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Who here started a lemonade stand as their first endeavor into the business world? I did. My brother and I dragged a cooler of Kool-aid down to the end of our driveway and I’m pretty sure my mom called the neighbors to drive by so we’d get a few customers. My lemonade business started and ended there… But when this guest started her lemonade stand, it transformed into something much, much bigger.
Mikaila Ulmer is the youngest guest we’ve ever featured on the Goal Digger Podcast. She started her lemonade company at 4-years old. Now she’s the 15-year old CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade and her special recipe lemonade is sold across the country.
If you’ve got kiddos with the entrepreneurial bug, you’ll want them to tune into this episode… But let me tell you, Mikaila’s drive, her business acumen, and her mission to do good while running a profitable company is something we can all learn from, no matter what age.
At just four years old, Mikaila entered into two kid-focused entrepreneurial events in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Both were held in the fall, so she spent her summer brainstorming and testing business ideas. She tested out friendship bracelets and wildflowers planted in Playdough, but she didn’t quite land on a solid proof of concept until she found her great-grandmother’s cookbook.
Among the lard-laden recipes was a beverage that caught Mikaila’s eye — flaxseed lemonade. Within the same week, she was stung by two bees. While the events may seem unrelated, the bee stings and the cookbook were the foundation of both Mikaila’s passion for protecting the bee population and the start of her business.
Despite the stings, Mikaila’s parents encouraged her to learn more about bees. She reluctantly agreed to change up her usual picture book choices at the library, and was surprised to discover just how important bees are to our ecosystem and food chain… And that they were dying at an alarming rate. “I started thinking, whatever I do for the fair, I want to use my business to help save the bees,” Mikaila explained.
Mikaela began making flaxseed lemonade with her great-granny’s recipe and she sweetened it with honey. Her first lemonade stand at those business events turned into a decade in “buzzness”, as she likes to say.
Mikaela learned at a very young age that she should enjoy being curious and asking questions. Even when she didn’t want to learn about bees after they’d stung her, it sparked an idea that led to one of Mikaila’s biggest passions, and set up the foundation of a socially responsible business.
“I always encourage any entrepreneur to do — keep your business social. Find something that motivates [you] that’s bigger than money,” Mikaila shared. “Because when life gives you lemons, those challenges as an entrepreneur, it really helps to remember that the bees are relying on me.”
Shark Tank as a 9-Year Old
Mikaila was invited by the African American Chamber of Commerce in Austin, Texas to Shark Tank auditions when she was just 9-years old. But her parents gave the invite a hard no. They’d seen the show and the brutal treatment of contestants, even when they have a solid business!
Mikaila was determined. She wanted to grow her lemonade business and she knew that the Shark Tank experience could be an incredible growth opportunity, not to mention a learning experience. Her parents caved and Mikaila went to work.
She practiced her pitch over and over. She met with her math teacher at cafes after school hours to learn more about percentages and interest. “It was definitely overwhelming at first, but I learned to enjoy it.” Mikaila recognized that everything she was learning in preparation for her Shark Tank pitch would apply not only to growing her current business, but would come in handy if she ever launched a new one.
Encouraging a Young Entrepreneur
As a mother of a daughter, I wanted to know what Mikaila’s parents did to encourage her on her entrepreneurial path. She said confidently, “They never told me to wait until I’m older.”
Mikaila’s parents encouraged her to pursue the things she was passionate about as a kid, and never asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. That unlocked Mikaila’s curious nature and through exploring what she loved, she dove into her business knowing she wasn’t limited by her age.
She also credits her parents with being ready and willing to learn alongside her. Mikaila’s parents didn’t have any experience in the beverage industry, but they dove into the research and learning with Mikaila, and shared the knowledge from their own careers to help her along the way.
More from this Episode
It was so fun chatting with Mikaila to get her perspective on entrepreneurship as a young adult. She offers some advice for adults that I think will change how you approach your next big leap (and it involves an ice cream sundae). Plus, Mikaila shares the journey behind writing and releasing her first book. Bee sure to grab it now — Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid by Mikaila Ulmer, out now.