Alexandria residents driving down Broadway can see several stores with signs and banners promoting new products. Cannabidiol (CBD) is taking the world by storm, and a Mankato CBD store has decided to take advantage of the new wave and expand to other areas of Minnesota.

Kato CBD is Alexandria’s first CBD-only store. Part-owner Shenae Homan has been in business in downtown Alexandria for the past several weeks. She believes she is selling a product that is fit for everybody.

“My family started a CBD business in Mankato because we believe in what we are selling,” Homan said. “I think anybody can use CBD. I know people that use it for sleep, for anxiety and so much more.”

CBD is a compound derived from cannabis. Due to its low THC levels, it's a non-psychoactive element, which means people can’t get high off it. CBD is taken out of the leaves and the flowers of the hemp plant and is converted into different ways for buyers to take it. (See sidebar for more on CBD).

Demand for cannabis has never been higher. Ameri Research Inc. reported that the global cannabis market has reached $14.6 billion. Minnesota is one of 15 states that allow CBD-only stores and the Homan family has taken advantage of it.

They started the family business in Mankato earlier this year, and also have a store in Lakeville in addition to the one in Alexandria that Homan owns with her mother-in-law.

“It’s been a fast start for sure," Homan said.

Her passion for the product is what got her into the business. Not only does she believe in what CBD can do for the body, but she wants to educate people about the benefits.

“Hemp was meant to be in our diet,” she said. “People started breeding it to have a higher THC content so they could get high. That’s when the government put restrictions on it. I think people are coming around to it again, but we still have a long way to go.”

Kato CBD puts the emphasis on “small” in the term small business. They operate out of limited space in a suite building on 6th Avenue.

“Our products don’t take up much space so this building is perfect for us right now. Expanding in the future is definitely on the table," Homan said. "But for now, I am here to educate people and help them understand what it is we are selling.”

The struggle for CBD stores is getting its customers to overcome the negative stigma of marijuana.

“People have a misunderstanding of what we are selling,” Homan said. “When people hear that CBD comes from hemp or it has THC in it, I think they get nervous about what it’ll do to them. CBD and marijuana have some of the same components but they don’t serve the same purpose.”

CBD doesn’t come without some potential side effects. People have been reported to have dry mouth, diarrhea, drowsiness, reduced appetite and fatigue. Homan says she can take on those risks for a good night of sleep.

“I was sleeping horribly for the last two years,” she said. “After I started taking CBD, I sleep how I should now. My husband takes it. My family and friends take it. If I would’ve known what it did for me years ago, we would’ve opened up these stores sooner.”