Sweet Success: Young Entrepreneur Brings Buzzworthy Business to White House
After two bee stings in the same week, Mikaila Ulmer’s parents encouraged the then four-year-old to research honeybees and why they are critical to our ecosystem. Not only did the study help remove her stinging fear, it also created a buzz within Mikaila—she could help the diminishing bee population by creating a business!
“Doing that research I found out how incredibly important pollinators they are, and they were dying,” Mikaila said. Soon after, her “Great Granny Helen” sent her a 1940’s cookbook which included a special recipe for flaxseed lemonade. She decided to create a product that helped save the bees, and BeeSweet Lemonade was born. Mikaila added locally-sourced honey as her way of calling attention to the plight of honeybees.
Mikaila and her family started brewing BeeSweet for local events, then bottling it for a local pizza shop. Within a few years, they had a thriving company on their hands. Bee Sweet Lemonade has been giving back from the very start. “We donate a portion of the profits we make to organizations that help the bees,” Mikaila said. “It’s solving a problem in this world. That’s what keeps me motivated to do it.” A national retailer heard about her efforts to save the bees and is now selling her lemonade in 75 stores across the southern United States.
Now 11, Mikaila will also be a featured as a celebrity chef at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll, where over 35,000 people are expected to enjoy the festivities. Mikaila, who was recently name a 2016 National Park Service Youth Ambassador, will pour up her award-winning all-natural lemonade and talk with attendees about social entrepreneurship and her mission to save the world’s honeybee population. BeeSweet Lemonade products and the display stand were shipped via FedEx.
While on the White House South Lawn, Mikaila will also host a cooking demonstration of how to make honey lemonade and Bee Sweet Lemonade popsicles. She is hopeful to create the refreshing treats with mint and honey from the White House garden and beehive.
The company currently produces four flavors with new ones on the horizon this year. This young CEO is incredibly sharp. She asks questions and is involved in logistics, pricing, and marketing decisions. Mikaila shared her three primary goals, “Add more flavors to the lineup, expand internationally, and have a measurable impact on saving the bees.”
Early on Mikaila thought she had to choose between “being sweet and being a business owner.” She proudly declares, “I learned I can be both!” There are challenges to running a business. Having to say no to some interviews, speaking engagements and opportunities is one. “Managing a busy schedule is not easy”, says D’Andra Ulmer, Mom and Chief Marketing Officer. She plans most activities for after school or during spring break. Another challenge of expanding is to meet increasing demand while keeping true to the product mission of being an all-natural business with no artificial flavors or sweeteners. She also is rebranding her company to “Me & The Bees”, inspired by her growing desire for more people to join the mission of saving the bees. She manages all of this while maintaining straight A’s and a 9pm bedtime.
Mikaila Ulmer has a soft spot for aspiring entrepreneurs. “I want other kids to have the same opportunity I did,” she says. “I want to see more mini moguls out there.” Her advice:
- Be ok with working hard. You will wear multiple hats.
- Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war.
- There is always help back at the hive. Learn to ask for help and advice.
The charismatic whirlwind travels selling BeeSweet Lemonade at youth entrepreneurial events and delivering motivational speeches to students across the U.S. She is headed to Cape Town, South Africa to participate in a women’s entrepreneurship event. Mikaila also volunteers her time teaching youth and families on the importance of the honeybees and how to help save them. She hopes to create a little more buzz for the bees.