BY: JESSICA BEUKER
PHOTO BY: Sandra Ramos
While most 11-year-olds spend their afternoons playing at the park or kicking around a soccer ball with their friends, Mikaila Ulmer is busy running her own business. Ulmer recently launched BeeSweet Lemonade in Texas—using her family’s homemade lemonade recipe to raise awareness for and protect endangered honeybees.
It’s an idea that has landed the young entrepreneur a multi-million dollar deal with supermarket giant Whole Foods, who will distribute the lemonade among 55 stores across the country.
Ulmer wasn’t always such an advocate for bees though. At age four, Ulmer was stung by two bees in the same week. She naturally became very frightened and skittish around bees, so her parents suggested that she do some research on them in the hopes of turning her fear into knowledge. “Something strange happened,” recalls Ulmer. “I became fascinated with bees. I learned all about what they do for me and our ecosystem. So then I thought, what if I make something that helps honeybees and uses my Great Granny Helen’s recipe?”
The lemonade itself has been in the family since 1940, according to NBC News. It’s made with flaxseed and sweetened with honey instead of sugar.
While doing her research, Ulmer found that not only are bees responsible for pollinating one third of the food we eat but are also in danger of going extinct. With this is mind, she started to educate customers about the state of bees at her lemonade stand.
Soon after, she began entering her lemonade into youth entrepreneurial competitions. This led to a spot on Shark Tank, where she was awarded a $60,000 deal and a 25 per cent stake in the company.
The bee ambassador donates a percentage of the profits from the lemonade to local and international organizations that work to save honeybees. Ulmer’s business continues to expand; she is currently creating new lemonade flavours and in June she will travel to Cape Town, South Africa to speak to young girls about entrepreneurship.