Meet Hannah Ferguson: Owner of the First Black, Female-Owned Cidery Dwelling on Positive Energy
It took about five years for Ohio’s first Black female professional brewer to mastermind a cider brand that would not only dwell in her hometown but on positive energy. Come to the steel city and sip on the good vibes at D.O.P.E. Cider House and Winery; thank me later!
The trailblazing Hannah Ferguson, the owner of the first Black, female-owned cidery in Ohio, brings a new and fresh outlook on specialty-made ciders and wines to the Youngstown area. D.O.P.E Cider House and Winery is a culmination of local roots, ambition, a couple of firsts, and the drive to diversify the craft beverage community.
“One of my goals that I’m passionate about is pushing us past the 1% when it comes to breweries. When it comes to cideries—even the spirit and wine industry. We have less than 1% ownership,” Ferguson told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
Recent reports show that out of the more than 11,000 wineries in the U.S., about a tenth of 1% of those are Black-owned or have a Black winemaker. With support and patience, Ferguson blazed the trail as an assistant brewer at the then-new Modern Methods in Ohio before turning her wine-making hobby into her full-time job.
“I’m not a multiple-generation winemaker. I am a first-generation winemaker, and I want to be able to pass that on,” Ferguson said. In doing so, the Youngstown-bred entrepreneur leveraged her learning experiences to pursue wine and cider in a way that differs from other wineries and cideries, like reaching the Black community.
From the heart
Ferguson shared that she does everything from the heart, showing her support in more ways than one. She’ll even change her brand’s heart-adorned logo to rep Juneteenth or the Cincinnati Bengals going to the playoffs.
Ferguson shared it was important for her to lay down the groundwork of her enterprise within her hometown. So she created an educational pipeline by opening a Youngstown, Ohio chapter of Black and Brew, a nonprofit organization that aims to diversify the cultural landscape of craft beer consumers.
“It’s about growing our numbers,” Ferguson said. “I just want to be able to set up to provide a scholarship for someone to do something or an apprenticeship.”
While there may be progress toward a more diverse industry, Ferguson said she wants to reach the younger generations to fully represent what’s possible from an area similar to Youngstown.
View this post on Instagram
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no telling when D.O.P.E. would open its doors. Businesses, including D.O.P.E., faced challenges related to the supply chain for transporting essentials before they even opened.
“When it comes to capital, what you budgeted for, everything was almost double or triple,” Ferguson recalled.
Today, the customers vibe with D.O.P.E’s traditional, flavored, and non-alcoholic ciders so much that she started placing her kegs at other restaurants and bars. Situated on 460 E Federal Street, the establishment offers a coffee house feel with comfy rocking chairs and couches to indulge in impeccable tastes.
“I’m just proud and glad that people are liking what I’m producing,” Ferguson said.
View this post on Instagram
Passing on the knowledge
In the beginning, raising capital was an undeniable concern for Ferguson, Ohio. Her company has relied on social media and word of mouth for promotion. So she advises others to do their homework and find a way on the other side of intimidation.
“Do your research. Look at your market and don’t let certain things be intimidating. Don’t let things like a business plan be intimidating. Don’t let things like capital be intimidating,” Ferguson explained.
She added: “If you just look at your resources in your city, there’s somebody that’s going to have certain programs. They’re doing it for free, and they’re helping you, and they’re guiding you along the way.”
“That’s how you get to meet people, and there are a lot of people that are definitely willing to help on that journey because they were where you are, they’re willing to give the time.”