Find Your Fit in 60 Seconds. Take the Fit Finder® Quiz.

Founder Friday: Quim Founder, Cyo Ray Nystrom

Founder Friday: Quim Founder, Cyo Ray Nystrom

portrait of Kathy Woo
Kathy Woo
Content Coordinator

As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!

Cyo Nystrom loves life, loves you and most importantly, loves vaginal health. An entrepreneur driven by a passion for helping others, Cyo is paving the way for women to feel empowered when talking about their bodies, the good and the bad, through Quim. Educational and inspirational, Quim provides products and resources for vaginal health to make their customers feel better from the inside out. Inclusive of every person and body, Quim is working to destigmatize vaginal health conversations to increase access to better, and safer healthcare.

Why did you start your company?
We started Quim after dealing with years of consistent vaginal health issues. From low libido to recurrent UTIs and yeast Infections, we found that there were almost zero options when it came to proactive vaginal health and sexual wellness products. We started Quim to change that.

Tell us about yourself.
I am the CEO and co-founder of Quim, a self-care line for humans with vaginas and humans without vaginas who love vaginas. Raised in a sex-positive and wellness-focused single-parent household, I was encouraged to listen to my body from a young age. Alas, when I became sexually active, all I could hear were UTIs, yeast infections, and their attendant shame, which colored my early sexual experiences. After 8-years of enduring recurrent vaginal health issues, I partnered with Rachel Washtien, an old pal from childhood, to launch a plant-based vaginal wellness company aimed towards empowering people with vaginas to care for said vaginas in sustainable ways. Quim is based in SF and wants – so badly – to de-stigmatize conversations about vaginal health and cannabis, and see a happier yonic future for all.

What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
One of our first challenges was fundraising while trying to find a manufacturing space. When applying for a lease, you often have to provide bank account information so the landlord knows you have enough capital to pay rent every month. When we started looking, we had less than $15K in the bank and were looking at locations that would cost between $5-10K/month and oh man, was it challenging. Everyone knows that locking in your first 1-3 investors is the hardest part of fundraising and that was definitely true for us. Doing it while on a time crunch due to updated regulations was super stressful, but also gave us the kick in the pants we needed.

Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
Yes, so many people! My mom is an entrepreneur and modeled both the struggle and joy of running your own business. She didn’t start her business till she was almost 40 but throughout my entire childhood, I got to see how much richer life is when you love your work and are moved by its purpose.

Why is it important for entrepreneurs to put time into helping the next generation of women founders?
Because we have so much to learn from them, and them from us! I’ve learned so much from our intern, Olivia, about what “the kids are into these days” and it gives me such hope for the future. I feel incredibly grateful to be one of the first stops on her career trajectory.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
So f*cking alive.

What quality do you love most about yourself?
My lust for life!

When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
Naked, drying off on a rock after swimming in a river with my community.

When and where are you happiest?
For the 4th of July, my partner and I organize a big trip to a northern California river for some off-the-grid kiki and every year, like clockwork, it fills me to the brim with joy.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
There’s space for your pain. It’s ok to express it. Vulnerability is another form of strength.

What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
“Out of Mind” from Mikayla’s McVey’s Desert Companion

What is your motto?
We’re riding a snake not a train, baby! There are no regularly scheduled stops and she’s a slippery one…

What are the advantages or benefits of being a founder that many people may not realize or know about?
Hmmm, being the master of my own schedule is probably my favorite thing right now. That will change as our team grows, but for now, if I need to take a personal day to find a new therapist or am feeling overwhelmed with grief from my father’s recent death, I can and that’s so freeing.

Why is it important to understand both the challenges and benefits of being a founder?
In the age of social media and influencers and #GirlBoss, I think entrepreneurship can appear very glamorous.  For me personally, the reality was way less jet-setting/power-brunching and way more working from my living room for over a year, living in sweatpants, and being SUPER stressed about money and insurance. If you’re starting a company just for the sake of being a founder, you’re going to lose steam real fast. On the other hand, if the company you’re creating solves a problem that you’re passionate about and impacts you personally, I think you’ll have a lot more stamina to endure the ups and downs.

Do you think founders should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?
Of course! I mean, easier said than done for sure, but ya still gotta try! My business partner and I try and wrap up each week by celebrating our big (or little) wins.

Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
Have you seen that meme that says “carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man”? I think that’s pretty true. I’m so tired of hearing women undermine themselves or apologize unnecessarily and it makes me sad because every time you say, “Well, I don’t know what I’m talking about but I saw x, y, or z in the report…” you’re encouraging everyone in that meeting to not take you seriously. In your next meeting, keep track of how many times women undermine themselves or apologize merely for EXISTING, compared to the men in the room.

Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?
Ha! I don’t know if I’ll ever be on the other side of the struggle, but this year has felt so much more sustainable, and steady than last year. It’s a lot easier to remember why we started this company and stay present with the fact that we’re on our own trajectory, not Glossier’s or Slack or anyone else’s, but ours and that’s ok.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Nada, I’m a no regrets kinda woman. Every misstep brought us to where we are today and that’s exactly where we need to be.

What does your morning routine look like?
I wake up between 7-7:30 and go for a quick run in Golden Gate Park with my fiancé. When we get back we’ll make some coffee and I’ll plop on the couch to read a novel for 20-40 minutes. It may sound a little indulgent, but I love starting my day by reading a good book. It gets my creative juices flowing and excited about storytelling, which is a big part of my job right now. I’ll head to our work table in my living room by 9 AM and review my to-do list from the previous day or week before making a new one for the current day or week. My business partners arrive at 9:30 am and then we get crackin!

What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
Knowing how many women experience these vaginal health issues and how few of them feel comfortable discussing their health issues. Because I have no shame or discomfort in talking about discharge, pain during sex, or our bodies post-sex, I feel like I have a responsibility to use that privilege to normalize these extremely common vaginal health and sexual wellness issues.

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Taking a hot bath in the middle of the day! It’s one of the best parts about still working from home and will be the hardest part about moving to an office space.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Trust your gut. #YouKnow

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
Hearing from the people whose lives have been impacted by our products or messaging.

ThirdLove Logo Mobile Nav