Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
Lyndsey Gilpin in her April 28, 2014 TechRepublic interview with this week’s quite exceptional YG&B teen notes that this young businesswomen has the ability, “to change the world for the better.”
She is young, gifted & Black. Maya Shea Penn is CEO of Maya’s Ideas, a company she founded in 2008 when she was just 8 years-old.
Her enterprise designs hand-crafted scarves, headbands, T-shirts and accessories.
As noted in Forbes, the then home schooled sixth-grader in the writing joined the online crafts store Etsy in 2007 and spent a year creating ideas for her own shop.
“I love wearing different kinds of headbands and decided that would be a good way to start,” she reveals in the May 5, 2011 Forbes exclusive on “Meet 16 Grade School Entrepreneurs.”
Maya in the May account designs in her sewing creations such embellishments as butterfly appliques, ribbons and her top-seller, black lace, onto head bands purchased from neighborhood crafts stores.
“I basically started my own business out of curiosity, but now it’s real,” she shares in Forbes. “I’ve learned a lot of life lessons, like perseverance, from this.”
Committed to the safety and welfare of the environment, all of her designs must also be eco-friendly. Her first and primary guidance was from her dad, John Penn from whom she learned a lot about solar energy.
But more importantly, she learned from such modeling the significance and drive to do your own research.
“When he was a kid, he won awards from NASA and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard for his science fair projects on solar energy,” she says in an Atlanta Black Star February 17, 2013 posting.
Upon this foundation, she was further inspired to do her own studies.
As explained in her personal writing, “How I Found My ‘Spark’” in the November 19, 2013 The Huff Post Teen: “A lot of people ask me why is your business eco-friendly?
I did some research and found out about how some dyes in clothing or the process of even making the items was harmful to the people and the planet by generating a great amount of toxic waste.”
She wondered, “How can helping the environment tie into my business? I immediately knew that Maya’s Ideas had to be eco-friendly.”
When Maya was around 4 years-old, as noted in her personal bio, her father additionally taught her how to take apart a computer and put it back together again.
“That really started my love for technology.” She adds in her “Who Is Maya?” sharing that, “I’ve built my first website myself, and I’m learning Java Script and HTML 5.
So I’m really hands on in all aspects of my business.”
The Atlanta Black Star reports that Maya’s sales has soared upwards of $55,000 as of the writing’s post date.
Additional to the U.S., her designs are sold throughout the globe to buyers in Denmark, Italy, Australia and Canada. Customers and friends on her “Hall of Fame” site who have purchased her creations include actor Samuel L. Jackson, writer and media strategist Nicki Escudero-Nickialanouche, CBS radio host and journalist Mo Ivory, actress Jasmine Guy, singer and musician Michael Franti, and chef Evelyn Paul.
She further has her own non-profit, Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet, and 10 to 20 percent of her profits are donated to such causes as Hosea Feed The Hungry, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Livethrive.org, iMatter Youth Council, The Pollination Project’s Youth Grantmaking Advisory Board, Girls Inc., V-Girls, and The Ian Somerhalder Foundation.
Maya has been featured in Huffington Post, Ebony, Young Entrepreneur, Redbook, and Kiwi Magazine.
She has been an invited guest on The Steve Harvey Show, The Michael Baisden Show, CBS Better Mornings Atlanta, and Fox 5 Atlanta.
This extraordinaire talent was only eleven when she was listed among Forbes’ “16 Grade School Entrepreneurs” and in 2012, our teen feature was honored at SCLC’s 33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Award in the Youth Category.
Mentioned in her “Who Is Maya” bio, this honoree was proud to have shared the stage with such award recipients as actor and humanitarian Sean Penn, Samuel L. Jackson and wife Latanya Richardson, CNN News Anchor Don Lemon, Rev. Al Sharpton, Judge Robert Benham, and Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson.
Presented by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, she served as panelist and speaker at the Economic Empowerment Summit at Agnes Scott College.
But her really first “big” speaking engagement was the invitation to share a few words at TEDWomen2013 on being a young female entrepreneur at which time she admits in TechRebublic that she was very nervous.
“That’s good it doesn’t show, but I was definitely nervous.
That was one of the biggest stages I have ever spoken on, and it went global.” And according to a TED.com account, the tune-in of Maya and additional invited guest on this occasion had 1,032,904 total views.
“There’s no slow button on Maya Shea Penn,” says Sheila M. Poole in a TED.com commentary on Maya’s appearance.
As if the foregoing was not a full plate, this now ninth-grader is author of two books, “Lucy and Sammy Save the Environment” and “Wild Rhymes” described as, “A book by a kid for a kid.” And yes, both titles are made with recycled paper and illustrated by the writer.
“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon and I’ve been making flip books since I was 3 years-old,” she reveals in a V-Girls July 4, 2013 post.
She adds that, “Animation has always been by first love.
I love to use creativity to give back and encourage other girls to find their voice and what they’re passionate about.” A Flip-book is the basic storyboard technique for animation which she mastered before starting formal schooling.
The only child of John and Deidre Penn of Atlanta, Georgia, her parents decided to home school their daughter with her mother serving as her primary teacher.
Thus, the Penns, as noted in Atlanta Black Star, were better able to customize their daughter’s education toward problem solving and crafting creative business ideas.
And as cited in Theextraordinary.org, the couple wanted Maya to develop her talents and as quoted in an interview, “they wanted to train Maya to be independent.”
She was reared to make her own decisions at a very early age.
She reveals in Gilbin that her business has helped her to grow both spiritually and mentally.
She adds, “You learn stuff in business you can use in everyday life, stuff you can’t learn anywhere else.
You have to just love doing it and be willing to put the hard work and commitment into it.”
Gilbin additionally shares that for now, Maya is content with staying as productive as possible being attentive during the week to both her studies and to her business.
Bedtime is still 9:00 p.m. and there is no work on weekends.
And her advice to peers in The Huff Post Teen: “Doing what you love makes the work easier.
And remember, you have to work hard and be committed. It will be worth it in the end. If you have a passion, then listen to that passion.
Pursue it and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. You have the power to move forward and just go for it!”