Founder and CEO, Maya’s Ideas
At the age of 8, when Maya Penn told her mom she wanted to build a sustainable fashion collection, she got a response that would serve her well throughout her entrepreneurial journey: “Figure out how to do that and what you need to accomplish that goal.”
She used old clothing found in her home to create headbands and scarves, and at age 10, taught herself HTML and built a website to sell her goods. Today her Atlanta-based fashion line, Maya’s Ideas, has 10 employees, and customers around the world. “That first sale was so crazy to me, and still is,” Penn says. “It’s an honor when people like what you create. It keeps me moving forward.”
Penn is now 19, and she has spent the past 11 years nurturing plenty of other passions. She launched a nonprofit, Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet, which distributes eco-friendly sanitary products to women in developing countries. In 2016, she created an animated digital short that was presented to Congress as part of an effort to get a national women’s history museum built in Washington, D.C. (“They have museums for stamps but not women,” she says.) She has since launched an animation studio, given three TED Talks, been celebrated by Oprah, and is now working on a second book. Her first covered young entrepreneurship.
Penn’s businesses and speaking engagements have earned her a million dollars over the years, and she has raised more than $500,000 from angel investors. And though all her projects are about creating change for others, she has learned that it’s good to put yourself first.
“I’m always pushing myself to do more, but that can take a lot out of you, especially when you’re still trying to figure out who you are,” she says. “You have to find ways to calm yourself. Take a walk. Read a book. Stay grounded. Taking care of yourself makes you a better entrepreneur.”