By Pamela Yip
The Dallas Morning News.
May 01–For a young entrepreneur still learning about finance, Mikaila Ulmer has done pretty well for herself and her company.
Mikaila, 10, is chief executive of BeeSweet Lemonade, which she launched at age 4 1/2 after participating in a children’s business competition and in Lemonade Day, a national program that teaches children financial literacy by empowering them to open their own business — a lemonade stand.
BeeSweet has been so successful that Whole Foods is now carrying the drink and in March, Mikaila accepted a $60,000 investment offer from Daymond John of Shark Tank in exchange for a 25 percent stake in the company.
Not bad for any young business, much less one launched with a lemonade stand.
Lemonade Day was created in 2007 by entrepreneur Michael Holthouse, co-founder of the Houston non-profit organization Prepared 4 Life. It’s inspired by lessons he taught his young daughter when she set up her first lemonade stand
Nationwide, more than 225,000 kids from pre-kindergarten through high school in 35 U.S. cities participated in last year’s Lemonade Day. Nearly 50 cities will take part this year, and organizers are aiming for an eventual goal of 1 million lemonade stands in 100 cities across America.
In fact, Saturday is the second annual Lemonade Day Greater Dallas.
“There will be lemonade stands all across the city,” said Peggy Bessellieu, executive director of Lemonade Day Greater Dallas. “Lemonade Day teaches youth about financial literacy and the value of a dollar and offers skills they need to become successful in all areas of their lives.”
For example, the kids have to learn how to determine their costs and budget for production expenses.
“What I’ve seen a lot of times when we sit down with these kids, they want to do organic lemons and they want to have fresh raspberries in there,” Bessellieu said. “When we put the numbers to it, they realize they would have to charge about $7 a glass to make a profit.”
For Mikaila, the birth of BeeSweet started when she was 4 and her family encouraged her to make a product for a children’s business competition and Lemonade Day in Austin, where she lives.
Then two events occurred that launched her brand.
“I got stung by two bees in one week,” Mikaila said. “I hated the bees. I would freak out, but my parents — they made me do some research on the bees and from that research, I found out how incredibly important bees were to our world.”
At the same time, her great-grandmother sent Mikaila’s family a 1940s cookbook, which included her special recipe for flaxseed lemonade.
“I decided to create a product that helped save the bees and use Great Granny Helen’s recipe as well,” Mikaila said.
“Mikaila took some license by adjusting the formula to make it her own,” said her father, Theo, whose title at his daughter’s company is “Chief Worker Bee.” “She used the original recipe as the basis for the lemonade.”
BeeSweet’s flavors include mint, iced tea and “Prickly Pear.” A ginger flavor was the idea of her 7-year-old brother Jacob, the No. 1 salesman at his sister’s company.
Mikaila’s mother, D’Andra, serves as “Chief Marketing Bee.”
Mikaila is the first to admit that she’s still learning about finances.
“When I first started BeeSweet, I had a little trace of finance, but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” she said. “I had mentors along the way who helped me and I kept on learning, and I’m still learning right now.”
Her most influential mentor has been her dad, who has a finance and operations background. Mikaila has had a bank account since she was in kindergarten.
“Even when she was in kindergarten when we started, we try to teach them good financial acumen, good business acumen and social responsibility,” Theo Ulmer said.
“The three things I do with my money, even before I started with BeeSweet, was I give, save and I spend,” Mikaila said. “So I give to organizations that help the honey bees or to church. I also save for things that I may need in the future like college or fun things that may cost more money and I have to save up to get it, or I get to spend on fun things for me, my friends or my brother like arts and crafts and toys.”
Her company also donates a portion of its profits to organizations fighting to protect bees.
One of the first lessons Mikaila learned from her parents was that to make lemonade, you’re going to have to spend some money.
“The first lesson is in order to do anything relative to business, you have to first have some money to start out, and if you’re going to spend , you have to earn at least ,” Ulmer said.
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“The $1 is called a profit,” Mikaila chimed in.