June 22, 2024

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Me & the Bees Lemonade founder started her empire at 4 years old. Her motto: ‘Dream like a kid’

When most 15-year-olds are out at the movies, playing video games or listening to music, Mikaila Ulmer of Austin is focusing on building her empire.

Mikaila is the CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade, a business she started at age 4 after her family encouraged her to enter a local youth business competition. While she was thinking about what type of business to launch, she got stung by a bee — twice. At first she was scared, then quickly her fright turned to fascination when Mikaila learned about the vital role bees play in the ecosystem.

That’s when she decided to do something that would help save honeybees: Sell lemonade sweetened with local honey and donate a percentage of the profits from the sales to local and international organizations fighting to save honeybees. Her special recipe for Flaxseed Lemonade came from her great-grandmother, Helen.

“Being my own boss and being able to make my own money was important to me. I realized how fun it was to sit behind the stand and run it. That is why I decided to keep on going.”

In 2015 Mikaila introduced her lemonade on the set of “Shark Tank” and landed a $60,000 investment from Daymond John. She has also established herself as a voice of guidance for others, speaking at entrepreneurial summits and even introducing former U.S. president Barack Obama at The United State of Women Summit.

Today Me & the Bees is now in more than 1,500 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods, Wegmans and The Fresh Market, along with a growing number of restaurants, food trailers and natural-food delivery companies. Later this year Mikaila says she has plans to announce two new partnerships with major grocers. Me & the Bees has also expanded its product line to include lip balms made from bee’s wax.

Mikaila says she now has goals beyond Me & the Bees. “One of the hardest parts of growing was finding funding. I want to make that path easier for minority-run companies who have great ideas.”

According to research from American Express, black women are starting businesses faster than any other racial group. Since 2007, the number of firms owned by African-American women has grown by 164%. Despite the hustle, minority women are being shut out when it comes to access to capital.

Men still get a disproportionate share of venture capital funding, with only 2% of capital going to U.S.-based female-only founder teams, according to PitchBook. Of that 2%, only a fraction goes to women of color.

This young female entrepreneur also believes that modern companies needs to have a social mission: “I think it critical the companies have a social purpose. This generation is more likely to buy a from a company that does good in the world. It is not just a company it is a movement.”

Her best piece of advice to anyone thinking of starting a business? “Dream like a kid. The reason why — kids are so fearless. A kid will do whatever needs to be done to achieve their dream.”

Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the micro-investing app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to ”Shark Tank.”

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