Meet Hannah Ferguson, the founder of the first black female-owned cidery in Ohio

Abu Mubarik May 09, 2023
Hannah Ferguson. Photo credit: Cider Culture

Before starting her own wine company, Hannah Ferguson had been a winemaker for 10 years, and had always enjoyed craft beer – though she knew how to make wine, she didn’t know how to make beer. Today, Ferguson has transitioned from an assistant brewer position at Modern Methods Brewery, to the founder of DOPE Cider House & Winery.

This move also makes her the first black female owner of a cidery in Ohio – she touts herself as the only black female professional brewer in Ohio. Speaking on her career trajectory, Ferguson says her passion has always been wine and cider.

In the summer of 2020, she collaborated with Sundog Cellars Ciderhouse & Winery, and a portion of the proceeds went to her LLC, DOPEbrands, to help her open her business, according to Cider Culture.

Explaining why she named her company DOPE, Ferguson noted it is an acronym that stands for Dwelling On Positive Energy. “When I first started DOPEbrands, I was doing events, trying to bring open mic nights, poetry, spoken word, and the like to people in their 30s,” she explained.

“I knew that whatever my business would be, it would have to be dope, and the name stuck. I wanted the name to have a meaning, and my brother came up with the acronym,” she noted.

Prior to launching DOPE, she began researching cidermaking and discovered that making cider was the same as making wine, and in Ohio, cider-making falls under a wine license.

According to Ferguson, Sundog Cellars started as the only winery, but had to change its business plan to start focusing on cider because the beverage is faster to produce than wine; moreover, it is very popular right now. 

“So while Sundog still makes wine, cider is their moneymaker. For me, starting with wine would take at least six months to produce, and it would also be dependent on the season for getting grape juice,” she noted.

According to Ferguson, her interest in making cider was bolstered after the cider collaboration, when she researched how many black-owned cideries there are.

Explaining her business operation, she noted that her company gets its juice from Hays Orchard in Columbiana, Ohio. Ferguson adds concentrated strawberry juice puree to give it a beautiful color, and other flavorings for coconut and pineapple. 

Her journey has been three years in the making – part of which she spent trying to find a location, because, without a location in Ohio, one cannot get a license.

“As a small business, it’s already challenging to get capital, and when I found a couple of locations, there were some issues,” she added. “However, if you’d asked me five or 10 years ago if I would turn my hobby into a business, I would have said no.”

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: May 9, 2023

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