On Thursday, September 27, 2018, I had the opportunity to represent Jenny Dawn Cellars and participate in the Get Started Wichita pitch competition presented by Cox Business. Twenty-five businesses applied and I was one of five entrepreneurs selected to be featured. The 5 businesses had the opportunity to set up a booth and network. We were also given 2 minutes and 30 seconds to pitch our business plan and impact to the Wichita community. A panel of 6 judges selected a runner-up and a grand prize winner: Denise Sherman, Gary Oborny, Christina Long, Shawn Stuckey, Brad Mosesn and Steven Werner.
The other finalists that were selected to pitch were HillTop Strong, Midwest eSports, Mobile Car Tune and Retreat To Joy. Some fun facts about these companies and their participation in the Wichita entrepreneurial ecosystem is that I office at the e2e Incubator with Retreat To Joy. I was a part of the first LaunchPrep cohort, Midwest eSports was a part of the second LaunchPrep cohort and Mobile Car Tune participated in the third LaunchPrep cohort. Wichita is truly a great place to start a business because of all of the support it provides to entrepreneurs.
All of the pitches were executed well. Tevyn Harmon of HillTop Strong was selected as the runner-up and when I heard his name I got so nervous. Then, the announcer said, “The votes are tallied and results are in. The grand prize winner of Get Started Wichita 2018 and recipient of our prize package - $7,500 cash, $2,000 in Cox Business services, $2,000 Cox Media package, $4000 annual subscription and advertising from Wichita Business Journal and $1600 in media service from KWCH is Jenny Dawn Cellars!”
I was ecstatic when I heard my name! This truly was “my moment” and my team’s moment. I walked up to the front of the room, was presented with a very large check and thanked the judges and Cox Business personnel. I asked if I could say a few words and was allowed to do so. I told the crowd how during my first pitch 2 years ago I was told by an audience member that I was “doing too much”, “working too hard” and that “my plan wasn’t going to work.” I told the audience that, “everything I said I was going to do as an entrepreneur 2 years ago, I have done!” I said, “Your dream may be too big for the people around you but keep dreaming.” The dream that I have of becoming the First Urban Winery in downtown Wichita at Union Station has not come without a lot of challenges and sacrifices. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share part of my Iceberg Illusion on preparing for this event and the challenges that I have faced with my business. Note: I’m only sharing part of the story because it would be a 1,000 page book if I tried to tell it all.
For anyone who is not familiar with the Iceberg Illusion it is the contrast between “what people see” and “what they don’t see” regarding success. In today’s society, there is this glamour around success that only appears when you have already made it. I have by no means made it but I am making steady progress towards my goals. A lot of times people don’t see the sacrifices, failure, disappointment, persistence, hard work, dedication and discipline that is required to be successful and stay successful. When you are on an entrepreneurial journey, you can’t stand still, you have to keep moving.
On September 12, 2018, I resigned from a high paying career in recruiting to pursue my Jenny Dawn Cellars dream. I’m thankful I had the time and availability to dedicate to practicing my pitch and gathering all of the materials for our Get Started Wichita booth. In the 7 days leading up to the event, I probably put in about 40 hours of prep work. If I was still working full-time in recruiting, I would not have had the time to properly prepare.
The first version of my pitch wasn’t a complete failure but with the help of Marc Colcord and Brandy Willett we made several key changes. As an entrepreneur, the easiest way to fail is by “working in a vacuum.” It’s extremely important to seek the advice and feedback from experts and mentors. I even reached out to 3 other mentors asking for advice on the content of my pitch and utilized the pitch coach that was provided by Get Started Wichita.
During the days leading up to the pitch competition, I was spending a lot of time practicing. Because of that, I had to miss several other activities (family activities, my chemistry class and business networking events) which was a little disappointing. However, it was well worth it to be prepared and to be able to win.
There is no such thing as an overnight success. I have been working on my business for 4 years and have taken the time to outline my business plan into 3 easily understood phases:
In phase 1, I make, sell and educate the community about our wines. I have 4 wines that can be purchased at local liquor stores today with 2 additional wines being released in November. I also host a monthly wine class.
In phase 2, we are focused on creating an experience… at our winery guests will have the opportunity to sip wine, enjoy food as well as book our venue for private events.
In phase 3, our goal is to scale our winery to become a national wine brand and compete in the global market.
All success stories involved a lot of hard work. Hard work involves digging deep down, tackling changes and ultimately finding solutions. In order to prepare myself for the challenges of my business I have chosen education and hands on experience as a way to hone my skills and develop my craft. I’m an award winning winemaker. I have a BS degree and a MS degree. I’m a First level Sommelier. And, I’m working towards my Winemaking Certification from UC Davis.
Dedication & Discipline
The difference between discipline and dedication is often blurred. What many perceive as discipline is in fact dedication. Both are really the glue that sticks all the above aspects together. Without this glue, the probability of success is diminished significantly. For me, my “why” or the “glue” for starting the Jenny Dawn Cellars business and staying in business is my family. I want to show my kids that if you work hard enough at something you can truly succeed. Anytime, I have doubt, I think of them. Anytime, I’m tired, I think of them. Anytime, I want to give up, I think of them. Plus, I put my entire savings into this business which is also a motivating factor to, “Have faith and never give up!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article about my journey leading up to and during Get Started Wichita. Being selected as a finalist, pitching and then winning the competition will be an experience that I will never forget. It would be remiss of me not to share the vital role that my team played in this event. Desiree Reynolds came early to help me set-up and took the lead in pouring our wines and sharing our story as well as video taping my pitch and sharing it on Facebook live. Erica Thomas took some amazing photos and managed our social media for the event. We also had a wonderful volunteer, Ashley Moody, who stood at our booth, talked to guests and poured our wines. Words cannot express how grateful I am for my rock star team!
I am Jenny Dawn, let your moment being!