40 Under 40
For the past five years, the Marijuana Venture staff has compiled an annual list of some of the brightest young leaders and influencers in the cannabis industry. As in past years, we have narrowed the list from hundreds of worthy candidates to present 40 individuals from the vast and ever-changing business in the United States and Canada.
It is our honor to share their stories.
Title: Founder and CEO
From the get-go, Michale Beraki believed the legalization of cannabis would be a game-changer. He saw the new industry as an opportunity to put to work everything he’d learned over the past decade as a businessman and serial entrepreneur.
He spent a couple weeks in Colorado, visiting retail stores, learning about the legal environment and studying the up-and-coming industry.
“I quickly realized the cannabis industry needed the type of systems and processes that I had spent my whole life building and decided it was time to take the first step towards these goals,” Beraki says.
When he returned to Washington, he sold three of the four state-licensed liquor stores he owned in order to fund his transition into the cannabis industry. He eventually opened his first Kush21 store, near the Sea-Tac Airport, in 2016. He’s now opened four Kush21 locations and is working on a fifth, having turned it into one of the top retail chains in the state by focusing on the quality of the customer service, having a robust product selection and hiring the right people.
And in spite of his success, Berkai says he’s only getting started. He’s exploring opportunities in California and Oregon and is planning to open retail cannabis stores in the Chicago area this year.
Beraki grew up in Eritrea, a small, impoverished country in East Africa, where he started working as an interpreter at the age of 12. He came to the United States at 16 through the sponsorship of an Army captain he worked for, a woman he now refers to as “his second mom.”
A series of successful business ventures preceded his entrée into cannabis, including an adult family home and a money-wiring business, but he kept the same curiosity and drive from his early life in poverty.
“I heard a lot of great things about the United States from talking to people, hanging around with visitors, watching movies and working as an interpreter,” he says. “One thing that stayed with me about America was that, as long as you work hard, abide by the rule of law and do the right thing, no one can take away your success. I could now say I have proved it. I knew if anyone was going to stop me, it would just be myself.”