6 Coke Scholars Named Top Entrepreneurs in Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Each year, Forbes announces its 30 Under 30 list, naming 30 innovators in 20 different fields. Each honoree is distinguished as one of the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators, and game changers in the country.

Forbes named 6 Coca-Cola Scholar honorees – here’s how they’re positively impacting the world as leaders in their field.

The content below was originally posted on Forbes.com or on the honoree’s websites.

Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes

2008 Coca-Cola Scholar

Co-founder of Black Mountain Metals

“I wasn’t groomed to be an international mining executive,” says Ashley-Zumwalt-Forbes, 29. Growing up in Choctaw, Oklahoma, she thought becoming a doctor or lawyer might punch her ticket out of her small town life. Then the shale fracking boom took hold, and she opted for the Black Gold game, studying petroleum engineering. After a stint at ExxonMobil, she found that being a worker bee wasn’t enough.

After earning an MBA from Harvard, Zumwalt-Forbes joined natural resource firm Black Mountain. Within four months she pounced on an opportunity to get in on the battery boom and founded Black Mountain Metals. So far she’s raised $75 million to mine for high-tech ingredients like cobalt, nickel and copper. So far so good, as nickel prices are at cyclical highs and electric vehicles catching on.

“My number one hurdle launching Black Mountain Metals was overcoming imposter syndrome,” says Zumwalt-Forbes. “But I know I’ve earned my seat at the table.”

Connie Liu

2011 Coca-Cola Scholar

Founder of Project Invent

Through her nonprofit Project Invent, the MIT graduate is making high schoolers get creative with the lessons they’re learning. Liu’s method: Have teams of students work with community stakeholders to develop physical technology products, like an autonomous caddy that accompanies wheelchair-users while shopping. Teams come from 30 schools and have won over $20,000 from sponsors like SXSW and AT&T.

Project Invent started out of a frustration with an education system that prioritizes high test scores rather than real-world problem-solving. We set out to change schools from the ground up. They train teachers to be champions of deeper learning within their schools and bring students life-changing learning experiences that empower them to make the difference they want to see in the world.

Connie is a mechanical engineer from MIT and former teacher. She is also an inventor herself, creating assistive technologies to empower those with disabilities. 

Joe English

2013 Coca-Cola Scholar

Founder of Hope in a Box

A former Yale University student body president who grew up in a small town in upstate New York, Joe English started nonprofit Hope in a Box in 2018 and has collaborated with 25 rural public school districts to make 7th- to 12th-grade classrooms more LGBT-inclusive, providing curriculum, donating literature and coaching educators on themes and terminology. With more districts on the waitlist, he projects a roster of 300 to 500 schools in all 50 states by the end of 2020. Fellow 2013 Coke Scholar Joe Bervell is the Director of Development for Hope in a Box.

Joe currently works for McKinsey & Company, the management consultancy, focusing primarily in the Public and Social Sector Practices. Previously, he worked for Generation.org, the global education nonprofit. He is a graduate of Yale University, where he was elected student body president, conducted research on mental health among LGBTQ undergraduates, and worked for the Clinton Foundation. Joe has written on education policy for Politico, The Advocate, and Education Week, and he is the recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Vy Tran

2009 Coca-Cola Scholar

Founder of Wonder Hoodie

For Vy Tran, Wonder Hoodie is personal. After her neighbor was shot to death walking home, 26-year-old Tran quit a well-paid management job and poured her savings into a startup in 2018 that designs and manufactures bulletproof hoodies to keep people safer in their communities. “I don’t want anyone to have to need my product but if it’s what they need to feel safe I’d like to help them do that.” Sales topped $500,000 in the first 11 months and should reach $4 million this year as she shakes up the body armor market, offering better head protection and modern fashion.

Paul Gu

2009 Coca-Cola Scholar

Co-founder of Upstart

In 2012, Paul Gu cofounded Upstart, an online lender that helps people refinance credit card debt. He leads the 20-person data science team, which uses machine learning and unconventional data (like your college major) to assess borrower risk. Upstart’s model approves 27% more applicants than the traditional model, and yields 16% lower average APRs for approved loans,” according to a CFPB study.

Paul pioneered Upstart’s statistical models to predict income and employment. He has a background in quantitative finance and built his first algorithmic trading strategies on the Interactive Brokers API at the age of 20 (achieving a Sharpe of 2.03) and previously worked in risk analysis at the D.E. Shaw Group. During college, Paul led underwriting for two nonprofit microlenders in the U.S. He has been recognized as one of Peter Thiel’s 20 under 20 Fellows and Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 under 40. Paul studied economics and computer science at Yale University.

Nadya Okamoto

2016 Coca-Cola Scholar

Founder of PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement.

An entrepreneur, activist, and current Harvard student, at age 16, Okamoto founded PERIOD, the largest youth-run women’s health NGO. The nonprofit works to end the so-called “tampon tax” and curtail menstruation-related poverty and stigma. Since 2014, they have addressed over 800,000 periods and registered over 500 campus chapters. She recently published her first book, ‘Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement.’

A 21-years-old Harvard student on a leave of absence, Nadya has become the Chief Brand Officer of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in NYC. She was named to InStyle Magazine’s “The Badass 50: Meet the Women Who Are Changing the World” list, along with Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  

A special mention:  Michael Tubbs (2008), the youngest-ever and first African-American Mayor of Stockton, CA, was a judge for the Law & Policy category. A Stanford graduate and a proponent of universal basic income, he first held elected office in 2013 when he became a member of the Stockton City Council at age 22.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation celebrates and empowers visionary leaders who are refreshing the world. With its 31st class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has provided more than $70 million in scholarships to over 6,300 program alumni who together have become a powerful force for positive change.