One young Austinite is proving that she can swim with the sharks. For the past six years, 10-year-old Mikaila Ulmer has been selling lemonade with BeeSweet Lemonade, a successful Austin-based business that just received a new source of financial backing.
Ulmer was recently a contestant on Shark Tank, an ABC reality show where start-up companies seek attention (and money) from big-wig investors. On the March 21 episode, the Austinite pitched her BeeSweet Lemonade idea to the panel — and Daymond John took the bait. The established businessman promised the young entrepreneur $60,000 and an East Coast distribution deal in exchange for a 25 percent stake in the beverage company.
Ulmer was inspired to start BeeSweet Lemonade after she was stung twice by the small insect at the tender age of 4. "I was terrified of bees and I would overreact and freak out," Ulmer told KVUE in an interview. "So my parents wanted me to do some research on the bees and ... in doing that research I found out how incredibly important pollinators they are and that they're dying. So I decided to create a product that helps save the bees."
Around the same time, Ulmer's grandmother sent the bee aficionado a decades-old recipe for flaxseed lemonade. So Ulmer combined Great Granny Helen's recipe with her newfound love of the bug to make BeeSweet Lemonade, a drink company that doubles as an awareness campaign for the plight of honeybees. Each glass of lemonade uses local honey and a portion of the proceeds goes towards various organizations that are working to save bees.
BeeSweet Lemonade has experienced so much growth and success over the past six years that Ulmer regularly speaks at workshops and panels about entrepreneurship and, of course, honeybees. What began as a lemonade stand has turned into a family-run company — and hopefully a nationwide phenomenon.
You can watch the Shark Tank episode with Ulmer here. If hearing about Ulmer's story has inspired you to "save a bee," pick up a bottle of BeeSweet Lemonade at Whole Foods Market or participating stores around Austin.