Headshot of Natalie Westlake, founder of The 8850 Co.


Sexual Wellness with Natalie Westlake

On this week’s Let’s Talk About… episode, Elise sits down with Natalie Westlake, founder of The 8850 Co.

Natalie Westlake is a keen disruptor and innovator in the wellness space. She is a two-time recipient of the Lululemon Leadership Award and founder of the wellness company, the 8850 co. A Canadian-owned online sex toy shop, built on inclusivity, diversity, and education.

Elise and Wellness talk about her career journey, how 8550 came to be, the importance of sexual wellness, and overcoming embarrassment and shyness.

“Eventually, we would be so inundated all the time with the pressures of what is going on, that stress would really be the number one most toxic element in our community and in our lives, and the release of those endorphins, the release of that stress is so vital, the human connection made to that release during those moments of pleasure. Pleasure is vital. To our thriving our mental wellness.” Natalie tells Elise on Let’s Talk About.

Check out the show’s transcript below.

[00:00:00] Elise: Hi everyone and welcome.

This week let’s talk about wellness and sexual pleasure with Natalie Westlake. Natalie is a keen disruptor and innovator in the wellness space. She is a two time recipient of the Lululemon Leadership Award and founder of the Wellness Company, the 8850 co. A Canadian owned online sex toy shop, built on inclusivity, diversity, and education.

Natalie, thanks so much for being here with us today. 

[00:00:25] Natalie: Thanks for having me. Elise I’m happy to be here! 

[00:00:28] Elise: Yeah, so we met just a couple weeks ago at your launch event, I guess, right? In terms of first physical in-person event, and I was. I don’t wanna say taken it back, not the right word, but I thought it was very cool how you had just a bunch of different brands explaining different things about the sexual experience, if you will.

So whether it was condoms, whether it was lube, whether it was toys, and we got to talking a little bit and I thought what a great conversation to have on the podcast cuz we haven’t dived into this at all actually. We’ve talked a little bit about pleasure, talked a little bit about, um, sex and orgasm, but not so much.

Self pleasure and the tools used for that. Um, so happy to have you here today. How did you get started talking about this? 

[00:01:18] Natalie: Well, it’s interesting cuz I’m a very private person and I feel like it’s, you know, such a private topic, but I felt such a need to bring it into a public space Exactly. For that reason.

Mm. During COVID I spent a lot of time alone. Like most Torontonians I was locked up for eight months. Um, I was working for Lule at the time and I was also homeschooling. It was a very tough time to be alone without companionship or company without adult conversations outside of work. And so, you know, I, I really had an opportunity.

To look inside and gain some new perspective around what does wellness mean to me now, you know? Mm-hmm. in the space of being so isolated. Um, and I had spent 18 years at Lululemon at that point, building wellness programs and rarely taking advantage of the opportunity to utilize those programs myself.

So in that moment I just, you know, I had a stark realization like, Wow. I’ve spent 18 years building wellness programs for people, and I’m not even sure I know what wellness means to me in this moment. So that sort of set me out on a journey to explore the topic, and that’s how it all came to be. Really.

Mm-hmm. , I stumbled across an article and Wired magazine. It’s the first time I ever heard of this phrase called ‘sex tech’. Which really fascinated me to see those two words together. So I really went down a rabbit hole of I need to know everything about this. What does it mean? Who’s in this space? What is the opportunity?

And I stumbled across lots of different leaders, lots of different products, and hence, the idea for 8850 was born from there. 

[00:03:24] Elise: Very cool. So what does sex tech mean? Is that, is that kind of like the, like is that a vibrator, is that what that means? Or is it something 

[00:03:32] Natalie: Well, the, the combination of robotics, um, virtual reality.

[00:03:38] Elise: Oh, okay. , 

[00:03:40] Natalie: yes. Combined together. 

[00:03:43] Elise: So how do we use, and this might be, I know this is a little bit beyond 88 or 88 50, but how, how would virtual reality. Was, was there any conversation around how virtual reality plays into self pleasure and, yeah. 

[00:03:55] Natalie: Yeah, there is, there is. Cool. And it, it actually isn’t beyond 88 50, we currently carry a product.

It’s, um, a product for men built for, um, men. It is called the Handy and it actually does hook up to a virtual reality. Um, Glasses so that you can be anywhere with anyone or alone and have an experience. 

