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Teen Entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer Turned Saving the Bees into a Multi-Million Dollar Empire

Capitalism.com
|
January 8, 2021
Mikaila Ulmer

Mikaila Ulmer Concocted a Sweet Recipe for Multi-Million Dollar Success 

Buzz, buzz, buzz, STING!

The pain of a bee sting is something you never forget. Mikaila Ulmer remembers her first bee encounter vividly. She was only four years old when a bee stung her neck, and less than a week later, a bee stung her on the ear.

The trauma of two bee stings made Mikaila afraid of the buzzing insects. She thought another bee would sting her every week! Instead of running away from her fears, she decided to educate herself. With her mother, D'Andra, Mikaila learned all about the importance of bees in the ecosystem. However, she also found out that many honey bees were in danger of becoming extinct.

A Global Problem Even a Four-Year-Old Mikaila Ulmer Could See

Bees may be a slight annoyance (or even a deadly one for those who are allergic). But without them, the planet would be in trouble. One-third of the foods consumed by humans rely on pollination. Bees are the busiest pollinators in the world.

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left." 

Albert Einstein

This news didn't sit well with Mikaila. After all, no bees meant no alfalfa. And since alfalfa is the primary diet for cows, dairy products would disappear. That would mean no ice cream! The thought of living without ice cream was too much for 4-year-old Mikaila to digest. Although she was still relatively young, she came up with a solution that would save her favorite dessert and benefit the entire planet.

Buy a Bottle, Save a Bee

Like many future entrepreneurs, Mikaila decided to set up a lemonade stand. She stumbled across her great-grandmother's recipe for homemade flaxseed lemonade. Clever Mikaila tweaked the recipe a bit and added honey until she got the flavor just right.

In 2009, Mikaila started selling her refreshing, honey-sweetened beverage outside her home in Austin, Texas. Instead of keeping all the profits for her piggy bank, the kindergartener donated a percentage to organizations dedicated to protecting honey bee colonies.  

"Be Sweet Lemonade" was a fun play on words. But Mikaila soon changed it to Me & the Bees Lemonade because of copyright issues. While the secret to its sweetness is honey, the rest of her proprietary blend is a well-kept secret.

The Bees Meet the Sharks

Most lemonade stands only last for a single hot summer afternoon. But Mikaila wanted to make sure Me and the Bees Lemonade could survive the long haul. Saving the bees was her passion, and she believed in her product. It was time to think bigger than just selling lemonade in her front yard.

Mikaila and her father soon found themselves pitching Me & the Bees Lemonade to investors on Shark Tank. Her appearance on the show paid off big time. Mikaila landed a deal with Daymond John. He invested $60,000 for a 25% piece of the bee-saving beverage company.

He wasn't the only person to invest in Mikaila's lemonade. Her company also received over $800,000 capital from several NFL players. As Arian Foster, former running back for the Houston Texans, told the Houston Chronicle, "It's more than about money to us. We believe that investing in small black businesses is extremely important."

Whole Foods Buys the Brand for $11 Million

People across the country saw Mikaila Ulmer on Shark Tank. Interest in her product grew immensely. The exposure also made many retailers take note of Me & the Bees Lemonade. Whole Foods was the first well-known store to jump onboard. The grocery-giant picked up Mikaila's brand in an $11 million deal.

As the popularity of Me & the Bees Lemonade began to grow, so did its product lineup. The brand now carries multiple lemonade flavors, including Classic, Prickly Pear, Ginger, Iced Tea, and Mint. According to Mikaila, Prickly Pear is the best-selling SKU.

In 2019, the brand announced an upcoming launch of beeswax lip balms on Mikaila Ulmer's Instagram page. The flavors include honey, coconut lime, blackberry, vanilla, and cool mint. Fans can also purchase branded merchandise from Me & the Bees Lemonade's online store.

Bee the Change

Mikaila isn't stopping with honey lemonade and beeswax. She recently authored her first book, Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid. Although a memoir, the book also provides readers with helpful tips on pursuing their own ventures.

Although Me & the Bees Lemonade has made Mikaila a very wealthy girl, saving the bees was always her priority. Since the beginning, her company has donated a portion of its profits to bee-saving organizations, such as the Sustainable Food Center, Texas Beekeepers Association, and Heifer International.

However, Mikaila knew she could do even more to protect this dying species. She established the Healthy Hive Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to help educate, research, and protect.

How Much Money Does Mikaila Ulmer Make?

Me & the Bees Lemonade recently celebrated a decade of sweet success in 2019. More than 1,500 stores nationwide now carry Me & the Bees Lemonade. You can find it at Whole Foods, World Market, The Fresh Market, Kroger stores, and H-E-B, a Texas-based grocery chain.

How much has this buzz-worthy brand earned? Mikaila Ulmer's parents don't like to disclose the exact number. But they stated the company's annual revenues surpassed the 7-figure mark.

Mikaila Ulmer's net worth is reportedly between $1-5 million.

As of the beginning of 2021, she's only 15! Mikaila doesn't let her young age dictate what she can accomplish. As she explained to CNBC, "I always say that it's important to dream like a kid and that (as a kid) it's the perfect age to start figuring out what you enjoy and trying new things and taking risks."

Ryan recently wrote an article about how important it is to try new things and make mistakes.

The world is waiting for entrepreneurs like Mikaila to solve its biggest problems. If you're ready to start your journey as an entrepreneur, check out this free mini-series, which will give you clarity about how to get started. Oh, and don't worry if you're older than 15 - now is the perfect time to start.

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