Elise Zelechowski

AGE: 33
FOUNDER: ReBuilding Exchange (website)
BUSINESS: Building materials

Even before the economy slowed, Zelechowski noticed two problems plaguing her native Chicago: the abundance of construction and demolition waste (from buildings that had fallen into foreclosure and disrepair) and a lack of jobs (for the hard to employ). Her solution? Open a retail outlet for reclaimed building materials and provide a job-training program for ex-offenders. Since she launched ReBuilding Exchange, which is a revenue-generating nonprofit, in February 2009, 70 people have completed training, and some 5,000 tons of demolition waste have been recycled. Sales in 2011 topped $200,000.

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Photograph: Taylor Castle