At the Green Market Report Midwest Women’s Cannabis Business Summit in Chicago on Nov. 2, we recognized some of the stellar industry players with the GMR Midwest Women in Cannabis Awards.
The winner of the Woman-Founded Brand category was Weiwei Fellman, the founder of North Dakota-based Kota Botanics, which launched just four years ago this December.
“I’d never imagined myself making a living in the cannabis industry,” Fellman, a Chinese immigrant and trained fitness instructor, told Green Market Report.
Before she leapt into the cannabis business, Fellman taught cycling classes at her home in Fargo, after moving to the U.S. from Beijing in 2009. But in 2018, she discovered the benefits of CBD in the wake of the traumatic birth of her son two years prior.
The difficult delivery left her grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks, until she found the “amazing healing power” of CBD.
“I realized this could be hugely impactful for the people who live in our community who suffer anxiety, pain, and insomnia daily,” Fellman said.
So she founded Kota Botanics, first as a boutique retail shop, and then with her own hemp-based CBD product line after just five months. From there it exploded into a Midwest CBD giant with 20 brands and more than 170 products, while the Kota Botanics line is sold in 38 states across the country.
Managing that growth has not been easy, Fellman said, and she ticked off a laundry list of regular challenges when asked her biggest obstacle.
“Just being in the cannabis industry is the biggest hurdle I have ever had to deal with in my whole life,” Fellman said. “The lack of funding. The discrimination. The marketing restrictions. The cost of running the business. The turnover of staff. Every day is a challenging day.”
The optimistic entrepreneur remains focused on expanding Kota Botanics’ footprint even further, and said she’s very much looking forward to the upcoming launch of the company’s pet-care CBD product line, called Chunk & Friends.