When rapper and millionaire entrepreneur Berner was 15 years old, living part-time with his mom in Arizona and part-time with his dad in California, he took a job at Wendy’s.
The fast-food chain was offering a $500 signing bonus at the time.
“I worked for two weeks. I got my check,” he told Insider in an interview last week. “I came to California, bought some weed, brought it back to Arizona, started flipping it.” That was the end of his career at Wendy’s.
Twenty-five years later, and Berner — formally known as Gilbert Milam Jr. — is now the head of America’s first legal weed empire: Cookies.
Like Steve Jobs is to Apple and Elon Musk is to Tesla, such is Berner to Cookies; it’s impossible to discuss the history of Cookies without him. The Cookies brand is the creation of Bay Area rapper Berner, who also serves as CEO of the company that oversees everything from retail dispensaries to clothing design.
It’s a company that he says is now worth at least $1 billion — the world’s first legal $1 billion weed brand.
“Based on revenue, and growth, and potential growth,” he told Insider, “we’re definitely a billion-dollar company.”
From a logo on a hoodie to a billion-dollar company
Whether you live in a place with legal access to marijuana or not, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Cookies.
Beyond the company’s 49 marijuana dispensaries, Cookies is perhaps even more well-known for the popular clothing line of the same name that’s sold around the world. (It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the similar marijuana strain name that comes with legal complications.)
You can find Cookies hoodies with the trademark blue strings and matching logo in US clothing chains like Zumiez, in the company’s two clothing stores, and being worn by Berner himself in music videos going back nearly a decade.
The clothing line alone did over $50 million in sales last year, Berner said on a podcast interview in late 2021. And when a new Cookies dispensary opens, fans camp out overnight to be the first in line.
Berner’s successful career as a rapper and his successful career as a clothing and marijuana entrepreneur are intertwined: While working at a Bay Area marijuana dispensary named The Hemp Center in the last few years of the previous decade, Berner began publishing music that catapulted him to fame in the hip-hop world.
He leveraged that fame into the creation of Cookies, which began as little more than a logo worn by Berner on hoodies in his music videos.
“I did a video with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., and Chris Brown,” Berner said. “In that video I wore that hoodie, and that’s where I birthed the logo — the sweatshirt with the blue strings and the logo.”