For Christina Tosi, baking wasn't just a delicious childhood hobby—it was a daily creative outlet and a way to blow off steam. After college, she went to culinary school and honed her pastry technique at high-end restaurants in NYC. But she also craved the opportunity to make unfussy, nostalgic desserts like the ones she grew up eating. So in 2008, Christina opened her first Milk Bar bakery in the East Village, with the help of her mentor, Momofuku chef David Chang. Soon, people from around the country were calling her up, begging for her gooey pies, confetti birthday cakes, and pretzel-potato-chip cookies. Today, Milk Bar has spread to 15 locations, and reportedly brings in tens of millions of dollars a year. This show was recorded live at The Town Hall in New York City.
Title Nine: Missy Park
As an avid athlete and college basketball player, Missy Park was lucky to grow up during the early era of Title IX, the 1972 law that created new opportunities for young women to play sports. But in the years before Lululemon and Athleta, activewear for women was either ill-fitting or non-existent. So in 1989—with little experience in apparel or retail—Missy decided to launch a female version of Nike. She sent out a mail order catalog of running shorts, tights, and (at the last minute) sports bras; naming her company for the law that had opened doors for her to compete: Title Nine. Over the years, the company kept "hitting singles," eventually growing into a $100 million dollar business without ever taking outside investment. Today, Missy remains the sole owner.
Moderna and Flagship Pioneering: Noubar Afeyan
In the field of bio-tech, it can take 10 years and millions of dollars to see if an experimental idea might turn into a life-saving treatment—if it ever does. Noubar Afeyan fully understood those risks when he co-founded Moderna in 2010. He and his colleagues were looking for a way to deploy the messenger RNA molecule to tackle life-threatening diseases. In January of 2020, an urgent opportunity presented itself in the form of a deadly virus that was spreading across the globe. At a breathtaking pace, Moderna produced a prototype for a COVID-19 vaccine, partnered with the NIH to test it, and produced millions of doses, becoming part of the most rapid vaccine roll-out in human history. While Moderna is the best known of Noubar's companies, he has launched many others in the bio-tech space as part of Flagship Pioneering, his multi-billion dollar venture studio.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: Fawn Weaver
While traveling abroad with her husband in 2016, Fawn Weaver became fixated on a New York Times article telling the little-known story of Nearest Green, a formerly enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel—yes, that Jack Daniel—how to make Tennessee whiskey. After diving deeper into the story, Fawn ended up purchasing the 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee where Nearest had taught Jack how to distill; and she began meeting the descendants of both men. She initially thought of honoring Nearest's story with a book or movie, but decided the best way to preserve his legacy was with a bottle of the best Tennessee whiskey she could make. With no background in distilling, she threw herself into the insular world of spirit-making, an industry mostly dominated by white men and a few major corporations. In the five years since Fawn first discovered his story, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has become one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the world, and one of the most awarded American whiskeys.
KAYAK: Paul English
Paul English is a perpetual founder. Since high school, he's started 3 philanthropies and 8 companies—ranging from e-commerce, to gaming, to GetHuman, a site that helps users access human customer support. His best-known venture is probably KAYAK, a travel website launched in 2004 over two gin-and-tonics with co-founder Steve Hafner. Using a simple interface, KAYAK specialized in search; and it made partners out of potential rivals like Orbitz and Expedia by charging them a fee to send users to their sites. Eventually KAYAK became one of the most-searched "K" words on Google, and in 2012, it sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion. A few years later, Paul started yet another company, Lola.com—and says he plans to launch many more.