AACSB International (AACSB), the global accrediting body and membership association for business schools, has announced that an alumna of Florida International University (FIU) College of Business has been recognized as one of the first 100 AACSB Influential Leaders. Monique Hamaty-Simmonds (BBA ’96), entrepreneur and founder of Tortuga Imports, Inc., is among the group of AACSB influential leaders from more than 20 industry sectors, from consumer products to healthcare to nonprofits, across 20 countries.
Tortuga Imports, Inc. has been on INC Magazine’s list of fastest growing private businesses in U.S. for four consecutive years. Jamaican-born Hamaty-Simmonds is responsible for the worldwide distribution, sales and marketing for the family’s generations-old secret recipe rum cake.
Under her leadership, the company opened new markets and developed its international business. Today, Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cakes is the No. 1 export of the Cayman Islands and has been named Best Cruise Souvenir for the fifteen consecutive years by Porthole Cruise magazine.
“It is my honor to recognize Monique Hamaty-Simmonds for her contributions as an Influential Leader, and to thank Florida International University for its dedication to providing a business education environment based on engagement, innovation, and impact,” said Thomas R. Robinson, president and chief executive officer of AACSB International. “AACSB is honored to celebrate Monique and the collective 100 Influential Leaders as a representation of how business school alumni have positively influenced society, as well as the management education industry’s, past, present and promising future.”
Founded in 1916, AACSB is an association of more than 1,450 educational institutions, businesses and other organizations in 89 countries and territories. The inaugural class of 100 Influential Leaders is marking the 100 anniversary of the association.
“I am deeply appreciative of the recognition of the AACSB and honored to be among such a prestigious group,” said Hamaty-Simmonds.
“We congratulate Monique on this distinction,” said Jose M. Aldrich, acting dean of FIU’s College of Business. “As we continue to educate and empower entrepreneurs through our business programs, Monique serves as an outstanding example of the heights to which a graduate can soar.”
The FIU influence on this entrepreneur is substantial.
When Hamaty-Simmonds came to the College of Business at FIU as a young woman, she had already participated in her family’s small retail business of selling rum cakes based on her mother’s secret recipe. She was operating the company’s mail order operation using a Fax machine in her grandparent’s garage.
“My education at FIU in the entrepreneurship program drove me to discover the possibilities for this company,” she said. “I started to realize what Tortuga Rum Cakes could become.”
Hamaty-Simmonds pointed out that even having an entrepreneurship program at a university was unusual in the early 1990s.
“Nobody in education was thinking much about the small business person and how to turn an idea into a success, but the leaders at FIU had the vision,” she said. “I learned everything from business plans to marketing skills at FIU. My instructor, Martin Luytjes, was phenomenally important to my success. So many of the business skills I use today were acquired during my FIU education.”
With her new degree, Hamaty-Simmonds was ready to take her family business to worldwide success. In 1997 — the year after she was graduated — she opened Tortuga Imports/Tortuga Rum Cake Company in Miami, Florida, to handle worldwide distribution, mail order and online sales. Under Hamaty-Simmonds’ leadership, including her many years as president and CEO, Tortuga products began to be sold in gift and specialty food departments and gourmet stores throughout the Caribbean and North America, in onboard gift shops of nearly 100 cruise ships, and shipped to 70 countries around the world.
Hamaty-Simmonds has been an active alumna of FIU and the university has recognized her many achievements. In 2011 she was named to the College of Business Hall of Fame and she received the Charles E. Perry Young Alumni Visionary award from the FIU Alumni Association.