Celebrating Black History Month with Me & the Bees Lemonade
At Me & the Bees Lemonade, business is naturally sweet thanks to one of their primary ingredients: honey.
When she was four years old, two bee stings changed Mikaila Fulmer’s life forever. She learned more about the importance of the little creatures and their impact on the world around us.
With the creation of her honey-sweetened lemonade, Mikaila sought to not only create a delicious drink but also save the bees! What started as a simple lemonade stand has bloomed into a beautiful business focused on giving back to the community and the planet. We sat down with Mikaila Ulmer to tell you more about this amazing brand that has everyone buzzing.
Me & the Bees has an awesome background and story we’d love to hear about. Can you give us a quick introduction to who you are and what your brand stands for?
Me & the Bees Lemonade is an all-natural, honey-sweetened lemonade offered in five fun and functional flavors. It is a fresh twist on a classic beverage that provides consumers with a refreshing way to stay hydrated, with about 120 calories per bottle. Made with premium ingredients, including flaxseed, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, our drinks contain no high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or additives.
I founded the company when I was just four years old after being stung by two bees in one week. My parents encouraged me to learn about bees instead of being scared of them, and in doing so, I learned they needed help. This prompted me to start a lemonade stand in my front yard in Austin, Texas, using my Great Granny Helen’s flaxseed lemonade recipe and dedicating a portion of her sales to help save the bees. That mission is still at the forefront of her purpose-based brand today, 14 years later, with our shelf-stable bottled lemonades that are now available nationwide.
All of this started with an old recipe from Great Granny Helen. What does it mean to have a family recipe involved in this business? Does that influence how the company operates?
It’s the bedrock of our business. We’ve been a family-run operation from the start, with my mom as Chief Marketing Bee, my dad as Chief Worker Bee (COO), my little brother as Head of Photograbee, and my older brother as Head Tech Bee. We have been able to operate with a lean staff thanks to our family coming together to put our individual talents to good use, but we’ve also added more talent to our hive as we’ve scaled, and those team members also really embrace the social entrepreneur mindset.
Based on the website and photos the company has shared, it seems like it’s an all-hands-on-deck operation! How does having the whole Ulmer family involved impact the business?
As a social entrepreneur, I believe it’s important to embrace a growth mindset, and that comes from our family values. Having us all involved allows us to keep growing, keep evolving, and keep learning. And when I’m stuck on an idea or need help, I know there’s always help back at the hive.
What does being a Black-owned and woman-owned business mean to you?
As we continue to expand and grow as a Black-owned, minority-certified business, it’s an honor to be among the amazing women and black-owned businesses in this country.
Given the number of black businesses in the U.S. and the obstacles we face, it’s a privilege to be one that keeps growing. After nearly 14 years in business, we truly value the support of those who rally behind us as we continue our quest to become America’s number-one lemonade brand.
Where is Me & the Bees Lemonade available? Can we expect its availability to continue to expand soon?
Me & the Bees can be found nationally at Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Natural Grocers, Target, Cost Plus World Market, and also at regional and local grocers, such as H-E-B, Publix, and Meijer. It can also be purchased online at Instacart, GoPuff, and at www.meandthebees.com.
We are super excited to further expand into food service, especially with Compass Group, to serve award-winning restaurants, corporate cafes, hospitals, schools, and even museums. We also recently started offering our lemonades at airports, including in our hometown of Austin, Texas, and coming soon to my second hometown, Atlanta, Georgia.
Buy a Bottle. Save a Bee. Find a store near you here.
Last year, Inc. 5000 included Me & the Bees in its list of fastest-growing U.S. companies! How has this changed Me & the Bees’ approach, if at all? Has growing quickly affected business operations?
We have been steadily growing for 14 years, but we’ve experienced our biggest growth here in the last two. We’ve certainly had to evolve our operations, and we are making some changes not only to accommodate our growth but also our efficiencies due to higher costs and supply chain challenges. We are excited about this evolution, and we are thankful for our partners like Compass Group, giving us the opportunity to expand into new channels, especially food service.
This company was founded on social entrepreneurship. What does social entrepreneurship look like for you and the Me & the Bees Lemonade team?
We always keep our mission of saving the bees at the forefront, helping educate consumers about bees’ role in the ecosystem and the alarming decline in their populations. We give a percentage of its profits to the non-profit organization that I founded, the Healthy Hive Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing bee awareness and safe environments through research, education, and preservation.
We remind ourselves and consumers every day that we are a purpose-based brand, and we believe that sets us apart in the marketplace. It’s not just the product you sell but the story you tell! To date, we have donated over a quarter of a million dollars to our community while saving the bees and inspiring youth entrepreneurship.
How has your book “Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid” impacted Me & the Bees? Has it helped spread the company’s story? What has the response to the book been like?
I’m super proud of this book. The whole goal of writing it was to inspire the next generation of changemakers, and I think it’s doing exactly that. I get a lot of requests to go out and speak, whether it’s for a large keynote opportunity or to visit classrooms. And while I’d love to do that every week, school and work come first. With the book and the free Buzziness Guide that I created to accompany it, people can be inspired to find their passion and start their own purpose-based brands. It is available in schools, bookstores, and online and, to date, has sold over 30K books.
The current Me & the Bees flavors are Classic, Black Cherry, Ginger, Iced Tea, Prickly Pear, and Mint. Which flavor Is your favorite?
It’s so hard to choose, but I’ll go with Prickly Pear because it has a yummy flavor profile with watermelon and berry notes. I like it because prickly pears are super prevalent in my home state of Texas. The fruit is also called “tuna” in Spanish, and it grows on a cactus plant and is classified as both a fruit and vegetable— and is full of vitamins.
And I’ll pick Black Cherry as my second favorite. We spent a lot of time brainstorming our newest lemonade flavor. Our team wanted a flavor that isn’t only delicious but also one that packs a powerful punch, and I think we nailed it!
What are some ways we can support Me & the Bees Lemonade outside of buying the product(s)?
By helping spread the word about the need to save the bees. The more people know this, the more we can help. And individuals and businesses can help support my Healthy Hive Foundation to advance the projects we will continue to advance.
And I also appreciate spreading the word about my book to help inspire the next generation of changemakers. With more social entrepreneurial companies, we can all make a big impact. On a personal level, I would love a partner to help me launch my lemonade into school cafeterias. This is where I can inspire youth with my lemonade, as well as help teach about bees/stem (my bee curriculum) and entrepreneurship (“Bee Fearless” book).
Me & the Bees is a company interested in bee preservation and education. How does the business contribute to spreading education surrounding bees and their importance?
Through our Healthy Hive Foundation and bee education efforts, we are able to be a megaphone for bee awareness. Whether it’s funding research grants at universities or installing beehives in schools, we are steadfast in our mission to do our part for the bees.
How can we contribute to saving the bees in our own communities?
Look for conservation efforts. There are a lot. Check out www.healthyhivefoundation.org for ideas and information.
My blog post also shares practical ways: https://www.meandthebees.com/blogs/beelieve/17349908-mikailas-ways-to-save-the-bees
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