[00:04:26] Elise: Wow. Okay. I feel like now we’re just, we should just talk about all the things that are, are out there and this space and sex tech.

I had no idea. I mean, I guess it makes sense, right? Like VR is out there for so many other things. Why not sex? And to your point about it also makes sense that that would come. During the time of Covid when we were, to your point, all kind of locked up, but I wanna go back to the comment you made about like, what does wellness mean to me?

And it’s funny because when I think of wellness in general, I’m usually thinking of like fitness and food. I’m not necessarily like, sexual wellness isn’t the first thing that comes to the top of my mind, and I don’t know if that’s because of upbringing, if that’s just because like societal, um, what are you noticing though, in a sh Are you noticing a shift in terms of the well or sex joining sexual wellness, joining that wellness kind of conversation?

I am, 

[00:05:24] Natalie: I’m, I’m noticing that attitudes, behaviors are beginning to open. is really what I’m seeing. Um, but I have to, I have to be honest, I, I too also shied away from this topic. So in peaking my interest when I began to read about the topic, I also noticed at the same time that I still felt very shy.

Mm-hmm. about the topic, having the conversation with my parents. Hey mom. Hey dad. Thinking about leaving Lule after 18 years to sell sex toys online. Not a comfortable conversation to have. Right? You know, I can imagine. Even still, even still, when people ask me. So what do you do? I’m still getting comfortable in this new place.

I’m talking about sexual wellness and selling sex boys online. So for me that, that really peaked my curiosity. Like, where is that? Like you, where’s that coming from? Why do you so embarrassed or shy? Why do I wanna run away from this conversation? Yeah. For whatever reason, I enjoy putting myself in discomfort for the purpose of exploring.

Where’s that coming from and why should pleasure equal? Being embarrassed. Why is there shame there for me and talking about pleasure? I do believe that the release of serotonin, the endorphins experienced during sexual pleasure is an important part of mental health. So it’s a topic that really ped my interest and I wanted to be curious and really dig deep within myself.

Like there’s a reason you feel uncomfortable here, and if you can be a part of opening that up, if not for me, but in future for my children, for that generation, then I wanna explore. , 

[00:07:27] Elise: and I think you kind of touched on the next thing I was gonna gonna bring up is I do think, like when I think of why I’m uncomfortable talking about it, it’s likely just because it wasn’t really talked about like in my house, like Italian Catholic, like we weren’t sitting around the dinner table having those conversations.

I will say, I think my mom, when we were really little, She was credited with bringing the kids in the street together to watch this movie about like how people got pregnant and things like that. So she was, she wasn’t like, she wasn’t, you know, archaic or anything in the way that she talked about it.

There was a bit of conversation, but still to what you’re saying, not to the point of, of complete open dialogue. Right. Um, and so I. Imagine though that the future coming up, you know, below us, like your children, et cetera, that there will be, and you see I kind of even see it in, in Gen Z now, right? Like you see a little bit more conversation around this.

Is that, is that fair to say? 

[00:08:27] Natalie: Absolutely. I mean, even my own children. It’s interesting, you know, listening to your experience and I, I had a similar experience. I think my parents also deferred to other resources watch this, read that. Go over there. That person will tell you everything. Yeah. , you know, so definitely like the desire to, okay, we want you to understand.

Oh gosh, we don’t feel super comfortable ourselves having this outright conversation with you. Right, right. So I, I definitely think, you know, social media for sure, having a huge hand in helping to create more momentum in this space where we can all kind of hide behind a screen in a device, but be open to new ideas and exploring topics that perhaps weren’t that comfortable for us in the past. Mm-hmm. . So yes, to your point. Absolutely. I see that there’s definitely a shift around the stigma of this is something you don’t talk about to, Hey, let’s put it all on the table and let’s talk about what your experiences are versus my experiences.

[00:09:36] Elise: Mm-hmm. , and so, I’m sure. So we are now having these conversations and I guess what my, my next kind of piece of that is, so 88 50 comes into play and how do you, where do you kind of start? Like what, what was the, did you start, did one product kind of come to you? You mentioned that article, so you know, you’re kind of interested in this space, but then.

[00:10:03] Natalie: Yeah, well, so coming from the structures I had been a part of helping to create in the past a real value of mine, Elise, is collaboration, I definitely do not see myself as an expert. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a therapist, but what I am is a very eager, willing student in this space. So the first thing I wanted to do was, create some type of way to be able to learn.

