Gigi Berry is a Minneapolis-based designer, pin creator, entrepreneur, maker, shaker and boss lady who lives a life of creativity on her own terms. Here she opens up on everything from undergoing multiple surgeries to running a small business with customers all over the world to how Manitoba Harvest CBD helps her stay balanced and strong.
Hey Gigi! You have such an inspiring and eclectic life. Can you tell us a little about your journey?
I was born in Augusta, Georgia, and I moved around quite a bit as a kid because my dad was in the army. I went to college in Gainesville, eventually transferred to Georgia State University, overhauled my major, and did five more years there. While I was at GSU, I got a job at the local Best Buy because I thought, “Well, I won’t be tempted to blow my paycheck on electronics.” That wound up being the first link in the chain of how my life turned out.
Best Buy ended up recruiting me to come work in Customer Experience at the corporate office in MN after I graduated. Eventually I left Best Buy and went to Apple, which was an incredible company to work for, but I got sick while working there.
When I was about 13, I had a cyst removed from my jaw. It left behind cells that regenerated into a tumor that grew and grew; I had major surgery to remove it when I worked at Best Buy in Georgia. Fast forward five years and I’m in Minneapolis and the tumor comes back again. I was lucky enough to be able to go on disability and still get my paycheck from Apple while I went home to Atlanta to the same hospital where I had the tumor removed the first time, and did it all over again.
It was a 22-hour surgery. It was awful, ten times worse than my first one. I have no feeling in the left side of my face where the tumor was, and that will always be there.
That was about three years ago. I was so sad and down, on disability. Friends were sending me care packages and gifts, and in one of them I got some enamel pins, cute little things that were pop culture related. My friend knew I had been collecting Disney pins ever since I was a kid; I love pins. Sitting at home, sick, I thought, “I’ll make my own pin business.” And that’s been my full-time job now for two years.
That’s so cool. Tell us about your pin business! What kinds of things do you make?
It’s called The Minnesota Pins. People can order online from our website, and I also have my own store called Gigi’s Flair Emporium that operates inside a metaphysical shop called The Future in south Minneapolis. I offer products from black femme makers, Latinx folks, and other minorities. I love introducing brands I like to other people. The Future also sells tinctures, crystals, books, zines, etc. It’s a great space for healing and I’m super grateful to be there.
I make a pin because I want it, and if other people like it that’s great. My very first pin was the Prince gold star from First Ave. I put it online and it sold out that day. I make Minnesota inspired pins – everything from Prince, to viral memes, you name it! – and my favorite new one says, “It’s a gay bar, Pamela,” after a meme going around in the queer community. That one has been totally blowing up.
Love it. So let’s talk CBD. When did it first cross your radar?
I started with some gummies and tried some tinctures but they were too strong in taste for me. When I tried the peppermint drops from Manitoba Harvest it changed my life. I love them so much. It really helps me throughout the day to take a couple drops in my water or a cup of tea.
When I’m on my way out the door in the morning, I put a few peppermint CBD oil drops into my tumbler of tea; it adds a bit of flavor. At night I have meds that help me to sleep but sometimes I do some Manitoba Harvest CBD drops in some water instead, if I just want to calm my mind before sleep. I keep one bottle of drops in my purse, one in my dresser — I always have them with me, easily accessible. I just got some of the Manitoba Harvest CBD plant protein blend and I’m really excited to try it blended with almond milk.
We’re so glad to hear that our CBD drops help to keep you going strong. Because beyond your pin business, you do even more to bring joy and goodness to the world, don’t you?
I always want to be of use to something bigger than myself. For a long time I volunteered with Still Kickin, a nonprofit that helps awesome people going through awful things. The co-founder Nora McInerny and I are friends, and last winter they were moving their warehouse and she asked if I would run it since I already ship stuff all over the world. At the time, I was feeling really down on myself but that helped me realize I have so much more to give and maybe I can help other people. So I work at the warehouse a couple days a week, shipping orders.
I love the work they do at Still Kickin, so to be a part of it is so special. I’m also learning more about nonprofits and gaining experience that I will absolutely put to use somewhere further along on my path. I’m also donating half the proceeds from my “It’s a gay bar, Pamela” pin to OutFront Minnesota, which advocates for LGBT equality, and 20 percent of the proceeds from my gender pronoun pins to Family Tree Clinic, a community health care clinic for people of all gender identities.
We all go through things and have tough lives, but I’m so blessed to be where I am, and many aren’t, so I really try to give back.
Lead image photo credit: Darin Kamnetz Photography.
The information provided is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided here should be considered medical advice or treatment recommendations. Consult with your health care provider if you have questions about incorporating CBD into your wellness regimen.