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Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui

founder and principal

Cheryl searched and founded the leader project as a place in the middle of both western and indigenous ways of leading.

Her ancestors were also restless spirits who moved often, finding their way to Hawai‘i, China, Europe, and North America. Her father was a mapmaker for National Geographic Society who shares a love of learning and exploration with her. Her mother worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and encouraged the start of her first "business", Peachwood Playschool, at the age of 15. From these origins, Cheryl learned to navigate as a business woman between Western and Hawaiian, for profit and non profit, and corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.

Born on the East Coast of America, Cheryl settled in Hawai‘i to start college and a diverse career. She studied International Business at the University of Hawai‘i and McGill University in Montreal. Her Masters in Business Administration is from Tulane University.

Prior to The Leader Project, she worked for one of Hawaiʻi’s 20 largest corporations in business development, ran her own restaurant that promoted sustainable local agriculture, and consulted native-led entrepreneurs. Then at the age of 35, Cheryl became the youngest Chief Executive Officer and the first of Native Hawaiian descent ever to be appointed at the YWCA of O`ahu. She was honored by Hawaiʻi Business Magazine in 2007 as one of “25 People Who Will Shape the Next 25 years.”

Cheryl loves learning and even though in 2nd grade her dream of becoming a teacher was discouraged, she recently served four years on the Hawai‘i State Board of Education to which she was appointed by the Governor in 2011.  In addition, Cheryl continues her studies of hula with Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima as well as her study of the Hawaiian language.

Cheryl’s work in leadership stems from programs with the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute, the Institute for Women’s Leadership, Leadership Works, Gallup Leadership Institute, Harvard Business School, Pacific Century Fellows, and the Native Hawaiian Leadership Academy.

Though she enjoys travelling the world on-line or on-land with her husband, Boots, she is happiest curled up on their big couch in their little house on their tiny island home in the middle of the Ocean.