AUSTIN, Texas — Nine-year-old Mikaila Ulmer has raised the bar for kids with lemonade stands everywhere.
Her BeeSweet Lemonade has made that rare jump from neighborhood lemonade stand to the shelves of Whole Foods stores at The Domain and Arbor Hills.
Mikaila added locally harvested honey, fresh mint and flax seed to her great-grandmother’s all-natural recipe. It also comes with a dollop of social conscience as Mikaila donates 20 percent of her profits to organizations that help save honey bees.
“I want to help the bees because they are really important,” she said. “One of every three bites we eat depends on the honey bee.”
Lynda Berrios with Whole Foods Market said adding BeeSweet Lemonade to its product mix was a natural.
“How could you not? She’s absolutely darling,” Berrios said. “She’s the total package.”
Mikaila’s entrepreneurial path started at age 4 with a fear of bees and a need for a project.
Mikaila’s parents, Theophilus and D’Andra Ulmer, are both in business. He works in finance and she is in marketing.
“We wanted to teach our kids about business,” D’Andra Ulmer said.
The family found great-grandmother Helen’s lemonade recipe in a 1940s cookbook.
Mikaila and her father started squeezing lemons and tinkering with the recipe, and her lemonade was a hit at the local Acton Children’s Business Fair.
In 2011 Mikaila’s recipe was judged most creative lemonade at the Austin Lemonade Day contest.
D’Andra Ulmer said her daughter’s big break was when Mike Fried of East Side Pies suggested she should bottle the drink.
Fried said he met the Ulmer family at a community meeting where he was providing the pizza and BeeSweet was being served.
“I thought her focus and drive at such a young age to start a business and her passion about the environment and local issues resonated with me,” he said. “She asked if we would sell her lemonade, and I said ‘bottle it and we’ll carry it.’”
Sisters & Brothers Inc., the maker of SASS salad dressings, bottle the lemonade in South Austin.
“We wanted to keep it in Austin so Mikaila can be involved,” D’Andra Ulmer said.
Mikaila is in charge of quality control: She tastes the lemonade hot to be sure the recipe is consistent.
She also does in-store demonstrations and workshops on saving the bees.
Her mother said Mikaila has learned about marketing and profit as well as practicing her writing and math by filling out deposit slips.
Mikaila said she likes having her own money: “I give some, I save some and I spend some.”
As for her future, Mikaila said, “I want to keep my business going and I also want to be a doctor or a teacher.”
Today BeeSweet Lemonade is available at cafes, food trailers and natural grocery stores, including Max’s Wine Dive, Farmhouse Delivery, Barton Hills Food Mart, Quickie Pickie grocery and East Side Pies.
Fried remains impressed.
“We’ve had Mikaila at the shop a few times, during Lemonade Days, and folks showed up from all over Austin and a few from Round Rock, just for her lemonade,” he said. “We knew she had something special.”