Getting stung by a bee was the best thing that ever happened to 10-year-old entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer.
Mikaila is the founder, owner and CEO of BeeSweet Lemonade, an Austin-based, family-run lemonade company that donates 20 percent of its proceeds to organizations who help save honeybees. The company’s motto is “Buy a bottle, save the bees!”
“It makes me feel very special that I own my own business, and I’m only 10,” Mikaila said. “I get to go to really fun, fancy events, and I get to stay up late at them.”
When bees stung her twice in one week six years ago, Mikaila said she began researching bees to gain a better understanding of how they work. That same week, Mikaila started experimenting with her great-grandmother Helen’s 1940s flaxseed lemonade recipe in preparation for Acton Children’s Business Fair, an event in which kids are encouraged to launch their own startups by running a booth to sell a product they created.
Mikaila said her newfound passion for helping honeybees drove her to tweak her grandmother’s recipe to use locally sourced honey as a sweetener.
Lemonade sales were good, so Mikaila continued to sell her drinks at youth entrepreneurial events until the owner of East Side Pies, an Austin-based pizza company, suggested she bottle it. Mikaila agreed and moved the lemonade production from her family’s kitchen to a small commercial kitchen.
Today, BeeSweet Lemonade sells 12-ounce bottles of freshly squeezed lemonade with flavors such as original mint, ginger, prickly pear and iced tea. They can be found in Whole Foods Market and several small businesses around Austin, including East Side Pies and Wheatsville Co-op.
Mikaila’s mother, D’Andra Ulmer, deals with the company’s marketing. D’Andra said the business belongs to Mikaila and that her role is mostly supportive.
“It’s her business,” D’Andra said. “It really is. She started it in kindergarten, and she worked hard, and now that [the lemonade] is sold at Whole Foods, it wouldn’t be fair to take her business away from her.”
Journalism senior Mikayla Martinez began her internship at BeeSweet two years ago, acting as D’Andra’s right hand. Martinez’s involvement ranges from writing public relations pieces to testing new flavors. She said everything she does — and everything anyone does — must first be approved by Mikaila.
“D’Andra has always emphasized that [everything] has to come from Mikaila,” Martinez said. “Mikaila has to have a say in everything.”
Mikaila’s main duties range from holding workshops on how to save honeybees to coming up with new flavors. Mikaila said she usually deals with BeeSweet-related work after school, but her mind is always on the clock.
“I made up the prickly pear [flavor] while I was at school doing my math homework,” Mikaila said.
Last month, “Shark Tank,” a reality show on which entrepreneurs present business ideas to a group of judges who decide whether they want to invest, featured BeeSweet Lemonade. Daymond John, one of the show’s judges, agreed to invest $60,000 in BeeSweet for a 25 percent stake in the company. Mikaila accepted his offer.
Mikaila said she has high hopes for the company’s future. She said she looks forward to continuing to be the owner of BeeSweet, expanding the company into the snack realm with cupcakes and starting a clothing and home goods line.
“I want a BeeSweet Lemonade line, like the Hello Kitty line,” Mikaila said. “I want BeeSweet everything.”