How do you balance running a business with the pressures of middle school? For 14-year-old Mahsa Riar, the answer is passion.
Mahsa is the founder of Limitless Limb, a 2-year-old company that designs 3D-printed prosthetic limbs and assistive devices for children. The Ashburn teen is the youngest ever nominee for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership Awards.
For this young entrepreneur, who’s also a poet, artist and musician, the secret is combining astrong work ethic with doing what you love—and a desire to give back to the community.
“A lot of what I do, I really love so it’s not like work,” Mahsa said. “I really love designing and running my business.”
Mahsa, an eighth-grader at Belmont Ridge Middle School, got into 3D printing in elementary school. After doing some research, she asked her parents for a printer and started making jewelry and trinkets for friends. Then she read a book about a girl who lost a leg in an accident and couldn’t afford a prosthetic limb and had a lightbulb moment—while still in fifth grade.
“The idea of using a 3D printer to make [prosthetics] is actually very feasible,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, I can do something with this printer that helps others while creating and designing.’”
Mahsa launched Limitless Limb in 2019 after winning an investor pitch competition as part of the Loudoun Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy. With a little help from YouTube and her dad, Mahsa experimented and troubleshot software programs and began making prototype prosthetics.
“It was a process” she said
As Mahsa gets Limitless Limb rolling, she has designed and printed an assistive device for a fellow young musician with neuropathy, who has experienced loss of feeling in his fingers, making it challenging to hold his cello bow. Mahsa designed and fabricated an assistive device to help him play. This summer, she developed a touchless COVID kit, including doorknob openers and other devices. The idea is that when students and teachers return to school, they can do more simple tasks contact-free. Mahsa is also accepting inquiries from families who could benefit from a low-cost prosthetic.
With a business launch under her belt, the next steps are high school and college. Mahsa says she wants to pursue a career in STEM—and keep helping people.
“I definitely see myself in the future expanding on my business. Whether it’s the same business or a different one, I’ll have the same mission: to help people out and really make a difference in my community and, possibly, world,” Mahsa said. “When I think about college and high school, I really want to do something that I enjoy and love doing so that—like when I’m doing my business—it’s not work for me.”
Mahsa is also focused on encouraging other young people to get more involved in their community through programs like YEA and volunteer opportunities.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy was a big boost for Mahsa, and the program is still going strong (the 2020/21 class meets virtually). Every school year, 24 students meet with mentors and work on business plans, leading up to the investor pitch competition in March.
“Think Shark Tank,” said YEA program coordinator Faith Shoup.
Mahsa won that contest in 2019 and went on to the national competition in Rochester, NY, securing seed money to get Limitless Limb rolling.
“It seemed so scary to start a business, but it helped me figure out where to start and what I needed to do,” she said.
The Chamber’s Community Leadership award nomination is also in recognition of her commitment to community. Last year, Mahsa launched an initiative called Create for a Cause to “raise social awareness among the county’s younger generation and inspire them to drive change.” The project kicked off last winter just before the pandemic with an art sale to benefit the Loudoun Freedom Center.
Last fall, Mahsa chaired the organizing committee for the Loudoun Commission on Women and Girls’ inaugural Girl Empowerment Summit. The virtual event last September brought together girls from Loudoun and around the region with a line-up of women leaders.
For Mahsa, providing inspiration for young women amid the challenges of the pandemic was especially gratifying.
“They said they really needed something like this at a time where everything was so uncertain. … That was so touching for me,” Mahsa said. “It was so nice to help young women who are my age to be a little more connected with their communities.”
The virtual ceremony for the Chamber’s Community Leadership awards takes place Wednesday, Jan. 27. Mahsa says she hopes her place as the youngest-ever nominee will inspire other young people to find their passions and run with them.
“I saw all the other amazing leaders who applied–I was so honored to be nominated,” Mahsa said. “Really, I would just want my nomination to be what drives other kids my age to follow their passion and do what they love to do.”
For details on the Loudoun Chamber’s Community Leadership Awards and Young Entrepreneurs Academy, go to loudounchamber.org. For more information about Limitless Limb and Mahsa Riar, go to limitlesslimb.com.