Monique Péan, 31, founder, Monique Péan
Résumé: An overachiever with an Ivy League degree and finance job, Péan never questioned her life trajectory until 2005, when her 16-year-old sister died in a car accident. Craving a change, Péan blew her life savings on precious gems and launched an eponymous line of fine jewelry featuring eco-friendly materials. Today, she sells her modern designs in 35 stores worldwide — and Michelle Obama is a fan.
Path to the Top: "When I was growing up, my father brought us to countries from Brazil to Mali to Egypt for his work in international development. My mother, a painter, always introduced us to local artisans, and I never lost interest in the arts."
Defining Moment: "A buyer at a boutique liked a scarf neck-lace I'd made for fun, and ordered several hundred of them. I cranked them out so fast, my fingers were bleeding!"
Statement Piece: "My signature ring — a piece of fossilized woolly mammoth or walrus ivory surrounded by conflict- and devastation-free pavé diamonds set in recycled gold — is our top seller. They're all different, with painterly designs that have been infused into the fossils over thousands of years."
Lara Setrakian, 30, correspondent, ABC News
Résumé: Dubai-based Armenian-American newshound, Setrakian, is hauling ABC into the 21st century with her old-school reporting chops (tagging along with a U.S. Navy pirate patrol to score an early interview with the new Somalian president) and modern take on breaking news (live-tweeting the Iranian elections and Arab Spring riots).
Path to the Top: "I interned at Good Morning America in college. [Then-coanchor] Diane Sawyer always wanted story ideas, so I pitched a segment on prescription drug abuse on college campuses. When my story ran and I was credited as the producer, I'd proved I had something to offer."
Defining Moment: "I reported from Dubai during the Iranian elections in 2009. On June 13, the day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 'won,' the major networks left the country, but huge protests and riots were just starting. My Twitter feed was exploding with descriptions of the chaos. I retweeted like crazy, so I became a pipeline of information. My followers jumped from 2,000 to 10,000 overnight — now I have 84,000."
Frequent Flier: "Sometimes I take a 12-hour flight only to be on the ground for a day. I survive by never drinking alcohol on the plane, carrying almonds and dried fruit, and bringing eyeshades to sleep. I pack superlight, but I always bring my lucky Tory Burch military jacket. It makes me feel like a 'news soldier.'"
Jennifer Medbery, 28, founder, Kickboard
Résumé: Medbery is phasing out the classic school grade book; Kickboard's software captures and analyzes students' academic progress, skills, and weaknesses. This fall, 150 schools in 15 states will adopt the technology.
Path to the Top: "My senior year at Columbia, where I majored in computer science, I was recruited for Teach for America. I'd wanted to do software development in Silicon Valley, but I decided teaching would help me learn about management and goal-setting. Those skills were crucial when I founded Kickboard."
Defining Moment: "In 2009, I was working at a high school in New Orleans, but I didn't have a way of tracking students' grades, learning habits, behavior, and family contacts, so I sat at my computer and built Kickboard that summer. Colleagues loved it, and within months, I'd scored seed funding. We've raised more than $850,000 to date."
Learning Curve: "The guys in my college computer science classes always showed off in lectures. But when we did problem sets in the lab, they struggled. The lightbulb went off: Even though the guys acted tough, they ran into bugs, crashes, and glitches, too. That gave me confidence."