Give Yourself A Break

Give yourself another chance. You didn’t get that loan or grant? You were rejected when you applied for that job or opportunity? Ask again, but this time inquire at a different place or appeal to a new person. Persistence does pay off.

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Crew Love [Staff Edition]: Roycelle Parker

Your neighborhood: Hartwell Tell us more about your role at MORTAR. Office manager: front-line greeter, promoter, encourager, organizer, cheerleader... Share your thoughts on the idea of “building community through entrepreneurship.” In order for any community to...

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“You can’t handle the truth.”

There are times at MORTAR when business owners come to us ‘wanting answers.’ We sometimes ask, “Do you want the truth? Or do you want approval?” Some actually desire honest answers and will consider and even implement ideas that are outside of their own. Others unfortunately only really want feedback that agrees with their original ideas or perspectives. If we as leaders don’t say the words they want to hear, there is a laundry list of reasons why we’re wrong or not supportive, even when multiple people give the same feedback. Contrary to popular opinion, there is safety in a multitude of counselors. That’s why large corporations invest so much money in focus groups. As Sojourner Truth said, “Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

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Mortar Receives Entrepreneurship Grant

A Cincinnati philanthropy group awarded Over-the-Rhine-based Mortar a three-year grant to aid in its work helping entrepreneurs in emerging neighborhoods keep up with development.

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati awarded Mortar a $60,000 grant, disbursed over three years, which includes hundreds of hours of donated consulting from the group’s members.

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“All Men Are Created Equal?”

I doubt that the reality of inequity in America is news to anyone. The difficulties of reaching the ‘American Dream’ for people who look like me have been evident from the time I was a small girl. Sure, there are plenty of accomplished and successful black people in America, but proportionately, it is not reflective of the general population

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This Isn’t Just A Side Thing

What I mean is, dedicate just as much time to brand development as you do to creating new products.  This isn’t just something that you pay attention to in your free time. Why develop a product or service that you can’t sell? A customer isn’t going to buy something from you that they can buy from someone they know better, or a person who sells it cheaper, or whatever other justification they may have. Why should they? What is the value of your product or service? What would make them trust you more? What experiences will they associate with you?

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Three Quick Pop Up Shop Tips

Hosting a Pop Up Shop is a great way to expose your product or service to a new crowd of
potential customers or give online customers a different buying experience. As the Retail &
Events Manager at MORTAR, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of companies that
utilize our BRICK Pop Up Shop locations to do just that. From beauty products to handmade
clothing to custom jewelry, our space has transformed from weekend to weekend into different
experiences based on each company’s unique vision.

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Attached at the Hip: How Choosing the Right Partner(ship) can Make or Break your Vision

I had to learn very early-on the importance of teamwork and partnership, because if I didn’t work well with my brother it would make both of our lives VERY challenging.  We had to share our clothes, we had to share our successes (we’re always compared to each other) and we also had to trust one another in virtually every situation.

Living with a twin for 31 years of my life prepared me for the rigors of business and entrepreneurship, for I know instinctually that no person can ever do it alone.  You always need people – family members, friends, organizations, etc., – to believe in your vision and help you take your concept one step further.

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Allen Woods is the creative force behind Mortar. Mortar is a Cincinnati based non-profit organization that focuses on providing opportunities for entrepreneurship for nontraditional entrepreneurs. He has over 25 years of business experience along with a background in Design and Branding. He has been recognized locally and nationally for his leadership in our community both through Mortar and throughout his career for bringing life to businesses.

On this episode of Unfinished Business, Allen shares his story of how creativity and passion to help entrepreneurs has been the key ingredient to his success throughout his career.

“Cincinnati was designed to be a stepping stone for me and my family… but that has now changed. Not only is Cincinnati now home for us but we’re also committed to making our community better.”

“What would happen if we created opportunities for residents to become entrepreneurs? What if we gave them the actual tools to pursue their dreams?”

“For us, it’s all about building the community and to focus on investing in the people within those communities.”

“Being a Co-Founder of Mortar is more like a brotherhood than a partnership!”

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Cincinnati Access Fund: a new tool to support small businesses, build strong communities

LISC provides capital and support to small businesses, and leverages its relationships with other national philanthropies and corporations to find other sources of funding, as well as build partnerships between the public and private sectors.

LISC also puts residents and business owners at the center, Jones says, “to make sure they’re not being done to, but are being the authors of the work in their community.”

And this fall, LISC Cincinnati announced a new tool that brings all those roles together: the Cincinnati Access Fund.

