By Emily Merrell
No one ever suspects that they’ll get a life changing diagnosis, but that’s exactly what happened to Nicole Skibola. Starting as a corporate lawyer, she became the co-founder of a licensed cannabis company called Cosmic View that specializes in women’s health formulas. Nicole and her researcher mother, Christine, make the dynamic duo that’s changing the way we think about and treat our vaginas.
SDS: How did a high powered NY city lawyer become the co-founder of a licensed cannabis company passionate about vaginal health?
NICOLE SKIBOLA: In short, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had gone to law school and was working as a consultant in New York City. It was a “get dressed up with your kitten heels and pencil skirt, take the train to midtown” kind of a gig. I started bleeding uncontrollably all of the time. I always had bad periods, but it became debilitating. After what we thought was a routine fibroid removal surgery, I found out that the surgeon had in fact shredded a tumor inside of my body. I was scheduled for a full hysterectomy a month later (uterus and ovaries), did a soul crushingly failed round of IVF in that month, and then shortly after that surgery, my partner left me. It was a totally devastating time, and the darkest, saddest period of my life. Emerging from that took time (I actually left New York for a while), and when I did, I decided to completely abandon my path as a lawyer and a consultant. I began piecing jobs together in the art world as my own art practice took off, working as an illustrator, archivist and studio manager. It was one of the poorest, most challenging times of my life but I knew cancer had shifted something very deeply inside of me.
About two years later, my mom, who was a scientist working in academia at the time, had this crazy idea to begin a cannabis company. She had been studying up on cannabis’ medicinal properties. Meanwhile, I had ditched alcohol for health reasons and had been ordering weed from my local NYC dealer as my new drug of choice. So in 2017, we took the plunge and began Cosmic View as a collective. We wanted to create products (including products specifically for women) that were “niche”. My mom had an autoimmune condition that affected her vaginal tissue. I was skeptical at first of what would become a signature product of ours — “Viva la V!” — but as my vagina was forever different with sudden menopause, I realized how amazing and important it was to think about taking care of our vaginas. Our Viva is only one of seven products that we make, but we’re incredibly proud to be the first product on the cannabis market solely dedicated to vaginal health.
SDS: How did having had endometrial cancer at 32 change the trajectory of your life?
NS: It changed absolutely everything. I had always had a creative nagging inside of me since I abandoned my art practice in college. The only way I knew how to work through my post cancer grief was to create — I began drawing and writing the story of cancer in my life. As this form of therapy emerged, I was simply unable to continue down the blind corporate career path. I didn’t have it in me to care anymore and honestly, the universe didn’t provide for me to continue down that path. So I followed the signs, friends who offered me gigs, hired me for illustration projects. It was hard, full of poverty and self doubt, but I persisted. That’s one of the myths about change: that some new thing falls into your lap and “Aha!”, your life is different. But it wasn’t that way for me. It was toil and changing my life was something I wanted so badly that I had to fight for it with everything I had.
When my mom suggested one day to begin a company together, I just said yes. It was a crazy idea, but I had nothing to lose. I had no property, assets, savings, and I was what I describe as a New York hamster on a hamster wheel. Other things began to fall into place. I got a book deal with Dottir Press to publish my book Wakeful Night about developing a creative practice as a tool to work through grief and cancer related loss. I found myself on a stage with my personal hero Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues last fall discussing cancer and my book. Cosmic View began to build traction over time as people learned about our story and the quality of our products.
Cancer gave me the courage to jump off of a cliff and wait for the net to appear – what I call living audaciously. Fortunately, two years later, the net is appearing.
SDS: What has been the best part of being in business with your mom?
NS: Well my mom is capital A, Amazing. Her professional accomplishments and life experience are incredible. She went back to school in her late 30s — she had never gone to college — and she went on to get her PhD from UC Berkeley where she had her own lab. She’s worked with the world’s leading cancer research institutions and has authored over 100 journal articles. My mom taught me that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. She also happens to formulate incredible products and is for sure the heart, soul (and secret weapon) of Cosmic View. As far as being in business together, this is hands down the most cutthroat, brutal industry to be in. You have to be nimble, scrappy and you have to believe in what you are doing. I couldn’t imagine doing that with anyone other than her. We have each other’s backs no matter what.
SDS: What is something the general public has wrong about CBD?
NS: That CBD is the end all, be all for everything. IT IS NOT. At Cosmic View, we make whole plant cannabis medicine. That means we formulate with THC, THCA and other cannabinoids. The good thing about CBD is that it’s opening up the world’s eyes to the power of cannabis medicine and many people feel comfortable with its non-psychoactive properties. The bad thing is that claiming that CBD does everything is another form of “reefer madness”. THC is incredibly therapeutic and has many medicinal properties. THC and CBD work synergistically (and you need more THC than can be found in a hemp product) to treat conditions from cancer to endometriosis. I’m really excited for the next wave of mainstream cannabis where the wellness world fully embraces full spectrum medicine and understands that this plant is so much more than just CBD.
SDS: How do you plan on changing the world?
NS: My strategy with Cosmic View has always been to create a rising tide for all small players to rise together. Our core tenet at Cosmic View is to work with small, California cultivators. I will not ever source material from corporate grows or from out of state. I believe that this plant is here to heal us and bring us together — it is critical to honor the small farmers who not only make the best medicine, but are the backbone of the industry. We currently are witnessing a “corporate takeover” in farming and manufacturing. I don’t think this is serving the higher purpose of the plant or humanity. I want to change the world by being a leader in the craft cannabis movement. Right now, this means lobbying for policies that support small farmers and manufacturers, bringing craft brands together and educating the public about the importance of high quality, full spectrum plant medicine.