Class Acts: Alivia Kaplan

Olin student launched consulting company to support other students during pandemic

Alivia Kaplan
Alivia Kaplan, who is set to graduate in May from Olin Business School, founded Kuleana Consulting, a global consultancy that connects students with businesses across the globe. (Photo: Jerry Naunheim Jr./Washington University)

Alivia Kaplan has a worldview that sets her apart from most. Growing up, her family moved 19 times, exposing her to different cultures early on.

“I think moving definitely made me very adaptable,” said Kaplan, who expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in economics and strategy from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. “When moving is sort of the expectation, you get very used to adapting quickly to whatever environment you’re in.”

She also has a connection to St. Louis. It is her father’s hometown, and her grandmother is a WashU alumna. Kaplan learned about Olin’s offerings through a high school counselor.

Kaplan’s adaptability allows her to work with people all around the world with her global consulting company, Kuleana Consulting. She founded the company in June 2020, after serving as program manager for the small business task force at Olin.

During that time, she watched several students lose internships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, she created her company to connect students with businesses and nonprofits across the globe.

“It was a really global experience, because I wanted to make it something where people could work with others from different cultures,” Kaplan said. “I think that’s something you don’t get a lot of in college unless you go out of your way to find it.”

She credits one of her mentors, Glenn MacDonald, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy, for creating opportunities for her to learn about consulting.

“Alivia is an exceptional graduate who has developed significant business skill and instinct, as well as a remarkable ability to organize and get things done; Kuleana is but one of a set of related success stories,” MacDonald said. “She is levelheaded and straightforward, seeks to learn from everything she touches, and is a genuinely kind and caring person. Working with her has been energizing and an inspiring learning experience.”

Her focus on social impact began in her early high school years. Kaplan’s mom took her to Mexico City, where her good friend’s mom runs a children’s school in the midst of an intense environment. Many of the children are seeking to escape the cycle of poverty.

“From that point on, I was always really passionate about impacting people’s lives, so I started a nonprofit in high school to bring more of that into my own community.”

Kaplan is now focused on creating a fellowship program to bring businesses and policymakers together to address the future of sustainability. After graduation, she plans to work as an assistant to the CEO at a real estate private equity company in Los Angeles. Ultimately, she wants to start more companies in the real estate and social impact investing spaces.

Her success may be attributed to the fact that she approaches life with the thought that she should never be the smartest person in the room.

“I think what’s really defined my experience at WashU and elsewhere is just how much the mentors that I have in my life have been a resource and shaped my journey,” she said. “Being open to learning is the biggest reason I’ve been able to grow.”

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