The $3.5 million fund is a collaboration among Fifth Third Bank, the City of Cincinnati, and LISC Greater Cincinnati, and will provide needed financial support as well as technical assistance to women- and minority-owned small businesses.

“We talk about equity, and this is putting it into practice,” says Derrick Braziel, founder of MORTAR Cincinnati, which fosters minority entrepreneurs. “This is a major milestone.”

“I believe Cincinnati could become the most equitable ecosystem in America,” Braziel adds. “This is going to catalyze that.”

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Cambodian eatery Mahope sets opening date for brick-and-mortar location in Northside

CINCINNATI – Vy Sok and her partner, Mike Laguna, busily worked to wrap up final touches inside the future location of their Cambodian restaurant, Mahope, two days before Thanksgiving.

After starting her own family in Greater Cincinnati, Sok said she wanted to open a Cambodian restaurant and introduce people to the foods she loves.

“There’s nothing like it around,” she said.

In 2016, Sok enrolled in a program at Mortar, the Cincinnati entrepreneurship hub in Over-the-Rhine designed to help prospective small-business owners launch their dreams. After graduating from Mortar, Sok and Laguna launched Mahope as a food cart.

“We started off in Urban Artifact at a Cinco de Mayo event (in 2017),” Sok said.

Over-the-Rhine bar Rosedale then invited Mahope to serve its food from Rosedale’s Mortar Mess Hall this past summer. Sok said she often put a twist on the Cambodian dishes she served at Rosedale and Urban Artifact in Northside.

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Sweets & Meats Owner Wins Award At A Bittersweet Time

Earlier this week Bailey was honored as 2018 Client of the Year by SCORE’s Greater Cincinnati chapter. The award came with a $3,000 prize.

SCORE is the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration. Its 100-plus mentors provide no-cost mentoring and low-cost small business workshops for entrepreneurs.

Bailey’s mentor, Mike Mulligan, provided critical support. He helped her develop a business plan, hire staff, and secure financing for their various business ventures.

Mulligan offered a wealth of knowledge, Bailey said. He’s a great mentor, sounding board, and sometimes therapist, she said.

Honored to receive the SCORE award, it was a bittersweet moment for Bailey. Just four weeks earlier her mom, Michelle Bailey, died unexpectedly.

During the awards ceremony, the chair next to Bailey, where her mom would have sat, was empty. A poignant reminder of her loss.

Bailey’s mom played a critical role in the Sweets & Meats success story. She and others, including Gaffney’s friend Nedra Lang, volunteered many hours helping the business grow. Lang is now assistant manager at Sweets & Meats.

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Coffee shop with a creative, hip-hop twist set to open Downtown

CINCINNATI — Means Cameron believes that most good things happen in coffee shops.

“People sit down, have a cup a coffee and usually the talks are really genuine,” Cameron said.

The 28-year-old also believes coffee shop conversations can foster creative communities, which is why he and business partner Marcus Ervin are opening Black Coffee this November. The coffee shop will be located next to Black Owned, the store the pair opened in 2014 at 822 Elm St., Downtown to sell the clothing brand they created.

“Our vision was to start a brand and promote black excellence and ownership through fashion,” Cameron said of the Black Owned fashion line he and Ervin originally launched in 2011. “What I wanted to do was create a brand that allowed me to express myself as a creative but also connect to people because I think that ownership idea in our community, there is a disconnect of what we can actually do.”

The West End native said Black Coffee will fill another need he sees in Cincinnati’s African American community when it opens.

“We’ve based our culture around hip-hop, street culture, fashion, art and music,” Cameron said of he and Ervin’s business philosophy. “And as an African American, I felt like in Cincinnati there was no coffee shops that spoke to me as an individual. Even if the coffee was good the environment wasn’t necessarily fitting. So, what Black Coffee is the fix to that. So that people like myself who are artists but also entrepreneurs, creatives can come to a space and feel comfortable.”

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MORTAR’s entrepreneur training helps longtime residents ride the wave of revitalization

MORTAR accepts 12 to 15 people into each of its six yearly training classes, all of which are 14 weeks long. When students begin the program, they generally have one emotion.

“They’re usually very scared,” said Woods, MORTAR’s managing partner and creative director. “For most of our participants, based on their background, they’ve been told ‘no’ for so long, they’ve been taught to believe that everything is impossible. It’s often the first time they’ve been around people who have that spirit of affirmation, that they can accomplish these things, while holding them accountable.”

