Meet Mikaila Ulmer, CEO of Me & The Bees Lemonade, founder of the Healthy Hive Foundation and author of brand new release, Bee Fearless. Her rise to fame has been fast. Her energy is palpable. And her vision is…limitless.
“I just don’t think that anyone is too young to have a good idea and grow it into something big. After all, kids have always been the biggest dreamers.”
Launched as a small lemonade stand when she was four after a series of bee stings and a decision to overcome her fear of “anything flying,” Mikaila’s company Me & The Bees has grown by nearly 500 percent in ten years. With five flavors of lemonade sold in 1,800 stores nationwide, including giants like Whole Foods and The Fresh Market, her brand has surpassed even her wildest dreams.
What makes Mikaila such a dynamic founder?
It’s not just that she won Shark Tank at the age of nine and was named one of Time’s Most Influential Teens at 13. Or that she insists on donating ten percent of net profits to protect the bee population. Or even that, while balancing school and activities, she briefs legislators on youth entrepreneurship issues.
What makes Mikaila a founder to watch and a role model for rising entrepreneurs is the way she turned her fear into a force for good.
Her willingness to take risks and have her business acumen judged alongside adults.
The utter joy she takes in describing things as small as her bee logo (“without the wings it’s a drop of honey but upside down it’s a heart!”) or as big as her corporate goals.
Être was thrilled to chat with Mikaila about her business, the book hitting shelves today, and what she wants young entrepreneurs to know about having a good idea.
Ê: We’re so excited to talk to you! OK, when did you know that Me & The Bees was going to be more than a lemonade stand; that it was going to be a big business with a social mission?
MU: When I first saw my lemonade being sold in stores, that was big. But, I think Shark Tank was the point when I realized it could be even bigger. It’s funny, when I was first asked to go on Shark Tank my parents said no; the sharks can be pretty brutal to contestants – even kids. But I kept asking and finally they let me do the first round of auditions. When I won and we made a deal with Daymond John, I knew we would grow.
Ê: Has he remained a mentor and are there other important role models you have met on this journey?
MU: It’s crazy how many people have pitched in and helped me! It started with my parents and everyone who stopped by the lemonade stand. Then my fifth grade math teacher tutored me in percentages; we sat in a coffee shop with my dad and all these business math flashcards! Since then it’s grown for me – I’m inspired by people like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and so many Gen Z entrepreneurs…most of them are really eager to help bring the next change-maker up.
Ê: Wait, stop. You mentioned Michelle Obama. We have to ask about when you introduced President Obama at the White House! What was that even like?
MU: That was the first presentation where I actually cried afterwards, it meant so much to me. Originally I was supposed to do a workshop at the White House for 3,000 people…but then we got a call that they wanted me to introduce the President and speak at the presidential podium. It was so cool.
Ê: Are these the kind of experiences you talk about in your book, Bee Fearless?
MU: Yes, there are so many stories like that! From visiting the White House three times to making the pitch to Shark Tank, or visiting my new school and seeing a business fair flyer – that part of the book is a memoir about me growing up with Me & The Bees. But the book is also part business guide, with lessons I’ve learned and want to teach other entrepreneurs: like marketing tips, how to make a budget and ways to set financial goals. I think there’s a real need for a book like this – one written by a young entrepreneur about youth entrepreneurship.
Ê: Let’s talk about being young – have you ever felt underestimated in business because of your age?
MU: Yes, in two ways! I think you can underestimate yourself, and then other people can underestimate you – I have experienced both of those things. For example, I don’t have the 30 years of business experience others might have, so sometimes I think I don’t know as much as they do…maybe I’m not ready. Then there are times where someone will say You’re only 15, how are you going to be a student and run a business? Both can be really intimidating when you’re starting out and trying to grow. But then I say NO, if this is something I want to do I am just going to DO it. And I turn those challenges into something new on my ‘to do’ list!
Ê: We’re so inspired. Last question: what would you say to girls in middle or high school who have a good idea, but are nervous to bring it forward?
MU: I would say this – just believe in yourself. If you know you have a good idea and you believe in it, there will be other people who believe in it too. Surround yourself with those people – your team or your hive – and you’ll find it’s a lot easier to believe in yourself and what you can do.
And that is more of what makes Mikaila a remarkable founder.
She refuses to be underestimated.
She relies on role models and surrounds herself with support.
She believes in herself.
Girls, put Bee Fearless on your new fall reading list, and teachers – add it to your back to school curriculum. Entrepreneurs of any age, treat this like your new courage playbook.
Then ask yourself this question: Who do you want to be right now?
Answer: Bee Fearless.
To learn more about Me & the Bees, the Healthy Hive Foundation or where to find Bee Fearless, head to Mikaila’s website. Être is grateful to Mikaila for taking the time to answer girls’ questions, and for inspiring young entrepreneurs everywhere to trust their ideas.