Name: Carol Watson
Hometown: Ft. Washington, Maryland
Project Idea: TheBankOutlet.com, an online tool to help unbanked and underbanked populations make informed financial decisions and facilitate their access to needed financial services
Sound bite: "Americans spend about $13 billion per year on alternative financial transactions. Instead of using traditional financial service institutions, significant numbers of people with low- to-moderate incomes are relying on places like check cashing stores. My intention is to implement strategies that will help these individuals access traditional financial services that are responsive to their needs."
Name: Cary Weatherby
Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
Project Idea: Companies to Classrooms, a nonprofit that acquires surplus supplies from businesses and offers them free of charge to teachers and students in need
Sound bite: "This idea came about when I salvaged a huge box of alphabet stickers that was headed to the dumpster, castoffs from a local business that had changed filing systems. I delivered them to a grateful kindergarten teacher who had exhausted her small budget for supplies. I got to thinking, 'There's probably more of this stuff out there.'"
Name: Lea Webb
Hometown: Binghamton, New York
Project Idea: To establish a grocery store in her underserved neighborhood
Sound bite: "Residents in my neighborhood have to take a cab or bus to get to a grocery store. Many are elderly or disabled, have large families, or are on a limited income. What happens quite frankly is they end up going to the drug store to buy food. This is happening not just here, but across the board in low-to-moderate income communities."
Name: Molly Wickwire-Sante
Hometown: Telluride, Colorado
Project Idea: Mother-to-Mother, a program that pairs mothers in Telluride, Colorado, with mothers in need around the world, providing them with basic healthcare tools, information, and support
Sound bite: "I really gained new perspective at Women Rule! I have always been afraid of failure, seeing it as an embarrassment. I am so grateful for all the speakers at the event who described their 'failures' and showed how they were really just events that propelled them in a new direction toward ultimate success. I can truly say I am not afraid to fail anymore."
Name: Diane Williams
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia
Project Idea: FunGineering, a nonprofit providing engineering programs to minority and low-income kids in grades K-8
Sound bite: "As a child my vision was very poor, and I hid it for a long time. When I finally put on my first pair of eyeglasses, I remember the 'wow' of looking at things in fine detail; it changed my perception of the world around me. I want to provide the same type of 'wow' to as many children as possible when they learn something new about engineering."
Name: Erica Williams
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Project Idea: The Opinion Development Project, an online media space for a new generation of diverse opinion leaders in the Washington, D.C., metro area
Sound bite: "My inspiration for this project continues to be Bill O'Reilly! My venom for his views is paired with an admiration for his confidence and the sense that America would be such a better place if I and the marginalized people of my community were empowered to share our opinions with the same amount of space, power, and influence."
Name: Rahama Wright
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Project Idea: Shea Yeleen International, Inc., a nonprofit organization working to develop and support women shea butter producers in rural West Africa
Sound bite: "I came to America from Africa as a child because my mother was too poor to care for me and had to give me up for adoption. I've always thought about how I could have very easily been in these women's shoes, facing the same struggles. I feel like I'm between two worlds and have a responsibility to make a contribution to a life that could have been my own."
Name: Chue Yang
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Project Idea: The Young Global Citizens Project, an exchange program between U.S.-based low-income and/or ethnic minority students and the Hmong/indigenous communities of Thailand
Sound bite: "It's hard to achieve the American dream if you don't really know of opportunities outside your community. I want to bridge education to other experiences, like travel and volunteering, so minority and low-income students realize there is a whole other world out there. You don't have to be limited to living in inner city Milwaukee."
Name: Elizabeth Zapien-Plata
Hometown: Modesto, California
Project Idea: A support group for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning teens and their parents
Sound bite: "I've always known my son was gay, but the mistake I made was not engaging in enough dialogue with him. I thought that love and a nurturing home would be enough, but he wasn't equipped to face the world. When he turned to drugs and alcohol, I knew we needed help, not just for him but also for me, my husband, and our family."
*Two winners, Regenia Bailey and Meredith Momoda, were unable to attend the event.
Photos: Ben Goldstein