Raise a glass to the Black woman who opened the first urban winery in Wichita, Kansas

Abu Mubarik March 10, 2023
Jennifer McDonald, Owner of Jenny Dawn Cellars. Photo Courtesy of Jennifer McDonald

Since founding what would become Wichita’s first urban winery, Jennifer McDonald has taken the business to greater heights. McDonald officially launched Jenny Dawn Cellars in 2019 after thorough consumer market research during graduate school at Kansas State University.

This was after discovering the growing demand from consumers to access fine wine within a winery setting in Wichita’s urban core. Speaking to Sheenmagazine on being the first Black winemaker and winery owner in Kansas, she noted the journey was daunting. According to her, she received pushback with her business model through regulation and licensing, and it was also challenging to finance her business. 

“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 attracts clients from diverse backgrounds and profiles. McDonald highlights this as one of her company’s strong points.

“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.

Touching on her entrepreneurial lessons, she said that one thing she has learned is to never go alone. According to her, she has amazing investors, dozens of peer mentors, and a variety 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.

Recently when asked about her vision for the next five years, McDonald said her goal is to overcome the effect of the pandemic on her business and scale further. As of 2020, she was looking at expanding her physical footprint at Union Station to scale up her production facility. She noted at that time that her wine is not only sold in the winery but also online with shipping to 38 states and through distribution channels in Kansas and Nebraska. “I am focused on expanding distribution to all our bordering states,” she said.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: March 12, 2023

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