“It’s still early enough that you can be become a cannabis entrepreneur, and the resources are there to learn.”
Medical cannabis patient, mother, corporate leader, partner, teacher, visionary, organizer, connector, social equity applicant, coach, and advocate are just a few of the words that describe the dynamic founder and CEO of Biko Flower, Timeka Drew.
With brand presence across California with goals to go national, Timeka sees Biko Flower and cannabis as a tool to drive social change, culture, and connection, and is using her story to inspire other BIPOC cannabis entrepreneurs to help shape the industry’s future.
“It All Just Crumbled Down”
Timeka’s story is one that shows that even the best laid plans can get derailed. “I was a mixed girl from the Midwest who had a very specific plan,” Timeka says. While attending Law School at USC, living with Crohn’s Disease all but took over her life. “I couldn’t do anything other than be sick, and I was starting to learn and understand that there was no such thing as disability accommodations in law school.” As a result, Timeka was forced to withdraw. “It all just crumbled down,” she says.
Finding medical cannabis is what Timeka credits for saving her life. She discovered the “Yellow House” Compassionate Caregivers in West Hollywood, which was the first medical cannabis dispensary in the area. Once the team got to know her story and her needs, Timeka was invited to work with them, where she learned the ins and outs of cannabis by budtending and helping people get their doctor’s recommendations for medical cannabis.
Looking to advertise the doctors’ services in obtaining a medical cannabis recommendation is when Timeka’s pursuits in Law came in handy, helping the likes of LA Weekly understand the legalities of cannabis advertising in the early, pre-Proposition 64 days. Now, cannabis regularly features in the mainstream publication.
You Are Your First Customer
Going into medical cannabis dispensaries and seeing adult use cannabis take hold across California, Timeka noticed that a lot of the spaces and brands were male-dominated with products that had aggressive branding that aimed to attract the male gaze. “How many women are getting their medicine who are being re-traumatized by not having an environment that was not conducive to their healing?” Timeka wondered to herself.
“I would love to have a brand that was more representative of me, and felt more like me,” said Timeka, and thus, Biko Flower was born, and Timeka pursued a social equity license to build her own brand.
“One of the main things to think about with Biko was a piece of advice that I got when I was trying to bring together a brand,” recalls Timeka, “They said, ‘Create a brand with a product that is for you. You are your first consumer. Whatever you build is something that you as a consumer would want to buy.’” And that’s exactly what Timeka did as she built the brand of Biko Flower, blending high quality with potency, wanting to offer something to the growing California markets for those who were medical cannabis users with a high tolerance who had been using cannabis for a long time.
Biko Flower can be found in several retail locations in the Greater Los Angeles Area and was the first (and only) black-woman-owned flower brand featured on the menu for Eaze, California’s largest online delivery marketplace.
When Timeka created Biko, she felt that in addition to some aggressive branding, cannabis was becoming sterile as it moved into adult use, with packaging becoming informed by CPG experts and products being sold in Apple-store like retail locations.
“I wanted to celebrate culture with cannabis. I’m from the Midwest originally in a predominantly white environment. I felt a disconnect from my culture,” Timeka explains, “Through DNA testing, I found that I was of Nigerian heritage and I wanted to celebrate that. Biko means ‘please’ in Igbo Nigerian. She says “please” is reflective of that time when she was in so much pain with Crohn’s Disease, she was begging “please” for something to help give her back her quality of life.
The product names also mean something to Timeka and how she sees cannabis as a tool to bring people together. The brand’s signature no-trim preroll and THCa Diamonds Preroll (which won 5th place at the Emerald Cup) bears the name “Juseyo”, which means “give me please” in Korean, honoring Timeka’s partner & Biko COO Jake Gildea’s heritage. “The brand reflects the mix of us and the bringing of cultures together,” she says.
“Historically, cannabis, even though it has been stolen from us, it has been something that has been traded, used as a gift, and bringing together cultures and spreading goodwill for ages,” Timeka says, “For me, not only did cannabis save my life, but it’s something that I’ve seen have the ability to bring people together,” she says.
Top Quality, No Trim, Personally Tested
Biko Flower is offered in three different series of small-batch, expertly curated flower. The Red Series typically features fragrant greenhouse grown flower for an everyday essential product, the Sun Series features flower grown by the energy of the sun, and the Black Series is the most potent, indoor flower curated for mindfulness and creativity.
Every single product that Biko sells is sourced by Timeka or Timeka’s partner Jake, and personally tested by Timeka herself. “We work as a good team. We curate flower to be an all-day, everyday high; more of an uplifting effect, nothing too heady or heavy,” she explains. “I want to make sure Biko hits the mark for those people who smoke cannabis all day long.”
Timeka personally oversees operations within her downtown Los Angeles production facility, and is now preparing herself to find partners she can trust as she seeks to grow the brand beyond California.
On Biko Flower’s website, Timeka writes, “I feel it is a great honor and a privilege to take up space in this industry as a black woman – I walk in the footsteps of many amazing and resilient black women entrepreneurs before me.”
“We are encouraged to play ourselves small and play the game the way that we are told is the preferred way for us to play,” says Timeka, on the experience of being a Black woman in the cannabis industry.
To Timeka, taking up space means, “Never to allow people to tell me that there was one lane that I can run in. People were telling me that I need to choose who I can be. A licensee? A corporate executive? A brand/business owner? You might see men doing all these things in the industry, but [they tell you] you can’t. Very early on I was like ‘challenge taken’. So much of what we need to do is learn about what we don’t know,” says Timeka.
Bridging the Generational Knowledge Gap
She says that one way to increase BIPOC cannabis ownership and leadership in cannabis is to bridge the generational knowledge gap. “[Legal] cannabis is new, so nascent, and ground floor,” Timeka says, “It’s still early enough that you can become a cannabis entrepreneur and the resources are there to learn.”
Timeka suggests that BIPOC cannabis businesses can build community by helping each other, keeping on with advocacy and activist work, and by sharing knowledge so that they have better tools within the cannabis community to be able to compete with the big industry players.
One way Timeka is sharing her experience with others is through Oaksterdam University, where she is a faculty member teaching Business of Cannabis courses and coaching as a unique social equity licensee faculty member.
“I want Biko to be a brand that is positioned to show savvy and stability in an ever-changing market so that it will be a presence [if and when] the market turns national,” says Timeka. Indeed, the Juseyo THCa Diamond Prerolls are making waves around California. Timeka says that the “Biko Diamonds Challenge” has become popular among women cannabis users who challenge one another to see who can smoke their preroll down the furthest.
A Stepping Stone for Other BIPOC Cannabis Brands
Reflecting on her story of seeing an opportunity to build her own brand, become one of the few Black-woman owned flower brands in California, and her desires to continue to grow, Timeka offers other entrepreneurs some simple, yet incredibly effective advice: “Be prepared, no matter where you are at in your creative process, so that when opportunity arises, you can take it.”
Timeka hopes that other BIPOC cannabis brands will be able to see Biko Flower, and the business that Timeka and her partner have built, as a stepping stone into the cannabis industry. She knows that her experiences can be valuable to prevent others from falling victim to predatory practices.
Timeka shares that she notices a difference between how white female founders in cannabis are treated versus herself and other Black women, “It is interesting how much people of color have to do to prove ourselves,” she says. She also shares that investors don’t necessarily currently see value in putting money into BIPOC cannabis companies, and has witnessed how social equity legislation has led to many predatory practices.
With her help, and by bringing other BIPOC cannabis entrepreneurs together in community, Timeka hopes to change that, “The more we can educate about the excellence in our communities, and the more we can be sharing all the knowledge we have been acquiring & came into the industry with, the faster we will be able to thaw some of that chill.”
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