Raquel Vargas Palmer, 38, partner, KPS Capital Partners
Résumé: As a teen, Palmer passed up a full college scholarship in Texas for Stanford, working 40-hour weeks in campus jobs on top of classes to pay her tuition. In 1993, her senior year, she dazzled recruiters with her work ethic, snagging a New York City investment-banking job. Now the sole female partner at private equity firm KPS regularly works on equity investments of $50 to $200 million.
Background Check: "In college, I read a sales and trading book for a political-science course. I couldn't put it down! My classmates made fun of me, but that book piqued my interest in the world economy."
Big Break: "In 1997, I got a stake in KPS' first investment fund, signaling I was a real part of the business. And in 2009, I led a deal to create North America's third-largest brewery. I'm now its chairman."
Splurge Alert: "I love shoes, especially Jimmy Choos and Christian Louboutins. I also have a pair of steel-toed boots! I travel to industrial plants a lot, and they never have safety boots in a women's 6, so I bought some for $100 on zappos.com."