Sixth grader Mikaila Ulmer has already learned more about business in her 11 years than many adults ever learn. Mikaila is the founder, the face and the force behind Bee Sweet Lemonade, a local company she started with a single lemonade stand. She has some advice for other kids—or anyone else—who might also like to start their own business: go big.
af: What made you decide to start a business?
When I was 4 ½ years old, I got stung by two bees in one week. And my great-granny Helen sent me a 1940s cookbook with her favorite recipe of flaxseed lemonade in it. At the time, I absolutely hated bees. I was really afraid of them.
My parents didn’t want me to be so afraid of them, so they encouraged me to do some research. And I found out how incredibly important bees are to our ecosystem. So I decided to create a product that would help save the bees.
af: What do you want us to know about bees?
I would like readers to know how incredibly important bees are. Nobody likes bee stings. I’m not a fan of them. But that’s not the only thing that they do. They pollinate over 1 out of every 3 bites we eat. They contribute over 15 billion dollars to the U.S. agricultural economy in one year. They are incredibly important to our ecosystem. Without them, our food supply would collapse.
Last year alone, the U.S. lost 40 percent of all the hives. Bees are dying because of a disease called CCD [Colony Collapse Disorder], which scientists think comes from mites or pests in the hives spreading viruses. Or another likely cause of their death is that some farmers are spraying their crops with pesticides. So when a bee pollinates that plant, it can’t figure out where its hive is, and it ends up dying in the field.
af: What can we do about that?
There’s lots of ways we can help save the bees. We can plant bee-friendly plants with different colors, shapes and sizes and different bloom times. We can also learn as much as we can about the bees and share everything that we’ve learned to spread the awareness.
We can also buy local honey, which helps local beekeepers. There have been a couple of floods recently that have carried away thousands of hives. I use Round Rock Honey and Good Flow Honey in my lemonade.
af: What have you learned about running a business?
You can be sweet and be profitable. You can be a social entrepreneur and help solve a problem while making some money off of your business. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be okay with working hard. I wear a whole lot of hats—marketing, finance, demos and workshops.
Inspiration comes from many places. Keep your eyes open. And you need to find a business that you have a passion for and that you think is fun.
af: What are your favorite experiences as an entrepreneur?
One highlight was being on Shark Tank and actually closing a deal. Last summer, I was invited to the White House, and I got to have lunch with the President and Michelle Obama. That was amazing.
Another big highlight is teaching workshops. I get to collaborate with kids and families, teaching them about how to become an entrepreneur, why entrepreneurs are very important and the importance of bees.
af: What do you like to do in your down time?
I’m a chicken mama, so I take care of my chickens and my baby chicks. I got an Xbox for Christmas, and I like to dance to that. I really like to garden.
And I love to read. My favorite series is The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West. I’ve read the whole series. It’s amazing. I’m a really big fan of Matilda. I saw the movie, I saw the Broadway show and I’ve read the book about five times.
af: Lemonade Day is coming up May 7. Any advice?
I got started with Lemonade Day. My first piece of advice is that you need to know your numbers. Know what profit is. Create a budget. Estimate your income. That’s why I love Lemonade Day: it teaches you all those really important things.
Another thing is, if you like it, why don’t you go big? You don’t have to stay with one lemonade stand. Take me, for example. I did a lemonade stand for three years, and I kept on selling out. I would make double the lemonade, and keep on selling out. Then I got into my first pizza store, and that’s how I started going big.
The owners of East Side Pies came to my first Lemonade Day ever. Then we didn’t see them for a couple of years, and we went into East Side Pies to order pizza. We had no idea that the people who owned the shop were the people who had visited my stand, but they said, “Oh, my goodness. You’re the lemonade girl. We loved your lemonade.”
They said that if we could put it in bottles, they would carry my lemonade.
Teaching kids to start, own and operate their very own business lemondadeday.org