Youth leadership and enterprise – cultivating positive leaders for the future with social and environmental responsibility.

My 9 year old daughter ran her second pop-up cafe today – the Owls Den Cafe. It was a sell-out event with guests from around the world. I am so proud of her and she’s absolutely delighted. Thanks to those who came to support her.
I’m so proud too with my 8 year son’s initiative. Hugh, who loves bicycles, set up his bike display to promote his eco-social enterprise – Hugh’s Bike Shed.
Both of them initiated these enterprises after I attended a workshop with Joel Salatin and he said that both his kids had on-farm enterprises by the time they were 9 years old.  I asked them if they had anything they wanted to do.  Within 30 minutes, they had each designed their concept ideas and have been implementing and refining the ideas ever since.
In the carport of our ecovillage home at Crystal Waters, Maia set up her Owls Den Cafe again today. This is her second monthly pop-up cafe – a homeschool project that offers a treasure trove of experiential and contextual learning – budgeting, graphic design, healthy foods, sustainability planning, project management, letter-writing, community service to name just a few.
Maia’s community came support her initiative and to taste the yummy food – so did friends from around the region, and several international visitors. This time she chose her wearable art shirt.
For a little cafe in a tucked-away place, Maia attracted an amazingly international crowd. There were people from Japan, Turkey, the U.S.A., England, Thailand, The Philippines… and friends travelled down the mountain from Maleny to support her initiative too.
Our Japanese WWOOFer (Willing Worker on Organic Farms) has been a great help to Maia setting up, and enjoyed some of the chocolate cake while Monty delighted in a babycino. Over lunch, Rin offered Maia and Hugh a Japanese lesson. Each day she is teaching them new phrases and words.  WWOOFers are so fabulous.

Hugh was again at hand. He did some mowing of the grassy area, helped to set up, made a toy tub for the little kids, and was a loyal customer (I think he bought one of everything!). But he was there for his own enterprise too…

Hugh’s Bike Shed

Bike-mad Hugh  had some bikes out to remind people of his community service project – Hugh’s Bike Shed.  He fixes bikes – squeaky brakes, clunky gears, flat tyres… affordably and quickly.  He also accepts donations of bikes that he can repair and either give away or hire to visitors. Today he received another bike donation and a request to hire two bikes for a week. He’s so happy too! Hugh and I will write more about his bike project soon.

Maia and Hugh were absolutely delighted when one of the cafe customers brought them some sunglasses as a gift.

The Social and Environmental focus of Maia’s cafe

Maia’s cafe had both social and environmental purposes. Amongst the many were:

  • to create a midweek meeting space for the locals
  • to cultivate community connections and conversations between all ages
  • to create a safe and interesting play space for the village children
  • to raise awareness about and give people a taste of deliciously healthy foods.
  • to create a waste-free cafe and demonstrate this
  • to raise awareness about endangered animals
  • to fundraise to support the protection of a different endangered species each time the cafe opens.
Maia just also loves cooking and serving people (and being her own boss by the looks of it).  I was her humble employee for the day – paid in coffee, cake, hugs and a delightful note of thanks. What more could I ask?
She received such positive feedback from everyone who came to her cafe, for the food and the vibe. It certainly was a lovely space to spend the afternoon catching up with friends and neighbours and watching the children play.
Some of the first customers to Maia’s Owl’s Den Cafe today.

Some of the environmental initiatives of The Owl’s Den Cafe:

  • table cloths – fair trade cotton and a selection of fabrics from second-hand stores
  • bamboo picnic plates – these we have had for 16 years (I am super impressed at their longevity)
  • drinks offered only in mugs and cups – no disposable cups
  • cupcakes made in reusable forms
  • solar powered coffee machine
  • rain water used for drinks
  • plastic-waste free cafe
  • (mostly) organic ingredients
  • foodscraps given to chooks (not many leftovers though!)
  • coffee grinds fed to worms
  • take-aways offered in brown paper bags (and some took them away in their hat!)
  • supports conservation of endangered species
Maia is using a proportion of the money she made today to sponsor a Snowy Owl – an endangered species threatened by habitat loss and poaching. Tonight when the sun went down, she was excited to hear an owl outside her bedroom.  She’s always had a natural affinity with owls.   This is the information poster she created and sent out with the invitations, and had on display today.

Maia’s Owl’s Den Cafe menu:

Most of the ingredients were organic, sourced at our local food cooperative. Instead of sugar we used stevia drops, and a little honey or a dash of coconut sugar. The icing on all but one cake was also sugar free.


  • citrus iced water – organic orange and lime juice (from our garden)
  • organic fair trade espresso coffee (she’s a fabulous barista already!)
  • lemon myrtle tea –  (from our garden)
  • organic fair trade tea


  • orange poppy seed cake
  • chocolate cake – gluten free
  • carrot muffins
  • bliss balls – gluten free, dairy free
  • chia shortbreads

I’ll ask Maia to write up the recipes and post them soon – they were amazing!

Sugar free frosting:

For some time now we have been trying to find good toppings for our sugar free cakes.  We were fed up of destroying them with sugary icing.  So we’ve done some experimenting and come up with some super-delicious toppings (and a few disasters I should say).  Our favourite topping was the fresh pure cream, raw cacao and stevia frosting for the chocolate cake. The cream cheese and stevia frosting on the carrot cake was amazing too.




5 Responses

  1. Monika Sprott
    Monika Sprott at |

    Love your work Maia and Hugh.

  2. Australian Gardening Granny
    Australian Gardening Granny at |

    This is a very interesting blog post about what Maia and Hugh are achieving with their individual entrepreneurial enterprises. It would be a credit to any young person, but particularly at their age. The Owls Den Cafe, love the name, and the idea behind it to help protect owls, and other species. She is teaching her customers, young and old, about living sustainably and caring for the planet by example. Well done. Maia.

    I am impressed with Hugh's Bike Shed. There are some folk who can 'fix things' and they are worth knowing ! Looks like you have one in your family. My brother always built his billy-cart form of transport as a young boy using wood and pram wheels. He has always had a spanner in his hands and has been fixing cars all his adult life. He now fixes steam engines and runs them at Amerton Railway at the Staffordshire Narrow Gauge Railway Society in the UK. It pops up if you just google Amerton Railway.

    Well done to both of you. I'm looking forward to reading Maia's recipes in a future blog post.

  3. Lisa Michelle
    Lisa Michelle at |

    Chia Shortbread? I'm looking for more ways to eat Chia and I like shortbread. Ill keep my eyes open for the Recipie!

  4. Fiona Chain
    Fiona Chain at |

    Good on you Maia and Hugh! Huge life lessons that will enrich your lives and put you ahead of the pack in years to come. You have wonderful parents! Have a great weekend.

  5. Selina B
    Selina B at |

    well done Maia & Hugh!
    looking forward to the recipes too
    thanx for sharing