With 1.5 million followers on Instagram, this 17-year-old already has the chops to succeed

1/27/2022
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What were you doing when you were 17? If you are anything like the majority of humans, you were pushing boundaries, annoyed with school and embarrassed by your parents. You had a small circle, maybe even a clique, of friends with whom you shared everything. You probably were not in charge of a skyrocketing business and your friends were not a community of 1.5 million. Maya Leinenbach is not your typical teen. In the space of two years, she’s transformed her passion for vegan food into a thriving love brand, Fitgreenmind. In this episode of the OMR Podcast International, she discussed how simplicity, vision, repetition and time management have all converged to let Fitgreenmind flourish.  

What weekends are for

Let’s get it out of the way right now. Maya Leinenbach is a 17-year-old from a small town, a village in her words, in Germany. She juggles a full school schedule with all the demands of any serious business. “After school, I have extra work writing down recipes or the captions for the video that I want to publish that day.” And as far as recording for the entire week goes, she does that when she has the most available free time: the weekend. “I record all of my videos on Saturday and edit them on Sunday. Filming takes a total of 10 hours and editing takes 4-5 hours.” 

But as with any business, the demands are not limited to the weekend. Answering DMs from her community is something she does when she “sits on the bus on the way to school or on our lunch break.” Recipe development is also a daily task, as well, that Maya seems to relish. “During the week, I am mostly the cook for me and my family. That’s where I can try new things and develop my recipes.” Her family is also willing participants as Maya says they provide her with input on what works and what can be improved upon. “It’s pretty nice, because my entire family tries the food and gives me feedback.” 

Finetuning recipes and content

Her creative process is essentially an ongoing process that never ceases. “I find inspiration for my videos basically everywhere, from my grandma’s cookbook, on Pinterest, on Instagram, restaurants. Even non-vegan things. Then I think of ways I can veganize them.” She’s also learned from other bloggers, as well. Especially when it comes to what not to do. “I looked at the accounts that performed really well on Instagram and I compared their content to mine.” This helped her identify things she could improve upon in her own content. “I recognized that lighting is super important for making videos look appealing. And over time I improved the sound and video quality.”

A major change in her videos entailed a shift in protagonists. “When I first started posting videos, I didn’t show myself at all. The focus was only on the food. And I didn’t speak, either.” Her content changed with the launch of Reels. On the Instagram video format, Maya saw others succeed with a more creator-centric approach. “It was a completely new format. I saw people making it a bit more personable.” 

Inspiration in family and frustration

Family also played a big role in the inspiration for launching the channel two years ago. “My mom and I had the idea of writing a cookbook. But I thought if I publish it now, no one will buy it, because no one knows me. So I thought I’d try starting an Instagram account.” Another source of inspiration? Frustration. “I started my Instagram account at the same time I went vegan. One thing that really bothered me was that many recipes required ingredients that I can’t find here in my small village,” Maya says. She took it upon herself to create simple recipes that “you can literally make with what you have in your fridge at home.” 

Education before business

She does have plans for the future and the business side of things, mind you. She has partnerships, which she does not proactively look for, but if it happens then she’s happy to if it’s “a good fit.” She has published a cookbook entitled “Ooh, that’s vegan?,” you won’t find it on Amazon though, “We didn’t want publish it there, because Amazon is not that sustainable, and sustainability is a big one for me.” (You can find it here). But on the whole, she’s not obsessed with the business part of things at the moment. “If I can just help one person with my recipes then that is pretty good.” The business, it seems, will just have to wait until she’s done with school. 

Check out the OMR Podcast International with Maya Leinenbach to hear more on Maya’s story, what she learned and improved on from other food bloggers, how Instagram Reels was instrumental in growing Fitgreenmind and what her plans are for after school. 

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