Similar to other young people her age, Mikaila Ulmer, 13, officially is back in the classroom and eager to learn new things.
The intelligent freshman, a resident of Austin, Texas, is focused on earning good grades, making new friends, and helping her volleyball team win matches.
Unlike most other teenagers, however, Ulmer also is fixed on continuing to successfully manage and expand her national company, Me & the Bees Lemonade, which she created almost a decade ago, at the age of 4, as a way to raise awareness to the importance of the bee population by adding honey to her lemonade concoction.
How does she fit in all of her daily school and work responsibilities in a single, 24-hour period?
Ulmer, who turns 14 next month, said she strives to live a balanced life and credits being organized and relying on the support of family and close friends for her ability to “balance it all.”
When she is not doing homework; practicing in the setter position for volleyball; managing her personal and work emails; constructing social media posts to promote her work; marketing her unique lemonade flavors; checking in on the local bee apiaries with which she partners; making appearances at public events and on television to speak on the topics she is passionate about; and penning her own book encouraging young entrepreneurship, Ulmer enjoys just hanging out with her family and close friends.
“Although it can be hard to get everything done for school and work, I do give myself the time I need to just be a kid,” she said.
Ulmer was just a kid when she came up with her business concept, after getting stung by a bee twice in one week.
Her anger toward the insect softened upon learning the vital role bees play in the ecosystem and why the future of the busy insect is in jeopardy.
Ulmer already was contemplating a product to enter into the Acton Children’s Business Fair, a business competition for young people, and making a special, lemony drink for Austin Lemonade Day, when her business idea came to her.
“I thought, what if I make something that helps honeybees, using my great granny Helen’s recipe for flaxseed lemonade,” she said.
Ulmer found the recipe inside a 1940s cookbook her great grandmother sent and believes that book came at just the right time.
The 4-year-old sweetened her flaxseed lemonade with local honey, adding no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, and flavored it with organically grown mint.
The competition judges and residents of Austin agreed the unique blend was award-worthy.
Ulmer then began selling her naturally-sweetened lemonade from a cute, local stand while donating a portion of her profits to honeybee advocate groups to aid in restoring the bee population. Her drink continued to create a buzz within the community.
Growing the Business
Ulmer admits her first business goal, as a preschooler, was just to earn enough money, after sharing with the bees, to buy a toy that caught her eye at the store.
“People kept coming back and telling me that my lemonade was so good, so I kept making and selling it, even after I got the money I needed for my toy,” she said.
A local pizza shop started selling Ulmer’s lemonade, as well, and the beverage just flew off the shelves there, too.
Ulmer’s desire to keep sharing her special lemonade with consumers while helping to grow the bee population landed her, at the age of 11, on “Shark Tank,” a hit reality television show on which investors consider partnering with entrepreneurs on their business ideas.
“I was so nervous to talk in front of billionaires,” she said.
Despite her fear of speaking to the investors, Ulmer was able to secure a $60,000 investment, made by Daymond John, CEO of the clothing brand FUBU, to grow her lemonade business and put her drink inside Whole Foods, an American natural and organic grocery market, with locations all across the United States.
Today, Ulmer sells more than 360,000 bottles of her lemonade annually in a total of 28 states, including Texas, New York, and California. Her lemonade is available at Whole Foods and also Gelson’s, Natural Grocers, and Wegmans grocery stores.
The humble, busy, yet grounded young lady sits as one of the youngest business owners in the United States and serves as a positive role model for other children who dream of creating their own businesses one day, as well.
Me & The Bees Lemonade remains 100 percent freshly squeezed and continues to feature natural honey and organic mint from local Austin beekeepers and farmers, she said.
Ulmer additionally runs a nonprofit, the Healthy Hive Foundation, to keep raising awareness about the plight of the honeybees and helping bees thrive in safe environments. She still donates 10 percent of her profits to honeybee advocate groups.
Ulmer said she hopes to finish up her children’s book soon, be able to offer new lemonade flavors in the near future, and expand her business into all 50 states.
The young businesswoman doesn’t let her sweet success get to her head.
She said it is surreal to serve as one of the main young female entrepreneur role models in the United States.
“There are not many of us in leadership positions. I think it is really, really important to continue being me and to show young girls how they can pursue their dreams while still doing well on their school work,” she said. “It is heartwarming to receive letters and emails from students. It feels really good to be making a difference.”
One day, Ulmer hopes to be able to invest in other young entrepreneurs’ business ideas.
She tells young people if they have an idea, especially if the idea can make a difference in the world and is something they are passionate about, then to “just go for it.”
“The more passionate you are then the more fun you will have doing it,” she said.
Ulmer’s contagious passion even extended into the White House about two years ago. One of her favorite life moments was the opportunity she was given to introduce then President Barack Obama at the United States of Women Summit.
Ulmer looks forward to even more life highlights as she continues to pursue higher learning, meeting her business goals, positively impacting the environment, encouraging others to chase after their dreams, and taking needed time away from her homework and lemonade business to just chill.