From drones to metal alloys to snack foods—that covers the range of innovation coming from Fortune’s newly anointed Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs. Each year, Fortune crowns 10 innovators, groundbreakers and game changers as MPW Entrepreneurs. Created in 2009, the program honors extraordinary female founders, including, in past years, LearnVest’s Alexa Von Tobel (who went on to join the Fortune 40 Under 40 list), DwellStudio’s Christiane Lemieux and Jessica Alba of The Honest Company.
The 10 winners share a knack for spotting unfulfilled needs and a will to succeed. The 2015 MPWEs will be honored at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Conference in Washington, D.C. October 12-14. Here they are:
Brit Morin, founder and CEO, Brit + Co.
Morin worked in the tech industry—first at Apple, then at Google—for several years before deciding to take a few months off to plan a wedding and start a health tech company with a friend. It was during that break that she discovered her true passions: DIY projects and helping people connect with their creativity. Morin decided to start Brit + Co, a DIY how-to site and e-commerce platform—with some brick and mortar mixed in. Morin’s San Francisco headquarters is a shop where customers can work on projects, take classes and purchase goods created by other "makers." " I truly feel like it's my life's calling to help people rediscover their creative confid ence," Morin says.
Jody Miller, co-founder and CEO, Business Talent Group.
Miller founded the Business Talent Group in 2007 after co-writing a Fortune cover story called "Get a Life!," which struck a nerve by calling for a re-imagination of the 24/7 executive. Her company provides a marketplace for 4,000 independent consultants who want to work outside of traditional consulting structures, selling their services to companies on a project-by-project basis. Unlike people who bemoan the rise of the freelance economy, Miller sees project-based work as an opportunity for skilled talent to take charge of their work-life balance.
Payal Kadakia, CEO and co-founder, ClassPass
ClassPass is only two years old, but it has already booked more than 7 million fitness class reservations at gyms and studios across the U.S., plus Canada and the UK. In exchange for a monthly fee, the startup gives customers access to thousands of boutique fitness classes in their area. Kadakia says she started the company after trying and failing to find a ballet class in New York City that she could attend. " In that moment, I realized the pain point that most people must experience in staying connected to their hobbies and passions," she says. She was right: Her idea tapped into a fitness craze.
Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder and head of user experience, CloudFlare
More than 5% of the world's web traffic flows through the network of CloudFlare, a service that speeds up websites and gives them enhanced protection from cyber attacks. Websites on the CloudFlare network, on average, load twice as fast and use 60% less bandwidth than those that are now. Zatlyn says that 5,000 new customers sign up for the service, which is valued at $1 billion, every day.
Helen Greiner, CEO, CyPhy Works, Inc.
In 1990, Greiner founded iRobot, the company that bought the world the Roomba vacuum-cleaning robot. She later pivoted the company toward serving the military, delivering thousands of PackBot robots that detect and dispose of explosives, among other uses, to U.S. troops. Greiner's newest company, CyPhy Works, also straddles the military and commercial worlds with robotics, creating drones for uses including photography, inspection and reconnaissance. She is now concentrating on aerial robotics, hoping to "transform how people save lives, perform often dangerous work and enjoy their leisure time," she says
Nanxi Liu, CEO and co-founder, Enplug
Liu started her first company, Nanoly Bioscience—which develops and sells polymers that allow vaccines to be stored without refrigeration—while still a senior at UC Berkeley. Then, she got the itch to create something totally different: a new operating system for digital displays in public spaces. Nanxi founded Enplug three years ago to help businesses like stadiums, malls, stores and hotels distribute and manage content across display screens. Now the 25-year-old entrepreneur's service is being used in countries such as Nigeria and Slovakia, as well as in the U.S.
Jessica Billingsley, co-founder, COO, MJ Freeway
Billingsley saw a need for a software platform for business operation in the cannabis industry after investing in one of Boulder, Colo.'s first dispensaries. Joining forces with Amy Poinsett, who owned a local web development firm, she decided to fill that niche herself, creating MJ Freeway. "We were the first cannabis-specific software company to enter the market, and we did so believing that when properly regulated and tracked, the opening of cannabis to free trade is good for the economy and the right thing for people who need medical access to cannabis," Billingsley says. The software platform includes tracking and reporting systems that help businesses account for products at every stage of production and sales.
Christina Lomasney, president and CEO, Modumetal, Inc.
Metal that is lighter and stronger than steel and more durable than chrome: that's the product that Lomasney's company is creating, and she believes it will revolutionize multiple industries. Modumetal has devised a process to manufacture nanolaminated metal alloys on a massive scale, attracting backing from the likes of ConocoPhillips, BP Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures. Previously, Lomasney studied and worked in the field of nuclear decontamination, participating in decontamination efforts in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Kristy Lewis, founder and CEO, Quinn Foods
Lewis founded Quinn Foods to reinvent a popular American snack: popcorn. Existing popcorn bags are coated in chemicals and plastic, both of which touch the popcorn kernels as they heat in the microwave. But Lewis's popcorn bags are free of synthetic chemicals and plastics and are fully compostable. Plus, there are no hydrogenated oils, and the corn kernels are organic. The idea was so delicious that Whole Foods backed it, and the popcorn is sold in many Whole Foods stores.
Jessica O. Matthews, founder and CEO, Uncharted Play
Matthews came up with the idea to harness play time to create energy during her junior year at Harvard, when she participated in a class project to create clean energy from soccer. Uncharted Play currently offers two products, a soccer ball and a jump rope—both of which harvest energy while in use. One hour of kicking around the soccer ball can power a light for three hours. With each purchase of one of the products, Unchartered Play donates an energy-harnessing toy to a child in the developing world.