in their organizations, especially with employees, suppliers and customers? (2) How do entrepreneurs define spirituality at work? (3) How do entrepreneurs integrate personal spiritual values into their organization's culture? Information from the interviews was organized using Atlas.ti software, resulting in an interesting conceptual framework of spirituality at work. All entrepreneurs who embraced spirituality found a way to integrate it into relationships with their employees, customers and suppliers. Spiritual entrepreneurs appear to make a conscious effort to develop actions and initiatives to bring spirituality to those people and communities with whom they work. Entrepreneurs with religious beliefs were slightly less likely than others to say they bring personal spirituality to the workplace. This paper provides numerous examples of spiritually based behaviors.

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Comparing spirituality on three southern California college campuses

Journal of Organizational Change Management

Bradley, J. & Kauanui, S. K.

2003 Following September 11, 2001, spirituality has become an even more important issue. Research projects have been done to address the need of spirituality in the corporate workplace. The issue of spirituality in the academic workplace is even more vital since it is from within the higher academic institutions that the leaders of tomorrow emerge. Yet, little has been done. This research is an attempt to fulfill this need. This project examined the spirituality of professors and the spiritual culture found in a private secular college, a private Christian college and a state university, all located in southern California. The design of the research was based on the work of Ian Mitroff and Parker Palmer. The results showed that there was a difference in the spiritual culture between these three campuses and that the spirituality of the professors was a reflection of the spiritual culture found on the campuses.

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