Maya Penn was just 8 years old when she founded and become CEO of Maya’s Ideas, an online store for one-of-a-kind and eco-friendly fashion accessories and clothing.
Now, Maya is a 14-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist, designer, artist, animator, illustrator and writer who has been able to spread the word of business building, girl power and helping the environment. We spoke with her in a recent interview about her biggest motivations!
“To be honest, I started my business out of curiosity,” Maya Penn told us.
It all started when Maya started creating her own headbands out of ribbon when she was just 8 years old.
When she wore them out, people would stop her and ask where they could get their own headbands like hers.The experience led Maya to realize she could start her own business.
Maya decided to create her business on two main principles.
“One, all of my items had to be eco-friendly and I had to use materials that didn’t harm the environment,” she said. “And two, 10 to 20 percent of the profits I made went to local and global charities and environmental organizations.”
Maya went on to found a website called Maya’s Ideas as a means of selling her original creations. She integrated her passions for animated and technology to further build her business.
“I used my technology and coding skills to build my first website, and I put some of my animated characters on my organic cotton T-shirts and sell them in my store,” she explained. “I always want to be able to focus on all of my interests and passions and I try to find ways to incorporate them together.”
When it came to starting her business, Maya said the most difficult part was to get traffic to her site and spread the word about her business.
“I also had to learn a lot about my business, like branding and marketing, social media, and learning about my audience and my customers, and seeing what items sold the most and what items sold the least, and listening to the feedback of my customers,” she said.
But even though running a business has been a big challenge, Maya is incredibly thankful for the experience.
“The most rewarding parts for me are being able to give back to others through my company, and when I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love my item,” she said. “It’s amazing when you know you put in your hard work and care into making something people will enjoy, and it’s great when they tell you that they do.”
Her entrepreneurship has also opened up big opportunities for Maya to meet incredible people and speak about her work in front of big audiences.
For example, Maya has met Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus and world record long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, and has spoken at the TedWomen conference.
She also got to to her own inspiration TEDTalk!
“It was really awesome!” she said. “I met so many inspirational people who are doing amazing things in this world. I also got to share my story and passions with people all over the world who were watching from the TED live stream!”
But sometimes the little moments are the most memorable.
“Like when I got my first sale on Maya’s Ideas,” Maya said, “or when I made my first headband at 8 years old. It’s hard for me to pick just one! People should never take any moment for granted. It’s all of the little moments that lead up to the big ones.”
Maya decided to make her company eco-friendly after learning about the importance or recycling, organic gardening and being environmentally aware at a young age from her parents.
“It’s extremely important because this whole world is interconnected with us, the environment, and all of it’s creatures,” she said. “It’s our world, and we all live in it, so why shouldn’t we take care of it?”
Maya explained that simple choices we make each and every day can have a positive environmental impact. Something as simple as recycling, switching off lights when you leave the room or turning off the water while you brush the teeth can really add up, she said.
“We need to save the environment because our future generations might not have anything left,” she added. “Some of the smallest actions can lead to the BIGGEST changes.”
Maya also has a non-profit called Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet.
“One of my focuses is encouraging girls to follow their passions in non-traditional fields such as coding, animation, architecture, science, etc.,” she said. “I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know Eve Ensler (one of my personal she-roes) founder of V-DAY and One Billion Rising which works for women and girls empowerment.”
Maya is also an ambassador for V-Girls, a network of girl activists and advocates who empower women everywhere to change the world!
“Girls are awesome and have the power to do anything they dream of!” Maya said.
One of Maya’s favorite environmental causes is the protection of animals that help spread pollen.
“When I was 11 I learned about how the pollinators in our environment are in danger,” she said. “People are spraying different chemicals that are poisoning the bees, and people are tearing down forests and destroying the flowers that butterflies and other pollinators depend on for food.”
But pesticides and deforestation don’t just affect pollinators. They affect human beings as well.
“If plants aren’t pollinated by the pollinators, then all creatures including ourselves that depend on these plants and crops would starve,” she explained.
Maya decided to spread the word to other kids and teens, and get them invested in protecting these important pollinators, through a creative series of animations.
“That sparked the idea for The Pollinators, a team of super hero creatures who fight against villains that seek to destroy the environment,” she said. “I always try to look for an awesome way to help others learn about and act on important causes.”
In five years, Maya wants to be continuing the work she has started as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, animator and advocate for the earth.
“I may be one person, but as I said earlier, the smallest actions can lead to the biggest changes,” she said. “That’s why everyone should get involved with saving our environment and giving back to our communities through doing what you love.”
We believe that Maya will be able to achieve even more incredible things as Maya’s Ideas continues to grow!
To learn more about Maya Penn and her site, Maya’s Ideas, check out their social pages below! And if you’re passionate about girl power, be sure to join our community at SweetyHigh.com!