As a student in an entrepreneurship class at Columbia Business School, Naomi Stone ’02 was given the option to either work very closely with an existing company or launch her own. Hearing this, Stone turned to the student next to her and asked, surprised: “Why would I want to study someone else’s firm when I could get my own firsthand experience?”
And that’s exactly what she did. Her first business plan, for an energy-harnessing fitness center, got her accepted into the School’s Greenhouse Program, and a company she subsequently launched won a grant from the Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund. While Stone was still in school, she also created the environmental consulting firm where she now serves as CEO — MugenKioku, which helps organizations attain and maintain environmental compliance.
Stone’s commitment to helping companies go green is what ultimately led her to business school. After earning a BS in environmental engineering from MIT and working as an environmental consultant, she found that she needed to expand her skill set. “To communicate with the key stakeholders in companies — the financial managers and CEOs — I had to learn how to speak their language,” Stone says.
Today, MugenKioku is thriving, in part through Stone’s Columbia connection. “I stay in touch with many fellow entrepreneurs from Columbia, and we’re all constantly bouncing ideas off of each other,” she says. ”In my business, networking is key.”