Meet Maya Penn A Young Entrepreneur Cartoonist & Designer

Maya Penn started her first company when she was 8 years old, and thinks deeply about how to be responsible both to her customers and to the planet. She shares her story — and some animations, and some designs, and some infectious energy — in this charming TED talk.

Background and bio

At first glance, Maya Penn is just an ordinary kid and you probably wouldn’t guess that she made all the clothes she is wearing and she is only 15 years old! For those who have yet to hear her story, Maya founded “Maya’s Ideas,” her made-to-order artisan shop, at the age of eight. Before then, she was not only interested in animation, but already creating it herself! She is also an environmentalist, and all of her products are eco-friendly, meaning she does not use any dye, fabric or material that may harm the environment. She’s on a mission to raise awareness of the implications of little actions towards the fate of Mother Nature, for better or worse. She also founded “Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet,” her very own non-profit.

Maya Shea Penn is the only child of John and Deidre Penn of Atlanta, Georgia, and was born on February 10th, 2000. Maya was a precocious child. From the moment she learned how to use a crayon at the age of three, she loved to draw. She started with flip-books; the basic storyboard for animation. She did all of this before starting school.

Her parents decided to home-school their daughter, with her mother serving as her teacher. The couple wanted Maya to develop her talents, and we certainly can’t argue with the results. Deidre mentioned in an interview that they wanted to train Maya to be independent – although home-schooled, Maya was reared to make her own decisions at a very young age. Her father, John, is also a major inspiration to her, and he allowed her to discover computers and technology at a young age. When Maya was only four years old, he showed her how to disassemble a computer and put all the parts back in correctly. She was thrilled! Even better, she became interested in how to use computers, both hardware and software.

Maya has shown potential for the arts since she was three years old; by the time she was four, she had fallen in love with technology. It was then no surprise that she began exploring the world of animation. Even her characters are in line with her environmental slogan; “The Pollinators” are bees that are up against “Deforestsaurus.” Isn’t that the coolest?

Another story line she devised is that of the virus world. She created “Malicious Dishes,” a restaurant for just about any type of PC virus. They have “pan seared registry error sprinkled with the finest corrupted data, binary brioche, RAM sandwiches, Conficker fitters, and a scripting salad with or without polymorphic dressing, and a grilled coding kabob.” Know, also, that their best-selling dessert is the “tracking cookie.”

Maya had already made a name for herself before she even turned thirteen. She was honored as an entrepreneur at the SCLC Women’s “33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Awards” in the Youth Category in 2009. In 2013, she won the “Black Enterprise Teenpreneur of the Year Award” and was also included in the “Little Pink Book Spring into Ownership Panel.”

Her first public recognition came from Forbes, which named her one of their “Notable Grade School Entrepreneurs” when she was only 10 years old. She recently wrote and illustrated her first book, “Lucy and Sammy Save the Environment.” So, what does Maya want to impart to those who are wondering how she made it?


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