Can a bee sting inspire a young entrepreneur? If you are talking about Mikaila Ulmer of Sugar Land, Texas, the answer is “Yes.” She was stung by a bee twice in one week when she was four years old and developed an active fear of bees. Her parents, following the age old adage that knowledge can overcome fear, encouraged her to do some research on bees.
“After that I would freak out about the bees — like overreact — and then my parents wanted me to do some research so I would be less afraid. And doing that research I found out how incredibly important pollinators they are, and that they were dying,” Mikaila said. “And I decided to create a product that helped save the bees.”
The product she came up with was made from a recipe for lemonade taken from her great-grandmother’s cookbook. She decided on her own to add a dollop of honey to her concoction as a way of calling attention to the plight of the bees. Beekeepers have reported losing 42 percent of their colonies in the past year. That’s the second highest annual loss on record.
Scientists suspect pesticides may be behind the decline, which could threaten our food supply, since bees pollinate crops. “The pesticides either get into their brain and they can’t find their way back to the hive, or they have the pollen with the pesticides and they feed it to the hive and then the whole hive dies,” Mikaila says.
She and her family started brewing Mikaila’s lemonade, which is called BeeSweet, for local events. Then they began bottling it for a local pizza shop. Within a few years, they had a company on their hands. “We donate a portion of the profits we make to organizations that help the bees,” Mikaila says.
Some kids her age might not want to give any of their money away, but Mikaila says she’s okay with it. “It’s solving a problem in this world. That’s what keeps me motivated to do it.”
Whole Foods Market heard about her efforts to save the bees. Now it is selling BeeSweet lemonade in 32 stores in four states. “She’s asking questions about logistics, what retail prices should be, or margins. She’s incredibly sharp,” Whole Foods’ Erin Harper says.
Mikaila’s family helps her run the growing business that is now on track to sell nearly 140,000 bottles this year. Even with all this work, Mikaila’s parents try to give her time to be a 10-year-old. “Every weekend she does something that she enjoys. It may be roller blading this weekend, sleepover next weekend. You create a balance because she is working as hard as she is playing,” her mom says.
If you ask Mikaila how her little mom and pop and daughter business beat out such giant companies as Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Proctor & Gamble for the Whole Foods account, she replies, “I don’t know? Do they make theirs with love?”
Mikaila says BeeSweet will debut two new flavors this summer. Seeing so many people buying and enjoying her lemonade makes her want to grow her business even more so she can help even more bees.
Source and photo credit: Black Entrepreneur