Maya Penn: A Young Entrepreneur with Big Ideas

Maya PennMaya Penn is one cool young woman! The idea behind her company is utterly unique. The 13-year-old artist, animator, designer, philanthropist, environmentalist, and girls rights activist is CEO of Maya?s Ideas. She creates handmade eco-friendly accessories and clothing with 10-20 percent of her profits going to local and global charities and environmental organizations.

She launched the company in 2008 (she was just 8 years old at the time) after she found out about how some dyes in clothing could be harmful to the people and the planet by generating toxic waste. Her idea? Make eco-friendly products to sell globally and in the process help the environment.

Turns out Penn has always been creative and inquisitive. When she was only around four years old, her father showed her how to dismantle a computer and put it back together again. Her early love of technology has carried through to her own venture as she built her first website herself. Today, she has gained lots of media attention. She even did a Ted Talk.

Here, Maya Penn tells the secrets behind Maya’s Ideas. What made you start Maya’s Ideas?
Maya Penn: I started my company in 2008 when I was 8 years old. I would find different fabrics around the house and say, this could be a scarf or a hat etc. and I had all of these cool ideas for designs! I noticed when I wore my creations, people would stop me and say, “Wow, that’s really cute. Where can I get one?” And I thought, I can start my own business!

Now I didn’t have any business plans at only eight years old. I only knew I wanted to make pretty creations that were safe for the environment and I wanted to give back. My mom taught me how to sew, and on my back porch, I would sit and make little headbands out of ribbon, and I would write down the names and the price of each item. I started making more items like hats, scarves and bags. Soon, my items began selling all over the world, and I had customers in Denmark, Italy, Australia, Canada and more. What are your goals for this year?
MP: ?Currently, I’m working on two animated series which I premiered during my TEDWomen Talk. One is called The Pollinators, and the other is called Malicious Dishes. I’m also working on some projects with my nonprofit Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet and I’m even writing my own book about my journey as a young entrepreneur.
? What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting Maya’s Ideas?
MP: It’s always important to do what you love and what you’re passionate about. It should always be something that makes you happy and can make an impact in your community and in the world. When you have a passion for what you’re doing and you’re really committed to helping your idea grow, that will take you far.
? How do you juggle school and Maya’s Ideas?
MP: Since I’m home-schooled, I have more flexibility between my education and my company. My education always comes first, though. After about four hours of school work (with a lunch break in between), I’ll go in my studio and start working on my company. Orders, projects, website updates, and so on and so forth. Of course while I’m in my creative space, I’ll start making something creative – whether it be one of my eco-friendly designs, coding/scripting, or some of my animations!
? What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs?
MP: Start an idea journal where you can write down all of your ideas for your business. Whether it?s a small thought that crosses your mind or the next big idea, it?s important to have it written down. Also, you have to believe in yourself and what you?re doing. Don?t get discouraged if things are going slower than you expected. Don?t give up, too quickly. Another super important tip which I actually haven’t learned from personal experience but I see online everyday, is that you need to be careful about what you post on social media. If you’re looking to become a successful business owner or apply for a college or a job, every post, video, tweet, selfie, etc. can either strengthen or damage your reputation in the business world. Now more than ever, your social media presence is a huge part of who you are. Use your characters wisely.