Meet the Best Little CBD Store in North Dakota
Founder WeiWei Fellman’s Kota Botanics is an oasis of quality CBD and cannabinoid education in a cannabis desert.
If you told Weiwei Fellman a decade ago that in 2022 she’d be running a CBD business in North Dakota, the Beijing-born entrepreneur and mother of two would’ve called you crazy. Ten years ago, though, Weiwei, who goes by “Vivian” in the U.S., could never have anticipated the legal hemp boom, how it would expose her to the rich legacy of humans consuming cannabis, and how the plant would bring her solace during one of the most harrowing experiences imaginable.
Fellman was introduced to the foreign-to-her land of Fargo, North Dakota by way of her husband, who she met while he was studying Mandarin in Beijing. He was born and raised in Fargo, and, in 2009, they moved there to put down roots. While her friends were surprised—even concerned—about her living in that one place from the Cohen brother’s film, Fellman remains charmed by the real Fargo. It’s a safe and quiet place to raise kids, the couple agreed.
Indeed it was their sons, now six and eight years old, who inspired Fellman to explore the hemp realm. “When my youngest child was born, he had to be airlifted to Minneapolis immediately because he was born with a heart condition. He had a closed heart valve,” recalls Fellman. “I had just finished my c-section and didn’t even get to hold him. It’s hard to describe how scary it felt.”
As soon as Fellman could get released from the hospital, she was on her way to her newborn in Minneapolis, where they would stay for nearly four weeks while he received care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She endured a sleepless cycle of pumping every other hour and worrying about her son’s survival. The extreme stress caused panic attacks. Fellman even blacked out once.
The first CBD shop in North Dakota had just opened in Morehead around 2018, so she decided to try CBD to help her stress. “It was located at a truck stop, and when we first pulled up, I was like, Are we about to get abducted?” laughs Fellman, semi-seriously. “But once I was in there, the lady was super nice. She couldn’t really answer my questions though, recommending me water-soluble products but not able to talk me through what CBD was, how it worked, what the endocannabinoid system was.”
Fellman walked out empty-handed, but remained curious about this plant’s potential and eventually found a product that helped her panic attacks.
“I kept thinking to myself, I can do a better job than that shop in Morehead.Our community needs this,” says Fellman. “I know so many are dealing with mental health, physical health—including my mom, who passed last year. She was on at least 20 pills a day. It breaks my heart when I see people struggle with their health issues.”
About a year and lots of research later, Fellman opened Kota Botanics at the end of 2019. She started with just five brands on the shelves, such as Joy Organics, Vital Leaf and TONIC. Now she offers a dozen other CBD tinctures, gummies, vapes, pet products, skincare products, sexual intimacy products, and much more.
Skeptics in the decidedly conservative state opened their minds to the idea that hemp—this thing related to cannabis—had legitimate medical properties. Going beyond explaining the science, Fellman would talk through the history of cannabis use for medicinal purposes tracing back hundreds of years to any customer who asked.
It’s no secret that the Midwest is warming up to weed—look at Oklahoma and Ohio’s thriving medical markets, and the fact that South Dakota almost legalized recreational cannabis last year. (They actually did, but the governor vetoed the bill). Most Americans are open to legalizing cannabis, and more would try it if they had better information and trustworthy, welcoming access. Kota Botanics does just that.
Fellman thoughtfully caters to her Kota customers, who are largely made up of seniors and mothers, which perhaps explains how this brick-and-mortar that opened right before a pandemic, then survived and even thrived the last couple of years. This fall, Fellman opened a second location in Minneapolis.
“It’s been quite a journey, but I would not change it for anything,” says Fellman. “I love seeing people happy. We have many testimonials from people who come back one day or one week later with a huge smile on their face, talking about how they got their first good night’s sleep in years, or how their restless leg syndrome had eased up…. It’s the best part of this job.”