• Abigail Smith

Wholly Good News: When Life Gives You Beestings...

"Like every good story, it's got a hero, a mission, and a happily ever after," says D'Andra Ulmer in the introductory film for "Me & the Bees Lemonade". In this story, the hero is a sweet 11 year old girl with a big heart and a bright idea, and her name is Mikaila Ulmer.

According to Essence.com, Mikaila's mother knew her daughter was onto something when she was just 4 years old and sold flaxseed lemonade made from her great-grandmother's recipe at a children's business fair. D'Andra says that the lemonade, originally named "Beesweet Lemonade", sold out year after year, and that the business fairs and the positive attention she got from her parents may have been the seeds of entrepreneurial spirit that were planted in her daughter. Things started coming together after Mikaila was stung- twice! -by bees, and her parents started teaching her about them as a way to help her overcome her fear. Mikaila grew a place in her heart for the bees when she learned about their special role in nature as pollinators and the way that we depend on them to help plants create our food. Once she started learning about how they are adversely affected by insecticides commonly used in commercial agriculture, and concerned that they may be headed for extinction, Mikaila and her family decided to use her lemonade as a creative way to help!

Mikaila decided to use continue using her great-grandmother's recipe, but to start sweetening it up using honey from local farms. At age 9, she was featured on "Shark Tank" on ABC, and she was awarded $60,000 to start up her business! Then, in March of 2016, she struck an $11 million business deal with Whole Foods Market, proving that if you dream big and you don't give up, the sky is the limit. Now, "Me & the Bees" continues its mission of pollinator-education and "giving back" to the bees and the community by donating a portion of all proceeds to Heifer International, which provides honeybees to families in need of steady income, and also increases the likelihood of the bees' survival. Based in Austin, the company also donates to the Texas Beekeepers Association, and to the Sustainable Food Center. (You can try all 4 flavors of "Me & the Bees" lemonade by purchasing at their online store, or at Wegmans!)

The best news? Efforts like those from Mikaila and her entrepreneurial family team have been making an impact! Over the last 3 years, bee populations have been making a slow but steady comeback: the Department of Agriculture reported in 2017 that the number of hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (which is the phenomenon where entire bee colonies die suddenly and mysterious causes) has gone down 27%, and commercial bee farms have increased by over 2.8 million since the call to action came in 2016: Amazing proof of the power of awareness!

Thank you to people like Mikaila and her family who work hard to make a difference!

If you want to help save the bees, support beekeepers by purchasing local honey, educate your friends and family... and if you get a chance, try one of the delicious 4 flavors of "Me & the Bees" lemonade!

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