Who is Mikaila Ulmer?
A Social Entrepreneur, Bee ambassador, Educator, Philanthropist and Student; Mikaila is the wonder girl who manages all these hats at the age of just 11!
Born and brought up in Austin (Texas); Mikaila is most famous as the Founder of “Me & the Bees Lemonade” – a company that produces award-winning, refreshing and sustainable natural lemonade (which was started as single lemonade stand), and has also managed to raise $60,000 in start-up funding from one of the world’s leading fashion moguls (Daymond John) on ‘Shark Tank’, and has also closed a four-state contract with Whole Foods as well.
She also donates more than 10% of the profits from the sale of her business to organizations including: Heifer International, Sustainable Food Center of Austin and Texas Beekeepers Association, which help save the bees.
She can often be seen educating families about the importance of honeybees and how to save them, and also passionately facilitates workshops about honeybees and entrepreneurship as well. One of her advices for other kids, or in fact for anyone who might also like to start their own business is: GO BIG!
In fact, in addition to being a well-known speaker, and being featured as a panelist at several conferences like SXSW ECO, SXSW EDU, and SXSW Interactive; she’s been featured in Oprah magazine and even has her own YouTube channel.
She has also been invited to the White House’s twice; once, to have lunch with the President and Michelle Obama in 2015, and most recently, for Easter Egg Roll, where she served the President a glass of fresh, honey-sweet lemonade.
Being in Sixth grade, clearly Mikaila has already learned so much, and knows a lot more about business, than most of the adults.
She is also the receiver of many, many awards. Some of these accolades include:
- Awarded with “Teenpreneur of the Year” by Austin’s Black Chamber of Commerce
- Named as “Most Likely to Succeed’ by Austin Monthly Magazine
- Featured in national publications like The Food Network Magazine
- Featured in local magazines like Edible Austin and Austin Woman Magazine
- Received the “African American Harvest Foundation Story Changer” Award
- Received the “Environmental Entrepreneur” Award
What is “Me & the Bees Lemonade”?
Me & the Bees Lemonade is a family-owned business that was founded by the 11-year old Mikaila Ulmer in Austin (Texas). It is a certified National Minority Supplier.
Some of their offerings include: Me & The Bees along with Original Mint, or Ginger, or Iced Tea, or with Prickly Pear!
Their lemonades are made using simple ingredients that include: filtered water, real lemon juice, honey, cane sugar, and flaxseed. Additionally, all their products are also flavoured either with – natural mint, prickly pear, black tea or fresh ginger.
They specialize in producing and selling lemonade that is fresh-squeezed along with a mixture of Texas wildflower honey, flaxseed and mint, and is made in a commercial food processing facility in Austin, Texas area.
You can find their products in some natural food grocers in the Southwest region of the United States, a few restaurants and boutique locations, and in 55 of Whole Foods outlets. Their products are delivered by Saren Foods Distributors to stores in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. You can also order their lemonades online. To order, just click here!
Other than that, if you are interested in stocking their product in your store, you can also visit their “Become a Retailer” page on the website, or you can also send an email to: Sales@BeeSweetLemonade.com.
What is the story of this young entrepreneur?
Mikaila started her lemonade business in 2009. She was just 4-years old, back then!
Upon being encouraged by her family, Mikaila had participated in the Children’s business competition (the Acton Children’s Business Fair) and Austin Lemonade Day, and had to make a product.
During that time, her family had received a 1940’s cookbook from her Great Granny Helen from South Carolina, which included special recipe for Flaxseed Lemonade. Around the same time, while she was in the brainstorming phase, she also got stung by stung by a bee. Not once, but twice!
Obviously, the bee stings scared the hell out of her, but to avert her away from the fear, her parents encouraged Mikaila to do some research on Bees. Her mother, D’Andra Ulmer, turned the scary experience into an insect research assignment.
While at it, to her surprise, she suddenly started to get fascinated with bees. Mikaila’s research concluded just how incredibly important bees were to our ecosystem. She figured that bees pollinated more than 1 out of every 3 bites we eat, and without them our food supply would collapse. On the other end, bees also contributed more than $15 billion to the US agricultural economy in one year, as well.
