The name Quim is Victorian slang for “vagina” or “cunt,” and my journey really began with my own quim.
All the women in my family are super susceptible to urinary tract infections and yeast infections. I got my first UTI when I was 17. It turned into a kidney infection, and I ended up in the hospital. I had to do a double round of antibiotics, and then lo and behold, I got a raging yeast infection, because when you take antibiotics and wipe out the infection, it will also wipe your body of the good bacteria that was helping to eat away at the Candida. Every time you take antibiotics you're exponentially more likely to get a yeast infection after that. That UTI-yeast infection cycle continued on for like eight years.
I felt like I was at war with my sex organs.
I grew up in the Bay Area, and my mom’s an alternative healer, so I had access to non-Western forms of healing. I would take homeopathic remedies. But I went to college in the midwest, and there was nothing like that in Ohio. And, you know, you’re in college. You’re drinking and eating pizza for every meal. Generally, I wasn’t taking amazing care of my body. I was, like, falling down the stairs at frat parties, getting concussions. Ah, to be young! But it was really horrendous, this cycle I was in. I was raised in such a sex-positive household, and even with that, I felt so ashamed of it. I felt like I was at war with my sex organs, and I was so terrified that it was going to get out.
So, in that hellscape of going through the “ouroboros of itch,” as I call it, I started to do a lot of research, and started to think about being proactive as opposed to reactive. I was like: Cool, this is the body I'm in. There's not a whole lot I can do. It sounds like all of the women in my family deal with this, so how do I care for myself? I wear sunscreen. I exercise. There are ways I care for my body. Why am I treating this literal life-giving organ like a trash can? I spent a lot of time in the weirdest corners of the internet. I put a cube of garlic in my vagina. I did yogurt. I tried it all.
One summer I found these little tea tree vaginal suppositories at Whole Foods, and it was the first thing that worked for me. I couldn’t find them again, but I looked at the ingredients, and I thought, You know what, I can fucking make this myself. I’ve always loved making little potions—some good, some not so good. But it worked: I was able to have sex without feeling like I was immediately getting a yeast infection or UTI.
People are not comfortable talking about vaginal health and wellness, even in an increasingly sex-positive world.
In 2014 or 2015, someone gave me a bottle of cannabis-infused lube. I was like, “Oh my god, my two favorite things: weed and vaginas.” And then I opened it up and I was like, “Oh, whoever made this product clearly does not have a vagina.” It was a spray bottle. Have you ever seen a vagina? It’s not an open cavity.
It took me a few tries to get it to work, but it did. I felt way more naturally lubricated and much more intense sensation. I had a body rippling orgasm, and I was like, “Oh shit, this is real.” Here was this sex product, and I had this vaginal health product, and it seemed sort of silly not to combine them into one. I see sex as both medicinal and recreational.
So that’s how my co-founder, Rachel Washtien, and I started Quim. We really didn’t know if there was going to be an appetite for cannabis-infused vaginal products. People are not comfortable talking about vaginal health and wellness, even in an increasingly sex-positive world where people want to talk about polyamorous relationships, or pleasure-based education or consent-based education.
Up until very recently, our bestseller was our first product, the Night Moves Intimate Oil. It has THC and a little bit of tea tree and damiana, which has been shown to help with vaginal elasticity and increase the frequency of orgasms. Tea tree is a really great antibacterial and antifungal. We use a low dose of it because it’s a pretty strong essential oil.
As of last month, our CBD product, Happy Clam Everyday Oil, has surpassed it as our best selling product, which was really surprising for me. We held off on launching a CBD product until we had a really good use case for it. There are so many people just putting CBD in mascara and cleaning products. If it’s not there for a reason, it’s just going to jack up the price by $10 or $15.
THC acts as a vasodilator, so you’re going to feel a rush of blood to the area you apply it to. CBD doesn’t have the same effect. We call the Happy Clam Everyday Oil “an eye cream for your vagina.” I suffer from puffy taco like nobody’s business—“puffy taco” is my favorite way to describe post-coital vaginal inflammation. CBD is an amazing anti-inflammatory, so it can be really helpful post-sex, and also if you have menstrual cramps or experience pain from penetration. If you’re recovering from a vaginal birth, it can be really helpful to use this product to heal.
I got into cannabis because my dad had been incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes when I was a kid.
I got into the cannabis business probably first and foremost because I’m a cannabis user. I have ADD, and I find it a really, really helpful way to calm my brain down a little. It’s like a pinball machine in there. When Governor Jerry Brown signed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act in 2015, the writing was on the wall that there was going to be a major shift in the industry. I was really excited about the opportunity to get involved in something that wasn’t so entrenched. It was sort of like the end of the Wild West, and that was really appealing to me. I started working at Meadow, a tech platform that builds software for dispensaries, as the head of sales. That’s how I started to get to know growers and manufacturers and other women in this industry, and that’s how I met all of our first dispensary partners.
Secondarily, I got into cannabis because my dad had been incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes when I was a kid. My mom was a single mom before and after he was in prison—he was never really a part of my life. He went to prison for cannabis trafficking when I was four years old, and that’s when my mom told me. She said, “I want to be really clear with you: Your dad didn’t hurt anyone. He wasn’t violent toward anyone, and he got arrested for something that I do not believe should be illegal.”
