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TEDWomen 2013

Maya Penn: Meet a young entrepreneur, cartoonist, designer, activist …

December 5, 2013

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 talk.

Maya Penn - Entrepreneur, animator, philanthropist ...
Maya Penn makes eco-friendly clothes and accessories, which she sells on a site she built -- and gives away a percent of the profits. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Server: May I help you, sir?
00:14
Customer: Uh, let's see.
00:19
Server: We have pan seared registry error
00:21
sprinkled with the finest corrupted data,
00:23
binary brioche, RAM sandwiches,
00:25
Conficker fitters,
00:28
and a scripting salad with or
without polymorphic dressing,
00:29
and a grilled coding kabob.
00:31
Customer: I'd like a RAM sandwich
00:38
and a glass of your finest Code 39.
00:41
Server: Would you like any desserts, sir?
00:44
Our special is tracking cookie.
00:46
Customer: I'd like a batch of some
zombie tracking cookies, thank you.
00:49
Server: Coming right up, sir.
00:52
Your food will be served shortly.
00:53
(Applause)
00:57
Maya Penn: I've been drawing ever
since I could hold a crayon,
01:04
and I've been making animated flip books
01:07
since I was three years old.
01:09
At that age, I also learned
about what an animator was.
01:11
There was a program on TV about jobs
01:15
most kids don't know about.
01:17
When I understood that an animator
01:19
makes the cartoons I saw on TV,
01:20
I immediately said, "That's what I want to be."
01:22
I don't know if I said it mentally or out loud,
01:26
but that was a greatly defining moment in my life.
01:28
Animation and art has always been my first love.
01:32
It was my love for technology that sparked the idea
01:37
for "Malicious Dishes."
01:39
There was a virus on my computer,
01:41
and I was trying to get rid of it,
01:42
and all of a sudden, I just thought,
01:44
what if viruses have their own
little world inside the computer?
01:46
Maybe a restaurant where they meet up
01:49
and do virusy things?
01:51
And thus, "Malicious Dishes" was born.
01:52
At four years old, my dad showed me
01:56
how to take apart a computer
and put it back together again.
01:58
That started my love for technology.
02:01
I built my first website myself in HTML,
02:03
and I'm learning JavaScript and Python.
02:06
I'm also working on an animated series
02:09
called "The Pollinators."
02:11
It's about bees and other
pollinators in our environment
02:12
and why they're so important.
02:14
If plants aren't pollinated by the pollinators,
02:17
then all creatures, including ourselves,
02:19
that depend on these plants, would starve.
02:21
So I decided to take these cool creatures
02:24
and make a superhero team.
02:26
(Applause)
02:30
(Foot stomp)
02:38
(Music)
02:41
(Roar)
02:47
Pollinator: Deforestsaurus! I should have known!
02:49
I need to call on the rest of the Pollinators!
02:52
(Music)
02:54
Thank you. (Applause)
03:06
All of my animations start with ideas,
03:09
but what are ideas?
03:12
Ideas can spark a movement.
03:16
Ideas are opportunities and innovation.
03:19
Ideas truly are what make the world go round.
03:22
If it wasn't for ideas, we wouldn't be
03:26
where we are now with technology, medicine,
03:28
art, culture, and how we even live our lives.
03:30
At eight years old, I took my ideas
03:34
and started my own business called Maya's Ideas,
03:37
and my nonprofit, Maya's Ideas for the Planet.
03:40
(Laughter)
03:42
And I make eco-friendly clothing and accessories.
03:44
I'm 13 now, and although I started my business
03:48
in 2008,
03:50
my artistic journey started way before then.
03:52
I was greatly influenced by art, and I wanted to
03:55
incorporate it in everything I did, even my business.
03:57
I would find different fabrics around the house,
04:00
and say, "This could be a scarf or a hat,"
04:02
and I had all these ideas for designs.
04:05
I noticed when I wore my creations,
04:08
people would stop me and say,
04:10
"Wow, that's really cute. Where can I get one?"
04:11
And I thought, I can start my own business.
04:13
Now I didn't have any business plans
04:16
at only eight years old.
04:18
I only knew I wanted to make pretty creations
04:20
that were safe for the environment
04:22
and I wanted to give back.
04:23
My mom taught me how to sew,
04:25
and on my back porch, I would sit and make
04:27
little headbands out of ribbon,
04:29
and I would write down the names
and the price of each item.
04:31
I started making more items like hats,
04:33
scarves and bags.
04:35
Soon, my items began selling all over the world,
04:37
and I had customers in Denmark, Italy, Australia,
04:40
Canada and more.
04:43
Now, I had a lot to learn about my business,
04:45
like branding and marketing,
04:48
staying engaged with my customers,
04:50
and seeing what sold the most and the least.
04:51
Soon, my business really started to take off.
04:55
Then one day, Forbes magazine
contacted me when I was 10 years old.
04:57
(Laughter)
05:01
They wanted to feature me and my company
05:03
in their article.
05:05
Now a lot of people ask me,
05:07
why is your business eco-friendly?
05:09
I've had a passion for protecting the environment
05:12
and its creatures since I was little.
05:14
My parents taught me at an early age
05:16
about giving back and being a
good steward to the environment.
05:18
I heard about how the dyes in some clothing
05:22
or the process of even making the items
05:24
was harmful to the people and the planet,
05:26
so I started doing my own research,
05:28
and I discovered that even
after dyeing has being completed,
05:31
there is a waste issue that gives a negative impact
05:34
on the environment.
05:36
For example, the grinding of materials,
05:37
or the dumping of dried powder materials.
05:39
These actions can pollute the air,
05:42
making it toxic to anyone or anything that inhales it.
05:44
So when I started my business,
05:48
I knew two things:
05:49
All of my items had to be eco-friendly,
05:51
and 10 to 20 percent of the profits I made
05:54
went to local and global charities
05:56
and environmental organizations.
05:58
(Applause)
06:00
I feel I'm part of the new wave of entrepreneurs
06:04
that not only seeks to have a successful business,
06:06
but also a sustainable future.
06:09
I feel that I can meet the needs of my customers
06:11
without compromising the
ability of future generations
06:13
to live in a greener tomorrow.
06:16
We live in a big, diverse and beautiful world,
06:19
and that makes me even more passionate to save it.
06:22
But it's never enough to just
to get it through your heads
06:24
about the things that are happening in our world.
06:26
It takes to get it through your hearts,
06:29
because when you get it through your heart,
06:31
that is when movements are sparked.
06:32
That is when opportunities
06:35
and innovation are created,
06:36
and that is why ideas come to life.
06:38
Thank you, and peace and blessings.
06:41
(Applause)
06:46
Thank you. (Applause)
06:51
Pat Mitchell: So, you heard Maya talk about
06:54
the amazing parents who are behind
06:57
this incredible woman. Where are they?
07:00
Please, Mr. and Mrs. Penn. Would you just -- Ah!
07:02
(Applause)
07:05

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Maya Penn - Entrepreneur, animator, philanthropist ...
Maya Penn makes eco-friendly clothes and accessories, which she sells on a site she built -- and gives away a percent of the profits.

Why you should listen

To sell her line of luscious knit scarves and eco-friendly hats, teenaged entrepreneur Maya Penn built and maintains her own retail website. (She started the business when she was 8.) She’s also an animator and a geek, and an eager evangelist of teaching kids of be entrepreneurs at any age. Bursting with ideas, she recently started a side nonprofit called Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet.

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