I grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska, which is a town of 50,000 people. Nebraska’s such a funny place. I definitely started smoking weed early in life because there’s just nothing to do there. You can go to the mall, you can drive around, you can hang out with friends, but it’s corn fields and farms and strip malls—there’s not a ton of activities. Before I ever drank alcohol, I smoked weed.

I got caught smoking weed by my parents on three different occasions.

I was a bit of a fuckup in high school. I would shamelessly smoke weed at lunch, and then go to Government class. Basically, I was always stoned. I was always the loud, obnoxious one. I would come in with sunglasses on and with my coloring book, and spend the class coloring. One time I was high and thought it was really hot in the classroom, so I opened the window and it blew an entire stack of papers all over the room. And I’m just sitting there like, “Oops.”

I got caught smoking weed by my parents on three different occasions. One time, they found a pipe in one of my bags. Another, my dad was selling my car and he called me and said, “Jenny, you need to come home.” When I did, he had lined up six nuggets of weed he found while cleaning out my car. The third time was when my mom gave me a drug test. She’s a nurse so she brought one home for me to do. I failed.

But I got decent grades and was the captain of the dance team, so I think they let it slide. I think they were just like, “Jenny’s going to do what she wants to do,” which was smoke and drive around and listen to music.

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009 GOSSAMER CONVERSATION JENNY WICHMAN

I got into fashion through magazines, and ended up going to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for fashion merchandising. When I graduated, I moved to Omaha, which had a huge indie music scene. It opened my mind to different paths that I had not seen with my friends and family. I talked to a few friends who had moved to New York, and the way they spoke about it sounded so exciting and exactly what I wanted. I was working for American Apparel as a store manager in Omaha and was able to relocate to New York. I became a visual manager for three stores, living paycheck to paycheck.

I eventually started working for Phillip Lim, where I did visual merchandising for a few years. Then I got a job at the Calvin Klein Collection store on Madison Avenue. The salary was great but the job was an absolute nightmare. I was so sad to go to work every day. I knew it wasn’t right. I quit within three months, and started doing freelance prop styling.

I kind of life hacked my way into becoming a prop stylist. I found a bunch of still life photographers and had all the connections at different brands I worked for, so I sweet talked them into giving me product so I could do test shoots and build a portfolio. I got signed with an agency pretty quickly.

I always knew I wanted to have my own business, I just didn’t know what it would be exactly.

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002 GOSSAMER CONVERSATION JENNY WICHMAN

Styling is a grind. It’s quite stressful, and there are a lot of things that you can’t control that will keep you up at night. I always knew I wanted to have my own business, I just didn’t know what it would be exactly. I loved the idea of working for myself and selling a product.

Meanwhile, I was continuing to smoke weed. It really agreed with me, brought me energy, and helped me enjoy my daily life. I loved how it made me feel. I read all the self help-type books and listened to all the podcasts and read all the Oprah quotes and everything kept saying, “Whatever you’re the most interested in, lean into that.” And I was like, I’m really into weed, maybe I should lean into it.

All of my best friends love weed, so why not try to make products that they would love to use?

I was looking at my current weed kit at the time, and it was a glass blown pipe that was really phallic and unattractive, bobby pins, and a Ziploc bag. I was like, This is atrocious, there has to be something better. There were definitely a few brands out there making nice smoking accessories, but I still felt like it was an untapped market. All of my best friends love weed, so why not try to make products that they would love to use, feel really good about owning, and that would help celebrate the ritual that has meant so much to me?

I started researching, pulling references and sketching ideas, and eventually I landed on the triangle and the half circle. Then I had to figure out how to actually make the products. I found a ceramics manufacturer in the United States. It was literally the only factory I found while googling “small batch ceramic production United States.” I had a little bit of money that I saved up and invested it all in the first round. Making ceramic molds is quite expensive because it’s a really labor intensive process. Each mold was like three grand, and then I’d have to buy the product on top of that. I said to myself, Here we go. Let’s do it.

