HANNAH LOFTHUS | Ewing Marion Kauffman School

Relentless. Tireless. Innovative. Those are the words people use to describe Hannah Lofthus, the 27-year-old principal of the Ewing Marion Kauffman School in Kansas City. She’s not just the school’s founding principal; she was responsible for developing curriculum, instructional design and performance-management systems before the launch of the charter school, which just wrapped up its first academic year. “Our school was created with the intention of seeding the community with college graduates” whose knowledge would stay in Kansas City and improve it, she said. Within five years, the school that debuted with 100 fifth-graders will boast nearly 1,200 students whose collegiate prospects would likely be far different were they left to the uncertainties of the urban core’s traditional public schools. The Kauffman School, in fact, was created as a proof point of the belief that all students are capable of meeting high academic expectations in the right academic environment. That’s why Lofthus says she is deeply committed “to seek solutions to bridge the academic achievement gap that stunt the potential of so many of Kansas City’s children.”

RODRIGO NERI | myHomework

Like a lot of young entrepreneurs, Rodrigo Neri got his business going on the side. A software engineer by day for Cerner Corp., he co-founded a company called Instin in April 2011. That yielded myHomework, an application to track school classes, homework assignments and tests to help keep students and parents organized. Any parent who’s gone through the Monday-morning “I have a paper due at school today,” discussion will see the utility of that and consider the $1.99 cost a bargain. So far, more than 2 million free downloads and 25,000 paying customers have signed on. Next up, Neri says, is a product that will help teachers increase their productivity. Instin has generated sufficient income for him to quit the day job; where can it go from here? “In a fast world,” says the 25-year-old native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, “a lot can happen in five years. I hope by then, Instin is well-known and has improved the education of the world through the innovation in technology.”

JAKE REID | Sporting Kansas City

Here’s just one metric that demonstrates Jake Reid’s effectiveness: The vice president of sales for Sporting Kansas City, the area’s professional soccer club, oversees sales teams that produced a total sellout of all premium inventory and a 300 percent increase in season ticket sales from 2010 to 2011. How? By building a work-hard, play-hard culture, his supervisors at Sporting KC tell us. “He is that rare young executive who is driven, humble, spooky-smart and revenue-focused,” says Greg Cotton, chief operating officer for the organization. Under Reid’s supervision, the sales force earned Major League Soccer’s year-end awards for excellence with not only its performance in season ticket sales at Livestrong Sporting Park, but for season-ticket-holder retention, as well. The stadium, which seats 18,500, saw 11 sellout crowds last year during its inaugural season, with average attendance up more than 8,000 for the year.

JUSTIN SMITH | Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Don’t be fooled: Behind the paperboy-down-the-block countenance of Justin Smith is swirling vortex of energy, drive and achievement. Just 26, this associate for the region’s largest law firm has the kind of resume that inspires tears of joy in paper salesmen: He’s done trial support and preparation for environmental and toxic tort litigation, negotiated consent decrees with federal and state regulators, conducted site evaluations for compliance review—definitely not slacker material. This, atop an academic record that included magna cum laude performance at the University of Missouri School of Law [graduating second in his class of 144 students]; authorship of legal publication articles; internships in federal court, the Missouri House of Representatives, county prosecutor’s office and his future employer; honorary membership in both the Harry Truman Appreciation Society as well as past chairman of the Missouri College Republicans; and volunteer efforts for 60 political campaigns [managing a school board and mayoral race to victories by the age of 18]. Of his chosen field, he says, it’s important for businesses to understand evolving regulation, for doing so “protects jobs and the environment.”