Get to Know Jennifer McDonald, the Black Woman Just Opened Wichita’s First Urban Winery

Jennifer McDonald Owner of Jenny Dawn Cellars

 

Jennifer McDonald has taken the business to new heights since launching what would become Wichita’s first urban winery. McDonald created Jenny Dawn Cellars in 2019 after conducting extensive consumer market research during her doctoral studies at Kansas State University.

This was after identifying a growing consumer desire for good wine in a winery setting in Wichita’s urban core. In an interview with Sheenmagazine, she described her path as the first Black winemaker and winery owner in Kansas. According to her, she faced opposition to her business strategy due to regulation and licensing, and it was also difficult to finance her venture.

“I always felt like an underdog when it came to negotiating contracts even though I had legal representation and a business attorney,” she noted.

McDonald added that the construction of her winery took twice as long and cost twice as much than anticipated. At a point, she even felt everything could go wrong. However, she was guided by her personal motto: “Have faith and never give up.”

“Ultimately, I was able to launch my winery and tasting room in November of 2019,” she said. “My strong sense of purpose keeps me moving forward and has allowed me to accomplish my goals despite the obstacles, challenges and resistance.”

Jenny Dawn Cellars, located in the historic Union Station, welcomes people from all walks of life. McDonald emphasizes this as one of her company’s strengths.

“The beauty of the Jenny Dawn Cellars business is the diverse background and profile of our clients. We have attracted clients from every walk of life and every ethnic background. We saw a need for diversity and inclusion in the Kansas wine industry and we have created wine and a space that has attracted diversity to us,” she noted.

In terms of business lessons, she stated that one thing she has learned is to never go it alone. She claims to have incredible investors, dozens of peer mentors, and a range of business and winemaking mentors.

“I feel 100 percent supported! If I ever run into any problems or issues that I do not personally know how to tackle, I have a community of supporters to lean on and seek guidance from. As a Black woman-owned entrepreneur and winemaker, I am not alone,” she explained.

When asked recently about her five-year vision, McDonald stated that her ambition is to overcome the impact of the pandemic on her firm and scale even higher. She planned to expand her physical footprint at Union Station by 2020 in order to grow up her production facilities. She mentioned at the time that her wine is available not just in the winery but also online, with shipping to 38 states and distribution channels in Kansas and Nebraska. “I am focused on expanding distribution to all our bordering states,” she said.

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