Hence, that’s where our sex deck came from. Okay? 88 50. If you go to our homepage, you’ll see that there is a sex deck link. That sex deck will begin to educate you around these are our values in looking at this space. Here are the things that matter to us. Then what we did was looked outside and said, okay, who are the leaders in this space?

Who are the teachers, the doctors, the therapists, and who are making products that line up with these values? One of those very first, makers is Laura DeCarlo. She creates products in her own name. It is called Laura DeCarlo, absolutely mind blowing robotics. Um, and so, you know, that really created a curiosity from the go of, wow, how do we learn about this person, her products, her values?

And that sort of set us off, um, to collaborate more. Who else, who else is in this space? What other women, what other men, what other humans, what other brands line up with these values? And let’s bolster them. Let’s talk about them. More, let’s offer those products and talk about those humans and those brands on our own website to share what we’re learning on this journey.

[00:12:02] Elise: Mm-hmm. , I love that. So what are you learning? Like what would you say are the top three things that you’ve learned so far? 

[00:12:10] Natalie: Well, let’s see. The top three things there is. Nothing, not normal. I’ve been asked every kind of question, like every kind of question from I’m experiencing perimenopause, menopause, to, I’m looking for something for my 19 year old daughter.

What’s a great first product? So, The range is wide and vast. That’s number one. There is nothing kind of weird or not normal or is this a dumb question? No, there’s no dumb question. Mm-hmm. , um, two. I think the journey is never ending. I don’t think the learning will ever stop, ever. As we evolve in our thinking, the more we open up our attitudes and behaviors, the more there is to learn.

So that’s two. I know this is a lifelong journey. Three. Um, I think just getting better and better. Like better and better at finding humans that we wanna bolster up. Talk about, give space to. Yeah, I would say that that’s number three is the quest is just beginning for us. 

[00:13:23] Elise: I feel like there’s a topic, you know, you mentioned the humans that, whether it’s doctors, therapists, other creators that you’re meeting and working with, I feel like there’s probably whole other episodes on each of those topics.

[00:13:36] Natalie: Absolutely!

[00:13:37] Elise: Can you share some of the, you mentioned Laura, can you share like maybe a few others of the people whose paths you crossed and what, what they’re kind of bringing to this? 

[00:13:47] Natalie: Yeah. Um, some favorites I would say are the founders of Gems Whitney Keller and Yasmine Emory. Um, they’re from Toronto.

Uh, they worked in the creative agency space. I’m fascinated by their story because I just think it’s so brilliant that they saw a white space in condoms. 

[00:14:09] Elise: I was gonna say, these are the two, these are the two moms that were trying not to get pregnant after they had their baby. Right. 

[00:14:17] Natalie: So I don’t, that’s interesting. I don’t, I haven’t heard them share that specifically. Okay. I’ll tell you what it, so they’re the founders of gems? Yeah. Toronto based condom makers. Yeah. Um, they. So they saw they were, yeah, so what they saw in the space of condoms is just how archaic the marketing, the advertising, the packaging, the explanation, all of the ingredients involved, just totally outdated and looked like nobody’s even looked at this space.

For decades. So just, you know, the mindset to be so open to how do we deliver a product A that creates safer sex for a generation that needs to know about safer sex, because quite frankly, STIs are on the rise. and two, to see it in a way, like how do we speak to that audience in a way that’s welcoming, accessible, and cool.

That just makes it cool for people to get on board with wanting to know more about them. Mm-hmm. , so they kind of fascinate me. 

[00:15:29] Elise: Yeah. I, I, well, they were at your event and so then I was looking at the story after. Yeah. And I was, it was really, it was interesting to, to read more. So yeah, they were, 

[00:15:39] Natalie: Oh, I love that.

I, I actually didn’t know that it was from a place of ha having had children and wanting to I 

[00:15:46] Elise: think so. I think so. If I remember right. And I don’t wanna misquote, but I’m pretty sure it was like, you know, they had their kids and so it was, they, then they reentered the condom spaces adults. Right. And they were kind of like, Oh wait, what’s going on here?

And then everything that you just said followed. I believe so from what I think I read on their bio anyway. 

[00:16:05] Natalie: Yeah. Well, we’ll have to have them on. You’ll have to have them on sometime. We’ll ask them. Exactly. Yeah. . 

[00:16:12] Elise: And then there was anyone else that you’ve kind of come across that maybe our Canadian, in the Canadian part of things.


