Michigan Tequila Business Launches with Black Woman at the Helm

Nayana Ferguson & Don Ferguson
Nayana Ferguson

Nayana Ferguson is a lot of things: a pancreatic cancer survivor, a breast cancer survivor, a financial analyst, a marathon runner, mother, wife, entrepreneur and – quite possibly – the first Black woman to own a tequila business.

“To be a pioneer in this space and show other Black women that they can break that glass ceiling. Create your legacy on the back of the bottle,” said Ferguson, the owner of Anteel Tequila. “We truly believe everyone has a legacy inside of them. I can break that glass ceiling. I have something to give to the world.”.

Ferguson’s career began more than 20 years ago as a middle-management financial analyst in the automotive sector. In 2005, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, after a 106-degree fever sent her to the hospital.

“They said you have a mass on your pancreas,” Ferguson recalled. “I was still climbing the corporate ladder at the time. But on Nov. 14, 2005, I had a Whipple procedure, which removed the head of my pancreas, gall bladder, a portion of my stomach and part of my duodenum duct. I was determined to get out of the hospital in two weeks, and I did. I was in a wheelchair for a while, and it took about three years to get back together. It was interesting to have to go through something like that so young.”

She was 32 at the time.

Fast forward to 2016 and Ferguson surprised her soon-to-be fiancé with a trip to the Dominican Republic. But Don Ferguson turned the tables and proposed on the vacation.

Nayana Ferguson & Don Ferguson

“When we were celebrating, we were at a restaurant, talking about our future. We have been in the corporate world for a long time,” Ferguson said.

As they talked, they started making loose plans to start their own business one day. Little did they know, the Antillean crested hummingbirds they were watching as they talked would become the inspiration for their tequila business.

“We were talking about a business but didn’t come to the tequila decision until 2017,” said Ferguson. “My husband was a little skeptical at first. We both had owned other businesses, but none of them were spirits.”

Within days she found a distillery, came up with a budget, Don Ferguson’s skepticism stuck around until he had the samples. He liked them, and they moved forward. It took about 11 months to get the bottle in hand and Anteel Tequila was born.

“Because I am a two-time cancer survivor, I still want to have a cocktail every now and then. Because of cancer I’m pre-diabetic,” said Ferguson. “You can have a spirit here and there without it affecting you. Tequila is known as a cleaner spirit because it is made from the agave plant.”

Anteel does not have any synthetics or sweeteners, which makes it a more natural drink and easier to digest.

In addition to being considered a premium tequila, the business of Anteel Tequila has grown each year. “For a small brand to do 1,500 cases in a year is excellent, and we did that last year in our second year. We’ve doubled and tripled our sales in the last three years. It’s amazing to us because we are an emerging brand,” said Ferguson.

Anteel Tequila is in eight states and the Caribbean. Soon, consumers in the Bahamas will be able to get Anteel Tequila.

“I’m most proud that we created a brand from the ground up, even though we are a new and emerging brand,” said Ferguson. “We won more than 27 awards from around the world. These are my babies and people should enjoy it. We can show people that if you have a passion for something, you can do it.”