One of the newest additions to the Eaze menu, Biko is a Black-owned, Asian-owned, woman-owned, and family-run brand that should be on your radar (and in your shopping carts). After realizing how much the plant eased her symptoms, co-founder Timeka Drew’s passion for cannabis began with her harrowing battle with Crohn’s Disease.
She became an avid advocate, working in the medical cannabis industry for years before starting what Biko is today. Biko offers elite pre-rolls that are guaranteed to “lead the way” and encourage energy, relaxation, pain relief, and everything in between. Shop Biko on Eaze.com and read about the founder’s journey in our latest interview:
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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you, where are you from, and what’s your connection to the cannabis industry?
I’m Timeka Drew — I am an operating social equity license holder and VP of Strategy and Compliance for Stachs. My goal within corporate cannabis is to create more space for other women of color — and black women specifically — to be taken seriously as executives in the industry. I am also a co-founder of Our Academy, a non-profit workshop and mentorship program for minorities in cannabis. In addition, I am actively building Biko towards a licensed retail location, solidifying partnerships, and seeking investment.
How did you originally get involved in the cannabis space?
I began my journey with the cannabis plant after suffering with an autoimmune and digestive disease: Crohn’s Disease.
I learned over time that my symptoms improved when I smoked cannabis and realized that in order to be able to feel the best I could, I would need to be able to access top-quality medicine which I could not afford at the time. I took out as many credit cards as I could and began my path towards health. I moved to Los Angeles having obtained an almost full-ride scholarship to USC law school, but had to medically withdraw due to their lack of disability accommodations (and my inability to medicate on campus did not help my plight). I began purchasing my medicine from the only dispensary that was open at the time – Compassionate Caregivers in West Hollywood. I started working there to subsidize the cost of my medicine. This was 2003 & shortly after I was hired, I opened Green Medicine Group, a doctor-referral service that recruited doctors to give patient recommendations and helped patients find doctors that could write them recommendations. I was excited to push the envelope and do some real work around normalization and patient rights in Los Angeles: I placed the first medical cannabis advertisements in the LA Weekly, City Beat, and other underground newspapers. I introduced Compassionate Caregivers to the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce of which they became a member; and I helped organize tours from the sheriff’s department. This was only the beginning!
Who or what inspired you to start your brand? What do you think is the soul or essence of your company?
BIKO is inspired by wanting to create something that my daughter could inherit that reflects her – her father and I are both multi-ethnic. His mother is Korean and she is definitely an individual who has helped inspire the BIKO aesthetic – she embodies effortless, chic, classic, simple and clean beauty. My mother is an herbalist, so she inspires me to really delve into each plant and appreciate all of the different preparations and elements of herbs. I always felt a certain pain around not knowing where my father and our ancestors were from (and growing up in a homogeneous white society really emphasized that regularly for me) and after I took my Ancestry DNA test and found I could trace lineage to Cameroon, I found that to be a fitting place to look for the name. BIKO means “please” in Cameroonian pidgin. “Juseyo” — the name of our first preroll — means “please pass me” in Korean.
I was a political theory and philosophy major, with a concentration in metaphysics in college, before transferring and graduating with a BA in religious studies. I am personally fascinated with rituals and intention based practices of all kinds – the ways in which rituals from all over the world have similar elements to reflect certain universal truths as well as the way in which we celebrate ourselves, each other and life through art and imbibing nature in various ways to learn from it and gain strength and resilience from it.
So, in essence, the soul of Biko is the ritual of respecting yourself and your ancestors.
What challenges have you faced in the cannabis industry?
As a black woman in a white male dominated space, I’ve had to push tactfully and slowly for representation and accountability. It’s worth it, and I am proud of how far this industry has come, as I acknowledge and continue to work towards where we need to go.
What does cannabis mean to you?
Cannabis literally saved my life. It saves my life every day. And it is the livelihood of my family.
What’s unique about your product? Anything first, strongest, only, most?
We run in small batches that have been meticulously curated. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said “no, that’s not good enough” or “no, not for Biko.” I really take pride in attention to detail and delivering the best possible experience to my customers. Biko is a high-potency cannabis experience crafted by women who enjoy high-potency cannabis experiences!
