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."
Loren Brill, 28, founder and CEO, Sweet Loren's
Résumé: Three months out of college, Brill was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma. Facing six months of chemo, she moved home to New York City and plunged into baking, a lifelong hobby. Word of mouth about her creations took off, and in 2011, Brill, now healthy, launched Sweet Loren's, a line of all-natural, preservative-free cookie doughs and brownie batters.
Path to the Top: "I've always had a sweet tooth, but when I got sick, I realized that the ingredients in my favorite baked-goods recipes — refined sugar, white flour, and butter — spiked my blood sugar without providing nutrition. So I took classes at Manhattan's Natural Gourmet Institute and incorporated unrefined sugar, whole grain flours, and coconut oil. The new cookies were satisfying, so I didn't have to eat five of them to keep the sugar rush going."
Defining Moment: "In 2009, I won the Lower East Side Girls Club charity baking contest. One of the judges, the pastry chef at Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo, convinced me I was on to something. Next thing I knew, I was scouting production facilities and spending $20,000 of my savings on sourcing ingredients."
Dough Patrol: "Sweet Loren's cookies are lower glycemic than a conventional cookie, but they're not made of kale! So I do a lot of yoga, and during major taste testing, I run around the [New York City Central Park] reservoir twice a day."
Lanita Cullinane, 38, detective, Boston Police Department
Résumé: Since Cullinane hit the streets of Mattapan — one of Boston's most dangerous neighborhoods — as a rookie officer, she's become one of only 44 female detectives in the entire Boston police force, where she's worked in the Crimes Against Children, Human Trafficking, and Domestic Violence units. In 2011, she received a prestigious public-service award, in part for encouraging a 17-year-old sexual abuse survivor to return to school.
Path to the Top: "My senior year in college, I did an internship with the Boston Police Department, and my supervisors talked me into taking the entrance exam for the police academy. Six months before graduating from Northeastern, I found out I'd gotten in. My mother was scared I'd be in danger, but I loved the allure of it — going out there and locking up criminals."
Defining Moment: "Getting promoted to detective in 2006 was a big deal because I'd have more latitude to be involved in cases from beginning to end. Now I stay in touch with victims long after the court case is over. "
Brave Heart: "This is a violent job — I've been dragged down the street, punched in the face, and cut my arm breaking into a car through a window. But I never cried at work until 2009, when I interviewed a 12-year-old girl who got pregnant after a sexual assault by her father. I wasn't sure if I could stomach seeing these things all day. But it made me more committed. I like to be the voice for the groups who don't have a voice for themselves."