When Life Hands You Lemons, Add Honey

by Steve Wilson

It’s not every CEO who starts an interview by jumping from behind the interviewer’s back and laughing at the look of surprise on his face. But when the CEO is 10, you can cut her some slack.

Actually, it’s a relief to know Mikaila Ulmer is still a kid at heart, because her company is growing up fast. Since she started bottling her honey-sweetened flaxseed lemonade for Austin’s East Side Pies, BeeSweet Lemonade has expanded to sell four flavors (mint, ginger, prickly pear and iced tea) all around Austin and in 32 Whole Foods Market stores across four states. In March 2015, Ulmer appeared on the TV show “Shark Tank”—attracting a $60,000 investment and giving her another platform to spread the word about the plight of bees (she donates some of the profits to groups helping the beleaguered insects). It’s the latest in an uptick of media appearances and speaking engagements for Ulmer that will make her miss 10 days of sixth grade this year.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been hectic, but it’s been busy,” she says, before turning to her mom to ask how many “store demos we’re doing in this segment.” She can dish out that sort of business lingo with the best of ’em, but unlike many executives, what she says actually makes sense to people outside the business realm. Per a teacher’s request, she recently taught her class how to read a financial statement.

Ulmer plans to expand into other parts of Texas and more Whole Foods Market stores across the country. She also has two new flavors in the works, but like a pro, she avoids revealing what they’ll be. And through it all, she hasn’t lost sight of the fact that she’s doing it for the bees. “When I started in business, I thought you had to choose between making money and solving a problem,” she says. “Now I know you can be sweet and still be profitable.”

Visit meandthebees.com/ or call 512-710-5366 for more.