3 Business & Life Lessons from a 12-year-old Shark Tank CEO

Jul 06, 2017

Bee sting into multi-million-dollar business? That’s exactly what naturally curious Mikaila Ulmer did after two stings led her to research more about the bees that bit her. In a perfect example of everything falling into place at the right time, Ulmer’s lightbulb went on in the form of a bee sting, after her parents encouraged her to enter into a local children’s business competition.

In a matter of weeks, then 4-year-old Mikaila was stung twice by bees, and was the recipient of her great grandmother’s cookbook from the 1940s; in that cookbook was the recipe for great granny Helen’s Flaxseed Lemonade.

According to Mikaila, “I didn't enjoy the bee stings at all. They scared me. But then something strange happened. I became fascinated with bees. I learned all about what they do for me and our ecosystem. So then I thought, what if I make something that helps honeybees and uses my Great Granny Helen's recipe?”

Bee Sweet

Replacing sugar with honey is the genius behind BeeSweet Lemonade, but Mikaila’s dream extends far beyond lemonade. In her research, Ulmer discovered that the bee population is dwindling, greatly impacting our intricate and fragile ecosystem. Mikaila’s lemonade is not only healthier with the use of honey, but she sources her honey locally in an effort to support beekeepers. With sustainability in mind, and environmentally conscientious, Ulmer donates at least 10 percent of BeeSweet’s profits to organizations working to save honeybees -- a recipe for business success.

Swim with the sharks

A $60,000 investment from the hit television show, Shark Tank, paired with national exposure, paved the way for a multi-million-dollar contract with natural food grocer, Whole Foods, and additional distribution contracts. There have, of course, been a multitude of awards won along the way, with Ulmer named one of the Top 10 Innovators of the year at South By Southwest in 2016, among many other entrepreneurial honors.

Worker Bee

At 12 years old, Mikaila Ulmer manages to balance school with the demands of a multi-million-dollar business. Ulmer’s parents ensure that schoolwork comes before the business, with Mikaila working on BeeSweet business evenings, weekends and vacations, after her schoolwork is done, of course.

In addition to her business talent, Mikaila is a gifted public speaker, using her talent to educate others about bees. As if all of that’s not enough to fill her time, Mikaila mentors other children with a desire to start a business.

Two of the [many] positive traits Ulmer possesses are her humility and a strong desire to help others; she’s grounded. In an interview with CNBC, Mikaila shared 3 of her secrets to running a successful business:

  1. Build Your Business Based on Passion
    "The more passionate you are about what you do, the more fun you will have while doing it and then also, the better you will do it, the easier it will be and the more successful your company will be.”

  2. Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help
    "A lot of entrepreneurs think they have to do it all by themselves and when they are in times of trouble, they won't ask for help. It is important to ask for help when you need it because there are people who support your mission and support what you do and so it is definitely important for you to go and ask them for help if you need it.”

  3. Channel your inner child
    "Dream big, and not only dream big, but also dream like a kid. When a kid has a dream and they want it to come true, they will do whatever it takes to do so. They don't see the obstacles in the way, they will just fight hard to make it come true.”