Maya Elia sells colorful pants emblazoned with her favorite animal, elephants. The Ursuline Academy junior’s nonprofit organization, Elepants, helps fund the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TEST).
“I think it was Dumbo, I saw it when I was two and my mom said I would ask to watch it every single day,” Elia said. “I would just dance and listen to the music.”
During a service trip to Thailand the summer after her freshman year, Elia volunteered at the TECC. Not only did her love for elephants grow, but she discovered her love for serving others.
In November 2014, she launched Elepants. Elia usually orders 100-200 pairs of pants at a time from a local Thai vendor she discovered during her trip. The pants are priced at $20 and can be bought through myelepants.com.
After founding the site, Elia started doing research on more ways she could help and found the sanctuary in Tennessee. Now, with the money she raises, both organizations are able to provide basic care needs and loving environments for elephants to live in. “[Both] truly focus on helping elephants that have been in circuses and abused situations,” Elia said. “They work to make elephants be elephants again.”
Initially, Elia’s parents backed the site financially, but as it grew they began to use a portion of the profits to keep it running. Now the nonprofit stands on its own. Part of the money collected pays for the business operations and the remainder is donated.
According to Elia, Elepants has given about $7,500 to TECC and about $2,500 to TEST. Her family and friends help to sort, package, and send Elepants to all fifty states, as well as countries in Europe and South America.
Along with running Elepants, Elia is involved in cheerleading and volunteers through her school with organizations like Girls Inc.
“I love service and helping others,” Elia said.
With graduation around the corner, she’s putting some thought into what career she hopes to pursue. Helping create the Elepants’ website with her dad and managing her company has led her to consider a degree involving marketing and graphic design.
As for the future of Elepants, Elia hopes to keep it going for a while. For now, the company is good where it’s at, though she would possibly consider expanding, she said. “[I’m] not sure how it’s going to work once I go to college, but I definitely want to keep it going,” Elia said. “It’s already surpassed my expectations.”