My mom is a deeply, deeply honest woman, and I'm grateful that she told me, but still, I was four years old. It was complicated. I asked, “Well, can I talk to my friends about it?” And she was like, “You know, honey, this is your information. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t tell people. I will tell you that people might think differently about you, or their parents might think differently about you or me or not want you to hang out with them.” That’s a terrifying thing to hear when you’re four years old. All you want is to be normal. So I didn’t tell people. Even when I first told people that my dad was in prison, I made up a lie about what it was. I think I told people he was racing boats and got arrested.
Part of getting involved in the cannabis industry was a way to rectify that shame. And I would never say I’m single-handedly going to try and stop the war on drugs, but if I could make it a little bit easier for one or two families to fill out their financial aid forms when their kids are applying for college, so that those kids can actually say what their parents do and not run the risk of losing their scholarship, that would be great.
In October 2017, Rachel and I got connected with someone at Viceland, and we filmed an episode of Slutever in San Francisco. They told us it would be airing in February, and knowing that it was coming out was really validating. It was the kick in the pants that we needed to stop working our other jobs and commit to Quim full time.
Appearing on Slutever fundamentally changed our business. It was night and day. Viceland kept airing the episode, and we’d always be able to tell when it did because we’d wake up and have 50 emails being like, “My wife needs this in Florida!”
Over the Fourth of July in 2018, we got an email with no body text, just the subject line: “I’m so proud of you and I couldn’t be more happy for you.” I was on a river trip with my friends, completely offline, so I didn’t see it until we got back. The name on it was R.J. Slater—and Slater is my dad’s last name. My background is in sales, so if you give me your email, I’m going to fucking find you. I was pretty sure that it was him.
I burst into tears. I called my mom, called my best friend. And then I just responded like, “Dad? Is that you? Would you like to get to know each other?” And he wrote back in 30 seconds: “Yes, yes, yes.”
We decided to meet in Vegas, which is where he lived. My best friend already had to go there, so we did a full Crossroads-style road trip in late July of last year. We got to Vegas and had probably six hours before dinner with my dad. It was the most anxiety-inducing six hours of my life. When we got to dinner, we checked in with the hostess, and my friend asked if he was there, and she said, “Yeah, I think he’s at the bar.”
I looked over and see this Sean Connery-looking guy talking to the head chef. I knew that he had worked in restaurants his whole life. I walked up to him and we just made eye contact, and I was like, Oh my god. That’s my face on your face. On nature versus nurture, I’m usually more in the nurture camp, but meeting him, we had so many similar mannerisms. The way we talked was similar; we had a similar directness.
He was such an amazing storyteller, and so obviously not a reliable narrator. Like, he didn’t exactly say he invented the frozen margarita machine, but he didn't not say that. When I was a kid, if I had thought that was true and then found out it wasn’t, it would have been devastating. Whereas now, I remember sitting at that table at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Vegas, and being like, you know what? The way you tell the story of your life says just as much about you as the events that actually transpired.
Meeting my dad, I felt like I finally understood this other side of myself.
Meeting my dad, I felt like I finally understood this other side of myself. My dad had such a lust for life. He lived for the party. He just loved being in it with people and laughing and making people laugh. I love to party in a way that, when I met my dad, I was like, ”Oh, this isn’t necessarily bad.” I feel like I got to acknowledge, accept, and love this other half of myself.
He called me on October 3rd of that year and was like, ”Well, kiddo, I don’t know how to say this.” His doctor had found cancer in his kidneys, but by that point it had already metastasized to his lymph nodes, liver, and lungs.
I flew out to Vegas on a Wednesday and went to the hospice. It was literally in the backyard of the Hard Rock Hotel. The soundtrack to my dad dying is, like, Tom Petty’s ”Free Falling” and Natalie Imbruglia’s ”Torn.” Pretty hilarious. I spent the next three days with him. My boyfriend came out, originally to meet him and, not to ask my dad to marry me, but to let him know that he was going to do that. By the time he arrived, my dad was still there, but he wasn’t talking. He died on Saturday. My boyfriend proposed the next morning at sunrise.
Maybe the weirdest side effect of all of this is that it really reaffirmed my belief in a higher power or God or the universe or whatever you want to call it, because I feel like we met at exactly the right time. I don’t think I knew how much I needed to know him. And he really needed me, too.
I wear his red leather jacket. I keep his teeth on me. Like, his dentures. The last time he was really alert and conversing, he said, “Can you take my teeth?” And took them out. I was like, Oh my god, wow. Nothing makes you look like a dying person faster than taking your teeth out.
I have his pens that say “Slater” and his dice. He was a serious gambler. He was raised Catholic, and I have this little framed illustration of the patron saint of gamblers that was his.
Spending time with my dad re-reminded me of what’s important. It’s a little bit easier to not sweat the small stuff because I’m just like, “You know what? You might meet a family member tomorrow and then they might die!”
Particularly as it relates to how we run our business, it helps me remember that we started Quim so we could lead the lives we want to lead. We started it to make these products available to more people, but you can always take a day off. On Monday and Wednesday we just stopped at 2 p.m. and we went and swam in the ocean because life is short. And you don’t get very many warm days in San Francisco.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Cyo Nystrom photographed by Cayce Clifford at her home in San Francisco. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies.