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Teen entrepreneur encourages girls to follow their passion in new book

Sixteen-year-old Maya Penn started her own clothing company when she was eight
Teen entrepreneur Maya Penn stands out as author, activist 04:39

Maya Penn stands out from other girls her age.

At 16 years old, Maya is CEO of her own clothing company, an environmental activist, computer programmer and motivational speaker, who's given three of the prestigious TED Talks.

Now, Maya is the author of "You Got This!: Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path, and Change Your World" by Maya S. Penn (Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS), which offers young readers advice on finding passion through creativity, reports Mark Strassmann.

In 2013, Penn took the stage at a TED conference in San Francisco. She was there to present an animated film she wrote and produced on her own. "When I understood that an animator makes the cartoon on TV, I immediately said that's what I want to be," she said.

At 13, Maya had already joined the ranks of some of the world's most prominent thinkers and doers. The video of her speech has now been viewed over 1.3 million times.

"When you give through your heart, that's when movements are sparked, that is when opportunities and innovation are created and that is when ideas come to life," she told the crowd.

"I was super-nervous," Maya recalled, laughing. "Before I gave my TED talk, I was about to vibrate, like, right out of my socks."

Maya's journey as an entrepreneur began when she even younger. As an eight-year-old, she started selling headbands made out of recycled materials online.

"I just thought like, 'Well, I can just put my [ideas] out there and people will be buy them.' I had technically ran companies before -- you know, sold plastic pizzas to my stuffed animals in my room!" Maya said, laughing. "That's one of my first business endeavors. And I basically thought that would be the same thing, except with real people and real money."

Her wall -- which she calls her "inspiration wall" -- is adorned with pictures of people that inspire and encourage her new projects. Her company, Maya's Ideas, now includes jewelry, T-shirts and scarves, all designed in her home studio outside of Atlanta and sold to customers all over the world.

While home-schooled, Maya devotes spare time to her role as the company's 16-year-old CEO.

"I am happy to say that I've made enough for my college education, which is great. I'm all saved up for college through my business. And I have seven employees," she said.

Maya's interests don't stop there. She learned to take apart a computer at the age of four. She writes all her own computer code for her website, and produces short films about the environment.

But for someone always on-the-go, Maya's advice for young girls is to step back, explore and imagine.

"I think it's important to encourage girls to follow their passion, and to be change-makers and be creative thinkers, and that they can do anything if they just believe in themselves," she said. "You can't let anyone tell you 'no.' The only thing that you should let stand in your way is yourself, and you still shouldn't let that happen."

Simply put in the words of Maya Penn: "You got this!"

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