It’s rare for a beverage company to start with $50 and grow to being sold in 2,500 stores across 40 states,” says Mikaila Ulmer, CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade. It’s rarer still for that company to be run by a 15-year-old. “Age didn’t faze me when it came to starting my business,” she says. “I was just excited to get started.”
It began with a bee sting when Ulmer was four. “I was afraid, so my parents encouraged me to do some research,” Ulmer says. “I learned that bees were important pollinators and that they were dying at an alarming rate.” She started selling her granny’s honey-sweetened lemonade recipe in Austin and donated the profits to bee-saving organizations.
She got the attention of Whole Foods when she began teaching free pollination workshops for kids there. “They said if I could figure out a way to bottle my product, they could carry it in their store.” In 2015, at age nine, Ulmer secured $60,000 in seed money on ABC’s reality show Shark Tank. A year later, Whole Foods announced a distribution deal with Me & the Bees for $11 million.
“When I started, I never expected to appear on Shark Tank or speak in front of 20,000 people or meet Barack Obama, but I did!” says Ulmer. Her future goals are as lofty (“I want to see my product in all 50 states!"), but her focus is clear: “I want my business to always be more than just lemonade—I want to have an even bigger impact on saving the bees.”
This article originally appeared in our Summer 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.