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I called the company Yew Yew. I knew I didn’t want the name to have cannabis or weed or smoke or puff or anything in it. I was living in Rockaway Beach, which is a huge surf community, and when people are surfing, they go “Yew!” when the waves are good or when somebody catches a wave. It’s a way to cheer your friends on. I was like, Yew Yew, that could be cute. I also realized there were endless pun opportunities, like “yew do you” and “thank yew for smoking.” And I liked how it looked visually.

Even though I could feel that I was so much more passionate about Yew Yew and building the brand, I juggled the company and my job for a really long time. For the first three years, sales were really slow. I only had two styles of ceramic pipes, and I’d get one or two sales a week. I had the notifications on my phone, and every time it went off, I was like, “Ooh, I got a sale!” I wasn’t sure if it was a business that could fully support me, but I kept chugging along.

People were quarantined in their homes wanting to smoke weed and shop online. I realized that I could actually make a living off of this.

I was speaking to a friend who has a glassware company, and she offered to connect me to her glass factory, which was so sweet. Most people are quite closed off with their manufacturers, but she was really open. When COVID happened, I got one of the EIDL small business loans and invested that whole loan into manufacturing the glass collection.

That’s when I expanded to four different styles instead of two, and a bunch of different colors. When I launched that in December of 2020, sales were great. That validated the business for me. People were quarantined in their homes wanting to smoke weed and shop online. I realized that I could actually make a living off of this. I really wasn’t sure for a while there.

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It was a no-brainer that I should have realized sooner. When people think of smoking weed out of a pipe or smoking accessories, they think of glass. Your brain doesn’t go to ceramics right away. You can smoke a ceramic pipe, but 90% of the market is glass. And there’s a reason for that. You can see when it’s filled with smoke, you can see when it needs cleaning. It’s more fragile, but I think that was definitely one of those moments where I was like, Oh, duh. I probably should have started with glassware and not done ceramics. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess.

I think right now I’m most proud of my bong. It works so well and hits so smooth. It also looks so nice and is really a unique product that I don’t see out there at all. There’s not very many nice looking bongs that are in this price range. People really took to it and it has sold really well. I also have fun creating content with the products. I love how they look. You can definitely tell a former prop stylist started this business. Everything’s styled and lined up and has a system to it.

I’ve had the white woman invisibility cloak, which is that I can smoke weed wherever I want, and people of color don’t have that luxury.

I’m a very social person, but I have somehow built an extremely isolating business. Working by yourself, you don’t have people to run your ideas by. My friends were a really good outlet, but it’s that thing I always remind myself—nobody is going to come to save you. So you have to figure it out yourself. It can be quite challenging to do it on your own, but I guess I somehow keep myself motivated and try to keep moving forward in any small way I can, even when I’m feeling discouraged.

Being a woman in cannabis, which is already so male-dominated, is definitely its own beast. But there’s an amazing community of women-led brands. Luckily, I’ve been able to tap into that and feel like there’s a really strong network. I know that I’m coming from a privileged place of being a white woman in this space, so that’s definitely something that I’m aware of and try to take into consideration whenever I’m just putting content out there. I’ve had the white woman invisibility cloak, which is that I can smoke weed wherever I want, and people of color don’t have that luxury. That’s why I give back through the Floret Coalition. Each month they choose a different organization to donate to that focuses on the communities that were hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

You can definitely tell a former prop stylist started this business.

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003 GOSSAMER CONVERSATION JENNY WICHMAN

I came to Europe on a three-month tourist visa, thinking I would be here for 90 days, have a little float around, and then go back to the States. I went to Mallorca on a little solo trip, and then came to Berlin to visit a friend. As soon as I got to Berlin, I was absorbed into this really amazing group of friends and community, and I was so excited by the city. It felt like everything was within reach, in a sense. Everything’s cheaper and it’s such a calm place. I fell in love with it.

Then the 90 days were coming to an end, and I was like, Oh shit, I’m not ready to go back. I couldn’t even look at booking a flight back to the States without breaking down and crying. I started doing research, trying to figure out what would be the easiest way for me to stay. I spoke to a lawyer who told me the simplest way was to enroll in intensive German classes and apply for a German language study visa for up to 12 months. So I was like, “All right, let’s do it.”