What song, movie, and/or show should people enjoy while using your products?
I suggest you throw on a workout mix to get your blood pumping, then go on a hike or brisk walk. Be sure to bring a small notebook for when creative genius hits!
If you could smoke one with any historical figure alive or dead who would it be?
Eartha Kitt has such an intriguing story, and one that is even more important during Black History Month. Kitt’s mother was a sharecropper of African-American and Cherokee Native American descent. Eartha Kitt wouldn’t lay eyes on her own birth certificate until 1998, when she was 71 years old. Finding her birth certificate involved a massive, protracted legal battle – and even then, the authorities chose to black out the name of her father, leaving him forever unknown. Eartha’s daughter Kitt Shapiro later wrote, the South Carolina authorities were “protecting” the name of a white plantation owner even at the dawn of the 21st century, at the cost of the mixed-race daughter that he sired. Given away by her mother, she arrived in Harlem at age nine. As a teenager, Kitt lived in friends’ homes and in the subways. However, by the 1950s, she had sung and danced her way out of poverty and into the spotlight. Called “the most exciting girl in the world” by Orson Welles, Kitt also bravely spoke out against the War. I think seshing Biko with Eartha Kitt would be enlightening and a helluva good time.
What top 5 songs would you suggest someone listen to while using your products?
One of the intentions of Biko is to empower Femmes — especially artists and creators of color. As a black woman-owned, as well as queer-owned brand, in a space oversaturated with whitewashed products, we find it important to highlight some of our favorite underground artists:
- Luna Lovebad – “Lit Up” – @lunalovebad
- A Los Angeles local, Luna Lovebad has made her mark in the nightlife scene as an artist and personality. Notedly, Luna is also a fierce activist, hosting a donation page for black trans and queer femmes in need, as well as a spokesperson for Folx Health, a national organization serving LGBTQIA+ persons.
- FEYI – “F@%& With a Dime” – @theladyfeyi
- Born in Dublin to parents originally from Nigeria, FEYI moved to Indiana at one years old. She says to VoyageATL: “I grew up in a predominantly white suburban area, so I was always the outcast in the group,” she sighs. “I didn’t get bullied, but I never met people who looked like me. I just wanted to fit in. At the same time, many African families—mine included—look down on careers in music and entertainment. I initially had plans to go to medical school and become a plastic surgeon. Then, I stepped over that barrier and did what I really wanted to do. Breaking up the status quo empowered me. I realized being different is what makes someone awesome”
- Marqui Jordan – “Warm Bodies” – @oohmarqui
- Marqui Jordan is a creative artist and tastemaker. Before COVID, he worked as a wardrobe stylist to various performers, including Christina Milian, Andy Grammer, and Doja Cat. While producing his EP, he is freelancing as a graphic designer for brands — including Biko!
- Laganja Estranja – “Smoke Break” – @laganjaestranja
- Laganja Estranja is an international queer cannabis personality, choreographer, and activist. After appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 6), she has traveled the world fighting for cannabis inclusivity in the LGBTQIA+ community one “death drop” at a time.
- Black Gatsby – “Empire Now” – @blackgatsby
- Originally from Texas, Black Gatsby has been a slow burn on the Los Angeles music scene for nearly a decade. With songs featured in movies, TV shows, and even a music video with Twin Shadow debuting in Time Square, Black Gatsby’s music (and flamboyant style!) is constantly evolving, and walking the line between underground and mainstream.
What top 3 tv shows are great to watch while using your products?
The current Biko products are less “netflix and chill” — more, “let’s get inspired to move mountains!”
- Abstract: The Art of Design, Netflix
- P Valley, STARZ
- Bill Nye Saves the World, Netflix
What 1 movie do you recommend people watch while using your products?
It’s black history month, so if you’re educating yourself on marginalized Black communities, we suggest watching Paris Is Burning. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. In particular, the movie explores the notion of “houses” as chosen family, which provides a sense of community and support for the flamboyant and often socially shunned performers.