As a child, Mona Anita’s family moved frequently. When she was in second grade, Mona Anita moved to Tokyo, Japan. Separated from family at school and unable to speak Japanese, she felt increasingly lonely and sad. Wanting to change Mona Anita’s focus from what was happening to her, and how she felt to how other people felt, and how she could help them, Mona Anita’s mother began including a daily handwritten note in her lunchbox with the message to “Make A Difference,” often shortened to “Have a M.A.D. day!” At first Mona Anita didn’t understand what her mother meant, but as she got older she began to recognize her power, the power everyone has, to “Make a Difference.”
This idea carried through Mona Anita’s time at Cornell University. Mona Anita had mentors who took time to ensure that she was developing as a person and student, supplementing classroom education. Their support and encouragement gave her the confidence and skills for a bright professional future.
After graduating, Mona Anita worked a series of hospitality jobs. One of her frequent responsibilities was to manage the interns. She encouraged interns to learn, but employers were more intent on using internships as a vetting tool for job placement. It forced Mona Anita to think about how she could change the paradigm of professional education.
One day, a friend brought her a sign that read ‘Make a Difference.’ Mona Anita loved it. She immediately wanted to display the sign at work but her employer said it was against company policy. Mona Anita resolved to never again work at a place she could not hang her sign, a place where the primary goal was to make anything other than a difference, and began to plan for what would become iMADdu.
In 2010, Mona Anita had the opportunity to live up to her mother’s challenge, in a way that could grow past her own capability to make a difference and enable others to make a difference, when she founded iMADdu.