Mikaila Ulmer of Sugar Land, TX is definitely one of those rare stories in entrepreneurship. According to the Kauffman Foundation the average age of a successful founder tends to be around 40. This is why I was so impressed when someone told me the story of Mikaila and her company, Bee Sweet Lemonade, at a speaking engagement for the launch of my book The Art of Startup Fundraising.
She got the idea to build her current company when she was just 4 years old. It all came out of one of her great-grandmother’s 1940 recipes. The lemonade that her company sells is sweetened with honey in an effort to save bees. She and her family started brewing Bee Sweet for local events, then bottling it for a pizza shop. Within a few years they had a company on their hands.
The company has a great impact on the environment as beekeepers have reported losing 42 percent of their colonies in the past year. That’s the second highest annual loss on record. Scientists suspect pesticides may be behind the decline, which could threaten our food supply, since bees pollinate crops. Mikaila‘s company donates a portion of the profits to organizations that help the bees.
Whole Foods Market heard about her efforts to save the bees and was so moved by the story that the lemonade is now selling in 55 stores in Texas, New York, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. This deal is estimated to be worth $11million.
The growth the company is experiencing is remarkable. As a matter of fact, at the South by Southwest Festival the sixth-grader announced an expanded distribution deal through United Natural Foods.
Mikaila’s family helps her run the growing business that is now on track this year to sell nearly 140,000 bottles. At her young age she has also appeared on the hit TV Show Shark Tank, where she won $60,000 in seed money and has also served lemonade to President Barack Obama. In addition to that, she was a part of Google’s Dare to be Digital campaign.
What this shows is that if you are clearly mastering sales you will also be able to apply the same skills to fundraising. Mikaila knew exactly the problem she was resolving and crafted a powerful story around it. Moreover, it is all about creating a funnel where you treat leads differently depending on the stage in which they are.