[00:16:19] Natalie: Ritz Clinging, the, so Ritz lives in bc. Um, she is the founder of, I Love My Muff. I Love My Muff for hygienic products for Volvo owners. Um, and they are all made of essential oils. They smell like heaven. They’re gentle pH balance. They’re, it’s a beautiful product. Um, and she. Wow. I just, I can’t say enough about her in terms of like warmth, intelligence, open collaborative.

We have adored working with her and her product is amazing. Mm-hmm. . Um, what we love about it is we just, you know, we never. Thought about vulva care before, like never thought of it. Yeah. Different than any other part of our body, you know? Yeah. You go in the shower, it’s soap, I’m done exit. 

[00:17:17] Elise: Which is, it’s kinda interesting if you think about it because when you think of all the products we create for women in the beauty space, how there’s something for like, Our eyebrows are like every, every piece of us, but yet one of the probably most important pieces that give us pleasure can, you know, can be a part of a child berthing process even realistically, and that pleasure piece of it anyway, like, No one really talks about, like no one’s invented something for yet.

Like in or as, you don’t see it as much at the grocery store. Right? Or the shoppers. So that’s kind of interesting. Well, 

[00:17:52] Natalie: it’s a great inquiry. Why is that? Yeah. Are we ashamed? Are we embarrassed? Are we shying away from that? It’s interesting, at least because the skin is the most absorbent organ we. Our genitals are nine times more absorbent than the rest of our, and yet we don’t think, to your point, we don’t think about care of that area in the same way we, we consider eyes, lips, face.

So it is interesting. Why is that? Why have we ignored or shied away from. 

[00:18:30] Elise: Now, do you find that there’s more product for the male genitalia or than there is for female? Or is that not necess or they both kind of. 

[00:18:43] Natalie: No, I think we shy away from both, I think like, okay. Yeah. As an industry. I think in terms of hygiene care, I don’t think we’ve talked about either different from the rest of the body.

You know, I think to your earlier point, you’re right. Most emphasis in terms of like beauty care, skin care specifically is placed. Toward her face. Mm-hmm. than anywhere else. So, no, I’m not, I’m not finding more so for male than female. No, I’m not seeing that. I’m just seeing that as a whole, it’s just not a topic we speak about in terms of hygiene care very much.

Mm-hmm. . 

[00:19:24] Elise: Mm-hmm. . So what are, what are s, you know, you mentioned the. What would be a good first sex toy? Some of the questions that you’re getting, what are some of the most common ones that we can maybe address for anyone listening now that might have a question? I think it’s a, a good one of what is a good first sex toy, whether it’s for a younger daughter, whether it’s for, you know, some of our audiences a little younger, they might not have had their first sex toy, so what, what would you recommend for something like that?

[00:19:51] Natalie: Yeah. So, um, we tend to recommend something smaller, something that. Into the palm of your hand. You know, it’s less intimidating than maybe something that looks bigger could potentially 

[00:20:07] Elise: be scary. I have a funny story. Do you wanna know? That was my first one, . It was like, I was living in New York. I just thought of this as you’re saying this.

I had just gone to dinner with a few of my girlfriends and the, I was like in my early twenties and the sex store was right beside the dinner we were having. We were like, let’s go in. And I feel like I bought, I never used it cause. So it was like big and purple and like it was just something someone should have given to like a bachelor party and then for, or bachelorette party.

From that point on, like I think I was a little timid to even go into that space again. So for anyone that’s, and thinks that that’s what the sex toy. Industry looks like now there’s not, there’s so many other agrees. up there. . But that was my first experience, . So yeah, needless to say that, uh, yeah, that wasn’t but of sh me away even longer from using them.

Cause I’m like, what the hell am I doing with. So there’s much better things out there. So something smaller. Agreed . Yeah. Well, I’ve 

[00:21:08] Natalie: got a good story for you. If we have time, I’ll tell you, tell you at the end, but yeah, you’ll, you’ll get a good kick out of it. Probably fit in the palm of your hand. Yes. So for starters, you want something that you know is small so that you know, you can wrap your head around what am I supposed to do with this thing?

Yeah. Um, right now we carry, I, I think, two really incredible products I think that are perfect as a first toy. Um, both are made by Dame. One is called Kip and the other one is Pom um, so Kip is, I mean, it really looks like a lipstick, really, like with lid on, it’s very small. Mm-hmm. . And it, um, has various settings.

