She wears the titles, designer, artist, animator, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and (as an after thought), 14-year-old. Can we add “supremely awesome person” to that list? We just did. She is Maya Penn, one busy girl who has already made more than one of her dreams come true before getting her driver’s license. Maya heads up Maya’s Ideas, a company creating eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable fashions and accessories. She’s also spun off Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet, a non-profit committed to raising environmental awareness and supporting community action. Maya is about more than helping and healing the planet. She has a keen desire to inspire and encourage other girls to get involved and explore their passions. Maya remarks: “I want to help people get unstuck from where they shouldn’t be. People shouldn’t be afraid of following their hearts and doing what they love!”
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
I have several girls in my life who rock. One is an animal rights activist, one is a musician, and the other one is just a good friend of mine who has helped me through a lot of stuff. They're all amazing and beautiful individuals and I'm blessed to have them in my life.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
One of my goals is also getting more youth (and adults!) involved with giving back and saving the environment. I speak to schools and girls organizations about the importance of giving back to others and being a good steward to the environment.
What are you most proud of?
My company Maya's Ideas and my animated shorts. I'm also proud of being able to have done a TEDWomen Talk. It has given me a huge platform to speak to other girls about following their passions. I'm also very proud of my philanthropic work.
What piece of advice changed your life?
To always stay true to yourself no matter what the world says.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still giving back anyway that I can and following my artistic passions and being able to empower other women and girls.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
To travel the world. I feel like I could learn a lot and connect with a deeper part of myself by visiting new or faraway places.
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
My mom has been the best influence for me. She has encouraged me to be myself and love myself for who I am. She has done so much for me in my life and has helped me to make the right choices for myself and my future. She supports me and everything that I do and she always wants me to do what I love in life.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
Starting a company has been a big risk for me within itself and lots of other risks come along with starting a business, especially at a young age. I've learned so many things from starting a business, but one important thing is no matter how big your company grows, always stay engaged with your customers and supporters.
Why are you THAT GIRL?
I AM THAT GIRL because I believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I stand up for girls all over the world who want to express their true unique selves and follow their passions. One of the things I focus on through my non-profit Maya's Ideas 4 The Planet, is encouraging girls to follow their passions in non-traditional fields such as coding, animation, architecture, science, etc., being an animator and coder myself.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor