Students all over the country are getting geared up to go back to school, but how many students are finishing up summer reading while releasing their first novel?
In August, Mikaila Ulmer, Founder and CEO, of Me & the Bees (who has already been busy with her own company for the past 10 years), will mark another major accomplishment as her book Bee Fearless, Dream Like a Kid hits bookstores nationwide.
The 15-year-old entrepreneur started out selling lemonade by the cup at a stand in Texas, harnessing a heirloom recipe of her family. Today, the beverage is sold in over 1,800 stores nationally and uses 100% sustainable packaging. Since Mikaila is still a full-time student, she has an entire “hive” that supports her. Initially, it was Mikaila behind the stand selling lemonade, her mother taught her marketing, father taught her operations, and her brother handled sales. Today, the company has grown but is still family owned and operated.
The top selling flavor at Me & the Bees is Prickly Pear Lemonade, which came to fruition after Mikaila was rollerblading around her neighborhood. “I’m from Texas, so I see prickly pears all across the street,” she told WholeFoods Magazine. “It’s our best seller, known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Kids love it because it’s pink, and looks cool. When I do demos in NY, consumers say ‘What’s a prickly pear? I’d like to try that.’”
Beyond the brand, Mikaila started the Healthy Hive Fund, a non-profit that educates consumers, and researches and protects native and wild bee populations.
“I started Healthy Hive in 2016,” says Mikaila. “We want to find out the cause of the decline in bee population, and how we can save them. I travel to schools and do pollinator activities with students and we’ve partnered with campuses and schools to turn their lands into bee friendly lands to create pollinator corridors. ”
Through it all, Mikaila still puts school first. A lot of work happens during school breaks, and on the weekends. “During school, the number one focus is school for me,” Mikaila shares. “I have my hive who is grinding on the company while I’m learning Algebra II.”
The young CEO has many goals, including being an African American youth best-seller, inspiring other kid entrepreneurs, having America’s top selling lemonade, and of course, saving the bees.
As for back-to-school snacks, Mikaila has one favorite: “I love c-snacks seaweed. That has been my favorite snack for so long. I love going to the store to get the Big chompers. They have barbeque flavor. It was a dream come true when I met the founder at expo west a couple years ago. We’ve been friends ever since.” More on back-to-school snacks here.
Entrepreneur Advice: One Teen to Another
For peers who want to get involved in business, Mikaila has some advice: Start with something that you’re interested in. Sometimes ideas come when you least expect them to. Most importantly, “Make sure to learn about social entrepreneurship and use your business to do good in the world, it’s the future of the economy. My generation are very conscious consumers. They want products on the shelves that they can get behind because it’s doing good in the world, especially environmentally, because it’s the world we are going to grow up in.”