- Anna Stork, 30
In early 2010, during her second year in architecture school at Columbia University, Anna Stork was having trouble focusing on her thesis. A catastrophic 7.0 earthquake had just struck Haiti, and she couldn't get her mind off it. She wanted to help. A few months after teaming up with classmate Andrea Sreshta, the two had scraped together recycled materials and purchased some electrical components from Amazon.com and Radio Shack. They hand-prototyped an inflatable lantern. The following year they filed for patents of their inventions--and with that, set up a company called LuminAid. The product is a rechargeable solar-powered LED lantern that inflates like a balloon, and collapses to become thinner than a deck of cards. The lanterns are made of non-toxic waterproof plastic, and they float. To mountain climbers, it's a handy piece of cool gear (the Packlight 16, which retails for $24.95, can provide 30 hours of continuous light after a seven-hour charge). But to first-responders and victims of natural disasters, it's a lifesaver. More than 50,000 LuminAid lanterns have been deployed across 70 countries, to refugees and in areas affected by such catastrophic events as 2012's Hurricane Sandy, 2013's Typhoon Haiyan, and the Nepalese earthquakes of 2015. The business backing this social mission is strong: It anticipates more than $5 million in sales this year.
Note: All data as of 1/31/16