She also noticed that bees were dying because of a disease called CCD [Colony Collapse Disorder], and could possibly become extinct in the years to come. Scientists had two likely causes of their death: one – due to the mites or pests in the hives that were spreading viruses, and the second – was due to the spraying of pesticides to the crops by farmers. Last year alone, beekeepers lost 40% of all their hives.
And to quote Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”
This led to the founding of “BeeSweet Lemonade“!
The Initial Stages…
What began as a project, quickly turned into a passion; not only for lemonade, but bees!
This was 2009. She wanted to use her Great Granny Helen’s recipe to help honeybees. So instead of sweetening with anything else, she decided to sweeten the lemonade with local honey.
It would not only have helped the bees and the beekeepers, but would also have been a lot healthier, as well. It was a sweet success from the start.
She started off with a lemonade stand in the beginning, and used to tout: Buy a Bottle…Save a Bee!
She started with one lemonade stand, and stuck around for three years, during which she kept on selling out. Due to the drastic increase in demand, she decided to expand and got into her first pizza store, and that’s how she started going big.
Over the period of time, BeeSweet Lemonade started getting sold out at entrepreneurial events as well. The locals also loved the idea that her lemonade was made from locally-sourced and natural ingredients, and what cheered them even more was that some portions of the profits were being donated to support organizations who were working to save the honeybees.
The business was growing so fast, and so big that Mikaila and her family were finding it exceedingly difficult to produce the lemonade. Hence, they decided to get external help and pitched a potential expansion on the 6th season of the TV show ‘Shark Tank,’
Now for all those who aren’t aware, Shark Tank, is a TV show that is hosted by few highly successful billionaires, namely: Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher, etc., who invest in businesses out of their personal capacity. And believe me when I say this – Shark Tank is a tough nut to crack! They rarely have sympathy for the old or the young.
But luckily, one little girl impressed these sharks with her sweet lemonade so much that, fashion mogul – Daymond John invested $60,000 in BeeSweet for a 25% stake.
And since then there has been no looking back for BeeSweet.
Soon, it was approached by Whole Foods, one of the largest health food grocery chains on the planet, and was able to secure a deal to place Ulmer’s lemonade in 55 Whole Foods stores in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida, as well.
She also received a low-interest “local producer loan” from Whole Foods, which helped her to expand beyond the lemonade’s original flavour and experiment with other versions. Although, the Terms weren’t disclosed, but its loans run up to $100,000!
The Present and the Future…
The years of 2015 and 2016 have been a roller coaster ride for Mikaila. A lot of milestones getting fulfilled!
From – meeting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama (twice), being featured in Oprah’s magazine, teaching 20 free bee workshops to more than 1,000 students, getting straight A’s, expanding the distribution through UNFI – United Natural Foods (a leading national distributor of natural foods and beverages), and most recently, changing the name of the company from BeeSweet Lemonade to Me and the Bees Lemonade, she has achieved it all.
In a span of just few years, Mikaila has managed to climb the ladders to become one of the country’s most sought-after young business leaders. She has also been chosen as one of tech coalition MVMT50’s top 10 innovators of 2016 at the South by Southwest festival. She has visited the White House not once, but twice!
Today, her award-winning Me & the Bees Lemonade is buzzing off the shelves of Whole Foods Market, and is also available at a growing number of restaurants, food trailers and natural food delivery companies, as well.
But for Mikaila, all of this, including her enterprise is more of an environmental and social mission, than just business. She’s doing it for the bees!
What can entrepreneurs learn from this 11-year old entrepreneur?
To begin with – this young entrepreneur has a lot, that we can learn from!
As a member of the “Generation Z”; Mikaila, defying all odds has set a successful stage for herself to become an entrepreneur at such a tender age.
When asked Mikaila her piece of advice for the entrepreneurs: she says, you need to know your numbers! Understand what profit is! Creating a budget and Estimating your income!
Adding on to that, she goes on to say – if you like it, go big!
Following her example: we must learn how she transformed life experiences into opportunities! Of course, getting stung by a bee isn’t pleasant, but so aren’t many of our life experiences too. We must think twice about the experiences we’ve had.
“An Entrepreneur is someone who finds little difference between a PROBLEM and OPPORTUNITY, and turns both to its advantage.”