She Left Tech to Start a Cannabis-Based Line of Female Self-Care Products
Cannabis is a new industry but women have to overcome a lot of the same old barriers.
Cyo Ray Nystrom, founder and CEO of Quim Rock, left her startup life in tech to launch a line of cannabis and CBD centered female self-care products. Her mission is to create plant-based products that enhance pleasure and foster sustainable practices for vaginal health.
What brought you into the cannabis industry?
Like so many others, my father was incarcerated for non-violent cannabis crimes in the early nineties and the impact of the war on drugs was felt deeply in our household. When MCRSA (Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act) was signed in 2015 by Governor Jerry Brown, I saw an opportunity to participate in a burgeoning space where I would have the opportunity to lay foundational groundwork and help shape the equitable development of the industry.
Additionally, I’d been consuming cannabis for years but felt that my type of consumer wasn’t well represented in the product offerings. This has changed a lot in the past few years but we still have a long way to go...
Since launching Intimate Oil in April of 2017, we’ve expanded distribution throughout all of California, secured our temporary license to manufacturer cannabis products, closed over $250k in seed funding and have garnered the attention of national media outlets such as Viceland TV, The Atlantic and Conde Nast’s new LGBTQA publication, them.
What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?
The biggest challenge has definitely been keeping up with (and adjusting our business in response to) the ever-changing regulations.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
Community action! One of the most fulfilling aspects of working in this industry has been getting to work with regulators and local and state officials to help them draft and revise restrictive regulations. Last June, I traveled up and down the state attending public comment hearings speaking on behalf of small-batch manufacturers and delivery services (two segments of the supply chain that were put at serious risk by the new regulations).
As a woman in cannabis, do you feel that you are at an advantage or a disadvantage (or both) and why?
Both. I can really only speak to my own experience but I know that for us, as a vaginal health and wellness company, having a vagina definitely adds a level of credibility to our brand. However, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told by men that this is a niche space -- over half the world has a vagina, so it’s not -- or that I’m crazy for pursuing a business that combines two “sin industries” (sex and cannabis), or that I’m too young, too emotional, or just plain crazy.
That being said, we’re also experiencing a paradigm shift, albeit a slow one, within the world of fundraising. Venture capitalists are beginning to recognize their internal biases and see the issues and financial limitations that come with only investing in projects solving problems they can personally identify with. Historically, as most VCs are white men, this has meant not investing in companies aiming to solve problems experienced by femmes, non-binary folks and people of color.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Honestly, it’s the emails/testimonials people send us. There are so many ups and downs in starting your own business in this highly regulated space, but when people reach out to tell you that your product has changed their lives or their relationships with their bodies or saved their marriages, it reminds us why we do what we do and fuels us to keep pioneering into the future.
Related: 5 Things You Should Know About CBD
What is your greatest lesson learned?
Reputation is everything. This is still a very small industry so hold yourself accountable to the promises you make. If you don’t, it’ll come back and bite you in the tush!
What trait do you rely on most when making business decisions? Why is this useful for you?
You need to find that sweet spot of logic and intuition. Listen to your gut, but validate your assumptions before making big moves.