It comes with a charger. It’s made of medical grade, silicone. So it’s a very safe, beautiful product. Easy to clean, easy to store, put away, hide away, make sure in a dry space, Um, and it has, you can, it’s targeted so you can target directly toward the clitoris and it just looks pretty. So as a first toy, you know, it doesn’t look like maybe what people.

[00:22:22] Elise: Think to your, yeah, I’ve seen that one. 

[00:22:25] Natalie: Yeah. Look like a sex toy. It’s very discreet. You could honestly throw it in a purse, go to the airport, travel, someone could take it outta your bag and have no idea what it is. Um, so I think discretion, usually as a first toy, people are looking for, you know, gimme something small and pretty, that nobody will know what this thing is.

[00:22:46] Elise: Yeah, no, I think that’s a good point. That also happened to me at the airport once as well, , not with, not with the big one, but , imagine what is this thing? And then, so, no, that’s a great one for your first one. What about couples that are looking for, to kind of spice things up in the bedroom? Is there, whether it’s a toy or you know, any other pieces that you might have on the site that you think that you would, would be something to.

[00:23:14] Natalie: Yes. Um, so graduating to play with others. Um, I think a great toy for somebody else to be able to experience with you is OSÉ 2. That’s a Lord DeCarlo product. Okay. Um, it’s very bendy. So you can literally twist it like a pretzel. The robotics are incredible, so you can insert it for penetration and at the tip of where you insert it inside of yourself, there is a robotics part that moves up and down so that it can stimulate the G spot while the outside has an open mouth that emits a pressure similar to like Cunnilingus, so that you’re doing two things at one time. Wow. Okay. And really, I mean, you could use it for anal play, you could use it for vaginal penetration. You can kinda explore, experiment, and have what ad, whatever ad adventure you desire, because it is so flexible, you can use it in so many different ways.

Um, I think that’s a really fun partner experience to have. 

[00:24:37] Elise: Yeah. I’ve never, the only couple toy that I’ve ever seen was like someone controls the vibration of it. I haven’t seen something like that, which is very, Um, anything else on the, on the site right now that you think is really, I know you mentioned Love Your Muff, Gems.

Anything else that kind of comes up? Um, 

[00:24:57] Natalie: I think a really nice product we carry is called RO Wave. It is a couple’s vibe. Um, it’s very unique design in that it’s super thin. So it’s best used on the outside, not, not really great for, um, penetration. It’s not really meant to be inserted. Um, it’s very quiet.

It has a run time of 60 minutes. You can use it in the shower. It’s waterproof and um, you press against it, but you can. Two Vulvas pressing against it at the same time. You can use it alone in the shower if you wanted to at the same time. So for couples, it’s nice because it’s very thin. You could place it between two.

That’s a really nice product as well. 

[00:25:48] Elise: I love that. And you mentioned a little earlier, um, you know that, that being cooped up in the endorphins that are released when we’re having sex. Is there anything else that you’ve come across, I guess, in the research of why we should be, just to kind of bring us full circle, why this should sexual pleasure should be a part of our wellness experience.

[00:26:15] Natalie: Stress. For stress. Yeah. Honestly, I mean, stress is, it’s so interesting, like at the outset of my adventure with Lou Lemon, I remember, you know, sort of on replay in the back of my mind were these words early on in my career there. Around stress would be the biggest killer of human beings in the future. We would become privy to so much information.

Eventually, we would be so inundated all the time with the pressures of what is going on, not only in our own lives, in our community, in the world at large, just so much coming at us. , that stress would really be the number one most toxic element in our community and in our lives, and the release of those endorphins, the release of that stress is so vital, the human connection made to that release during those moments of pleasure. Pleasure is vital. To our thriving our mental wellness. Mm-hmm. . 

[00:27:32] Elise: I love that. That’s a really good point. Cause you think when you go to the gym and you have that release, why can’t, you know, sex or self pleasure be that as well?

Absolutely. Yeah. Well, what a great place to end too. I feel like we all have some activities to do later tonight, . So where could we find out more about you and about, 8850. 

[00:27:54] Natalie: So our website is the8850.com. Our social handle is @the8850.co. And you can find us on either of those two places. 

[00:28:07] Elise: Awesome.

And lots of great information like you shared earlier, Natalie, um, on the website and on on the social as well. So thank you so much for being here with us 

[00:28:16] Natalie: today. Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure. You.

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