Earlier this month, a sixth-grader from Austin, Texas, landed an $11 million business deal.
Mikaila Ulmer is the unexpected entrepreneur behind BeeSweet Lemonade. She’s also a public speaker and philanthropist — and, did we mention, an 11-year-old middle-schooler?
Her business has everything you could ask for: an innovative product, inspiring story, a strong environmental and social mission — and the most adorable boss ever.
“I work on the business after school, after I do my homework, and on weekends and during spring breaks,” Ulmer told NBCBLK.
How a 4-Year-Old Launched a Multi-Million Dollar Business
When she was four, Ulmer’s family encouraged her to make a product for the Acton Children’s Business Fair.
While she was brainstorming, she was stung by two bees in one week and became terrified of them. Her mother encouraged her to turn her fear into an education, so Ulmer studied the dreaded insect — and became fascinated.
She learned bees were headed for extinction and wanted to do something about it.
Ulmer’s “Great Granny Helen” had also recently sent her a 1940s cookbook, which included a recipe for flaxseed lemonade.
Ulmer decided to create a lemonade business and sweeten her lemonade with honey instead of sugar or artificial sweetener. It would be healthier, save the bees and support beekeepers.
BeeSweet Lemonade donates a portion of its profits to organizations fighting to save honeybees, which pollinate the crops making up about a third of American food groups, NBCLK reports.
Their extinction would threaten those crops, worth about $15 billion each year.
In addition to the lemonade business, Ulmer leads workshops on how to save honeybees and participates in panels about social entrepreneurship.
And she says she’s helping her friends start their own businesses.
“What makes me very proud is that she is not only a smart entrepreneur but she’s a good person and she’s kind to people,” Ulmer’s mother told NBCLK.
“That’s more important than business.”
The $11 Million Whole Foods Deal
After perfecting and selling her lemonade for four years from a lemonade stand and at youth entrepreneurial events, Ulmer took BeeSweet Lemonade to the big leagues.
She was on ABC’s “Shark Tank” last season at the age of nine — and received $60,000 from FUBU CEO Daymond John. After its initial success, BeeSweet landed a deal with Whole Foods to sell the lemonade in some regional stores.
BeeSweet Lemonade will now be available in 55 Whole Foods stores across the South. If it’s successful, it could soon be available nationwide!
Your Turn: Do you know any inspiring young entrepreneurs?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).