As we welcome five new school districts to the Get Schools Cooking program, it’s the perfect time to check in with a changemaker with Napa Valley Unified School District, a 2018 program partner, and learn more about what it took for the district to begin serving more wholesome choices.
Did you know that in the U.S., nearly 8 out of 10 students in grades 5-12 say they want to be their own boss someday? For a growing number of teens and tweens, “someday” is already here. Youth-led businesses and entrepreneurial school programs are popping up across the country because today’s youth is eager to make a difference in the causes they care about.
That said, starting a business is a challenge at any age, and kidpreneurs face a unique set of obstacles. If you have a child with entrepreneurial aspirations in your classroom or at home, it can be tough to know how to support them. This month, we’re asking kidpreneurs’ biggest fans – their parents and teachers – to share their tips for supporting biz-minded loved ones.
First up, we talked with D'Andra and Theo Ulmer, parents of 15-year-old business sensation and founder of Austin-based Me & the Bees Lemonade, Mikaila Ulmer. With her parents’ support at just four years old, Mikaila started making honey-sweetened lemonade with a simple mission – “to make a difference in the world and protect our pollinators.” Ten years later, Mikaila is now selling her lemonade in hundreds of stores across the country, including Whole Foods Market (in select markets) and Amazon (online), and donates a percentage of every sale to local and international organizations working to support honeybees.
A Q&A with D'Andra and Theo Ulmer:
How have you inspired or encouraged your child to follow their entrepreneurial dreams?
First off, we let Mikaila dream like a kid and we have always encouraged her to be inquisitive before forming opinions. Encouraging kids to do research, read, and take active steps to help them turn their curiosity into educational moments. Finding practical ways to make complex topics simple makes learning fun and engaging.
Why was this important to you and to her?
It was important to us because we wanted to breed confidence. Having the experience to follow their first dream will most likely give kids a larger sense of confidence the next time. We let Mikaila know her ideas are important and valid. From early on in the process, we made sure she understood the importance of being a good leader at times and also a good follower at other times, both at home and at school.
Always remember to save time for kids to be kids! Don’t throw up barriers to your child’s dreams, and help them to “bee fearless.”
What were some of the biggest obstacles that you as a parent faced in supporting your child’s entrepreneurial spirit?
Having to learn a new industry (food and beverage) while actively learning and launching a company was a lot for us to learn.
D'Andra: Initially, it was a tough decision for me to give up my career to launch and grow the business.
Theo: It has been a challenge to work a day job and then focus on Me & the Bees evenings and weekends.
Striking the balance and making sure we always keep family first is our priority. With family time, church, school, extracurricular activities, friend time AND running a family business, it’s easy to let things get off kilter, so we are always mindful of that.
As a parent, what have you learned through this experience?
Kids are a lot more insightful about things and are maybe even more business-minded than adults. They are not conditioned to see the obstacles we see or have inhibitions based on personal experiences. When children are naturally fearless, we as parents have to learn to not let our fears hold them back from achieving their dreams. If you let them dream big, kids will have fantastic ideas and heaps of energy to pursue their dreams.
If you had a do-over, what would that be?
Don't wait to hire experienced people to be part of the team. Bring in top talent sooner rather than later to get them up to speed and entrenched in the business and company culture.
What advice would you give other parents to help support their young entrepreneurs?
Always remember to save time for kids to be kids! Don’t throw up barriers to your child’s dreams and help them to “bee fearless.”
To Mikaila: How has it impacted you to have your parents support you like this?
From an early age, I knew that my ideas had value and my parents always encouraged me to dream, be curious, and generate ideas. They are my two biggest fans who always supported me, so that gave me the courage to grow my fan base to include others who also believed in my ideas. Mom and Dad have been a huge inspiration and support system, and I’ve learned so much from them, especially problem solving and teamwork. I love that we are all true are collaborative partners. Without the support I’ve gotten from them, there’s no way my company would even still exist and here we are, 10 years later! I’m excited to share more on my story with my book “Bee Fearless, Dream Like a Kid,” coming out this August.