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Jennifer McDonald - Launched Jenny Dawn Cellars in downtown Wichita, Kansas.

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

Jenny Dawn Cellars was founded in September 2016. We’ve been in business for almost four years. During that time, our wine brand was incubated by a winery in Napa, CA until we became a licensed Kansas winery. We officially opened our urban winery doors located at Union Station in downtown Wichita on November 23, 2019. My background is in human resources, recruiting and entrepreneurship. I developed and led strategic initiatives for some of Wichita’s largest employers. I successfully leveraged my business acumen and leadership skills from the corporate world into the wine industry. To hone my craft in viticulture and enology, I got a Master’s degree in Agribusiness from Kansas State University and took online classes through UC Davis. I started out as a home winemaker before becoming a commercial winemaker. Today, I am leading the strategy and vision for Jenny Dawn Cellars as well as handling winemaking, finance, communications and sales.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

The “aha” moment that propelled me into wine was when I was working in Human Resources. On a good day in HR I would have one glass of wine and on a bad day in HR I would have two glasses of wine after work. I noticed that I was spending a lot of money on wine. This got me curious. I wondered if I could make a quality bottle of wine at home and pay less per bottle than the wines that I was buying on the liquor store shelves. After making several batches of wine at home, I got the price per bottle down to $3.00 per bottle and the wine was actually delicious. I thought, okay, I wonder if I could start a wine business.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is serving wine to customers in our beautiful urban winery. I thoroughly enjoy providing wine service and wine education to our customers. It’s thrilling to see the customers’ faces light up when they taste a wine that they really enjoy. Body language always reveals whether or not someone is truly enjoying themselves. We have a lot of fun at our tasting room.

Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?

As a woman, I’ve experienced my fair share of prejudices in the wine industry. Most commonly, people can’t believe that I started this winery, raised the capital, financed the business and make the wine. People will say things like, “You’re the owner?” I just kindly reply, “Yes, I am.”

Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each and change that behavior?

I would agree that I have seen women be more critical of me than men. As women, it is so important to support each other and create a common sense of purpose. As women, we should not compete, compare, undermine or undercut one another. We should instead uplift, inspire, lead and encourage each other so that everyone wins and reaches their goals.

When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?

I truly believe that wine is a connector. Wine brings people of all backgrounds together. When you look at the demographics of our Jenny Dawn Cellars customer base, 70% are women ranging in age from 21 to 60 years old plus. Women are supporting our business and brand. As a business owner, I like to collaborate with other local businesses that have the same synergy has mine.

What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?

In the next five years, the changes that I would like to see in the wine industry include more women becoming wine judges, sommeliers, wine writers, winemakers and influencers. The number of women in wine is steadily growing but men still hold some of the top positions.

What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?

The message I have for women entering the wine profession is to be tenacious, authentic, and passionate about wine. Your passion will carry you forward on the days that you have self-doubt. Find a mentor and surround yourself with other professionals who will challenge you in a supportive manner.

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Equality in the wine industry to me looks like equal pay for equal work. As business owners, we want equal opportunity and access to grow our business and footprint.

What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?

I am contributing to equality in wine by treating all of my staff, customers, vendors and suppliers with respect. We enjoy sharing our wines with all customers and everyone is welcome at the winery. As an employer in wine, we have the same policies, procedures, training and pay practices for everyone.

What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?

Some of the defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine would include women who lift each other up, share their wine knowledge, who are passionate, brave, strong, fearless, talented, considerate and kind. Women who collaborate with others and allow for each brand or business to be successful.

What other women of wine do you admire and why?

There are so many women of wine that I admire. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Black Wine Experience at Essence Festival to meet some of them. I admire Tahiirah Habibi for her spirit and energy around shining a light on black winemakers and brands. By curating events, she is giving us an opportunity to expand our customer base and network. I admire Robin and Andréa McBride for building such a strong brand and wine enterprise.

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