15-Year-Old Entrepreneur Maya Penn Is Changing the World with Her Designs

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Maya Penn at the TEDWomen Conference
Maya Penn at the TEDWomen Conference

While many teenage girls are busy searching for the latest clothing trends, Maya Penn is busy designing them.

The 15-year-old, who was recently on The View, is a designer, animator, philanthropist, environmental activist, author, inspirational speaker and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Maya’s Ideas, a company that she started at just 8-years-old.

Maya’s Ideas was created when she started making designs from fabric that she found around the house.

“When I wore my designs when I was out, people would stop me and say ‘Oh wow that’s really cute! Where can I get one?’” she told The View. “So I had the idea to start my own company.”

Penn’s eco-friendly clothes and accessories are sold internationally, including in Denmark, Italy and Australia. They are hand-made out of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and vintage silks and wools. Grist reported that Penn gives 10 to 20 percent of her proceeds to global charities including Live Thrive Atlanta and the Captain Planet Foundation.

“No matter how big my company gets, I will always use eco-friendly materials. No matter what,” she told Grist.

Although Penn has become a successful as a clothing designer, her first love is animation and art. Penn has given three TED Talks, and with the most recent one, in December 2013, she began her presentation with her short animated film titled, Malicious Dishes, a film about computer viruses.

Not only is Penn artistic, she is also highly tech savvy. When she was 10, she coded her company’s first website.

“My interest in coding spurred from the company,” she tells TechRepublic. “At the time I was trying to get a more professional and customized website, and I wondered how people built websites from scratch, what were all the nooks and crannies, key parts of how websites were built, the actual raw code.”

In addition to giving a percentage of her proceeds to global charities, Penn created a non-profit organization, Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet, that strives to help the community spread environmental awareness and encourage young girls to follow their dreams in non-traditional fields.

Her already impressive resume includes two children’s books, which she wrote and illustrated herself, as well as being honored as an entrepreneur at the 2012 SCLC Women’s 33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Awards in the Youth Category and serving on The Pollination Project’s Youth Grantmaking Advisory Board.

“Young entrepreneurs like myself are shown to be more open-minded, creative, and willing to take risks that will propel them forward and help their companies and startups blossom,” Penn told Business Insider.

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