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Honestly, the people I’ve met in Berlin have been some of my favorite people I’ve ever met in my life. Culturally, it really feels like a melting pot in a way that New York didn’t to me. Almost everyone in New York is American still, but in Berlin, everyone you meet and everyone in my friend circle is from a different country and has a completely different background. You’ll have entire conversations with people, really get to know them, and never even talk about what anyone does for work. I have friends where it’s like, What does he do for work? And I don’t know, but I know his childhood traumas.

When it comes to weed, people mostly smoke when they’re coming down after being at Berghain for two days.

I’ve basically never partied and clubbed before in my life, and now I’m having that moment. It’s been really nice to get a little bit of everything. You can really choose your own adventure here. If you want to just stay in and go to yoga and be healthy and hang out with your friends, or if you want to party for three days straight, you can do it.

The club scene is crazy and filled with every party drug you can imagine. But when it comes to weed, people mostly smoke when they’re coming down after being at Berghain for two days. And I’m like, This is not the best way to use weed.

Now that I’m in Berlin, I’ve strictly been smoking, because buying edibles here feels like I’m back in high school. You’re buying from somebody who’s made a brick of brownies and is selling them individually. It’s like, Oh god, we’re here again. So I’ve been missing all the edibles from L.A., all the California brands. They’re on another level. I love Kiva’s chocolate-covered espresso beans, and more of the microdose edibles. A five milligram edible is my sweet spot. And obviously, Rose Delights are delicious and amazing. Right now I have the Rose CBD edibles, and I’ve been taking those whenever I need to chill out and go to bed or have cramps.

I love mushrooms. I actually started micro-dosing mushrooms right before I ended up coming to Europe. They’re probably one of my favorite other drugs. Mushrooms and sparkling water and no alcohol is so fun.

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I recently went with a friend to Budapest. We drove down there on a road trip and then flew back. Being a privileged white girl, I’ve always flown with weed. Like, a grinder, a pipe, and actual weed edibles, all in my stash bag. I usually try to check it, but as we were getting ready to fly back, my friend said to me, “Just so you know, I don’t fly with any weed.” And I was like, “Okay, well, I have my whole kit, I don’t want to just ditch it.” We smoked all the weed so there was no actual flower, but I still had everything else.

When I went through security, they went straight for my stash bag. The Cloud grinder probably did not look good under the scanner. They called the cops over. They’re all speaking Hungarian. I’m standing there like, Oh fuck.

I was like, Please, do not find these mushrooms.

They open the grinder, and it has little bits of weed in it. They look at me and they’re like, “What is this for? Is this for cannabis?” And I said, “No, it’s for tobacco.” And they give me this look. And then I was like, “No, no, no. It’s CBD.” My friend is Hungarian, so he was chatting with them and really helped smooth things over. He was like, “Yeah, we just saw this at the grocery store. They’re putting it in cookies now, so we thought it’d be okay if we flew with it.”

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Pretty quickly they say there’s not enough substance for them to test, but meanwhile, they are tearing apart my bags. They take out every single item—my underwear, my dirty socks, everything for everyone to see. I had 10 mushroom capsules in my makeup bag mixed in with some ibuprofen and I was like, Please, do not find these mushrooms. And they didn’t. They were laser focused on trying to find weed, and looked right past that. So that was a huge learning lesson. Whatever you do, do not fly with a metal grinder.

I love to smoke and drink a coffee and then just cruise.

I’m definitely an everyday smoker. I love to smoke and drink a coffee and then just cruise. Weed has always been really energizing for me. It picks me up, gives me motivation. I love to get high and go run errands or go outside and walk around. I’m definitely not the most productive when I smoke, so I’m not doing any accounting or responding to a bunch of serious emails. I deal with seasonal depression quite a bit, and so on those days where I wake up and feel no motivation, I’ll have a coffee and smoke a little bit. Then I forget what I was feeling so down about, and can keep going throughout my day. I feel like I use it in every sense. But I really love to smoke and to be stoned by myself, on my own, listening to music and dancing around my apartment.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Jenny Wichman photographed by NTI in Berlin. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.