Lots of kids start lemonade stands, but very few are able to turn them into a multi-million dollar business. But that’s exactly what Texas sixth-grader Mikaila Ulmer managed to do. Eleven-year-old Mikaila Ulmer, the little girl behind BeeSweet Lemonade turned her childhood fear into a massive business and social venture. And, as of Thursday, her idea for honey-sweetened, locally-sourced lemonade can be found on the shelves of major natural foods retailers in at least five states.
Like most great ideas, BeeSweet Lemonade came together through serious thought, great timing, and an “Aha moment.” According to her company’s website, when the Austin, Texas, entrepreneur was 4 years old, her family encouraged her to come up with an idea for a children’s business competition. At around that time, her grandmother sent the family a cookbook from the 1940s that included a unique recipe for flaxseed lemonade.
But the light bulb went off when Ulmer had, not one, but two painful encounters with honeybees, according to NBC BLK. Like most little kids, Ulmer was frightened of bees. So when the little girl suffered two bee stings in the same week, it could have been a traumatizing experience. “It was painful,” the now-11-year-old told NBCBLK recently. “I was terrified.”
But Ulmer’s mother, D’Andra, saw a chance to teach her daughter something about nature; she encouraged Ulmer to do some research on the insects and the danger that honeybees face. “And then it clicked,” Ulmer told NBC.
It certainly did. Ulmer’s idea for sweetening her grandmother’s recipe with local honey was an almost immediate success, both for Ulmer and for those working to save honeybees. According to the BeeSweet Lemonade website, a percentage of the profits from every sale goes to support international organizations working to save bees from extinction. (Bees are crucial to farmers, and, without them, ecosystems and food production systems across the planet would be devastated.)
BeeSweet Lemonade became the most popular entry at youth entrepreneur competitions and social innovation panels. And Ulmer eventually presented her business plan at a venue seldom seen by most young business owners: the Shark Tank. Fans of the ABC television show Shark Tank know that getting the “sharks” — a panel of business tycoons and multi-billionaire investors — excited about an idea is no easy feat. But when she appeared on the show in 2015, Mikaila Ulmer won $60,000 from Shark Tank investor Daymond John, according to Black Enterprise magazine.
From there, BeeSweet Lemonade really took flight. The investment helped to secure a deal to place Ulmer’s lemonade in 55 Whole Foods stores in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida, NBC reported. And Ulmer has become one of the country’s most sought-after young business leaders. Ulmer was on President Barack Obama’s guest last year at the White House Kids’ State Dinner and was recently chosen as one of tech coalition MVMT50’s top 10 innovators of 2016, NBC reported in a separate story.
And it seems that Ulmer might just be getting started. She told NBC that, between running her business and doing homework — she is in sixth grade, after all — she tries to make time to help other young people with their ideas. “Now I am helping my friends start their own businesses,” Ulmer told NBC. The story probably won't stop buzzing anytime soon.