The class helps students understand business basics. It costs just $250, and MORTAR offers payment plans for students who can’t afford the entire fee upfront. The budding entrepreneurs get help refining their ideas and are assigned mentors to guide them through the class.

“There’s more to make a successful business,” Braziel said. “A network, legal help, mentors — that’s the special sauce of MORTAR.”

Graduates go into the alumni program, which provides further support, including business mentors, networking opportunities, access to business funding, pop-up store space to showcase goods and services, and legal help.

What MORTAR has done is leverage relationships in a way that helps more than just the individual graduates; it helps revitalize their neighborhood.

“One of the major connections has been the prominence of MORTAR as a change agent within the community,” said Bradley, MORTAR’s strategic director. MORTAR has forged so many connections it’s now a big part of Cincinnati’s fabric.

“The ties politically and socially, grant-making operations — it’s bringing everyone together in support of this cause,” Bradley said. “I’ve lived here 30 years, and I’ve not seen an organization that has been able to galvanize this kind of support.”

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New Represent initiative aims to bring more black-owned businesses to Over-the-Rhine

“Over-the-Rhine is one of the most popular business areas now, especially for folks that want to walk around and go to different bars, restaurants and retail shops. Unfortunately, it has not been very representative of the Cincinnati community so far,” said William Thomas, co-founder and expansion director of MORTAR, a business accelerator for low-income, inner-city entrepreneurs.

“With all this energy that’s being put into Over-the-Rhine right now, I do feel like there’s an opportunity to change that,” he said, “and in an ideal world, create the most diverse business district in Cincinnati and create a model that can be shown to the rest of the country.”

William Thomas

Over-the-Rhine community leaders and others with an interest in the neighborhood came up with Represent in a working group that Cincinnati City councilmembers Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman convened. MORTAR and the Over-the-Rhine Chamber are leading the effort along with a committee of representatives from the African American Chamber, 3CDC, Findlay Market, Model Group and Urban Sites.

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Cincinnati Access Fund provides $3.5 million to minority-owned small businesses

“Small businesses are the fabric of our community. They are extremely important. It is important that they are successful. Provide capital and technical assistance to small companies is something we are passionate about,” Fifth Third Bank CEO Greg Carmichael said. “When you are starting a small business, you need as much information as possible on the success criteria and make sure you have the adequate funding and have a business plan you can execute.”

The city, alongside MORTAR, Cincinnati’s entrepreneurship hub, will provide the businesses for the program.

“If you go to those neighborhoods again and you are driving along those main streets you see mom-and-pop main street businesses. The more of those we can create, the better we will be,” said MORTAR founding partner Derrick Braziel. “Whether it is occupied storefronts, whether it’s jobs or a great cupcake you never tried before. What MORTAR is trying to show is that there are people all across our city with great ideas if we just invest in them and give them a chance, it makes our city better.”

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Crew Love [Staff Edition]: Shannon Hooten

Your neighborhood: Current: Hartwell Tell us more about your role at MORTAR. As the Retail & Events Manager at MORTAR, I help small businesses and entrepreneurs book and coordinate their pop up shops at our four pop up shop locations by giving them the opportunity...

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This UC Leader Uses Entrepreneurship, Law to Help People

There are a lot of game changers in the Cincinnati startup ecosystem. One of those game changers is Lewis Goldfarb.

Goldfarb founded and runs the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. He has had a storied career, ranging from working as a CPA to being an entrepreneur himself. The drive through these career choices has always been simple.

He wants to help people.

“I have had several different jobs and careers and I’ve always been looking for the jobs where I feel like it can make a real difference in the lives of people,” he said, “and that’s what led me to this job in Cincinnati.”

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Announcement: Transform Finance Selects First 3 Cities for Local Institutes

ATLANTA is full of community organizations that are hungry to attract the capital for programs, jobs, and developments to grow their neighborhoods in a just and equitable way, according to local champions Nikishka Iyengar and Melonie Tharpe (The Guild). But despite (or perhaps because of) the prevalence of finance and banking in the city, Atlanta is still in its early days of impact investing and including communities in the conversation around capital flows. With The Guild, as well as local champion TransFormation Alliance, we are hopeful the Institute will catalyze the process of dozens of community organizations engaging with finance as a tool for social justice.

CINCINNATI is at the heart of some of America’s most exciting community and economy development, according to local champions Derrick Braziel (MORTAR) and Kristen Barker (Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative). The Institute will build on the pioneering work already being done by the local community around social entrepreneurship and socially-conscious funds by exploring new economic tools and unlocking potential for underserved Cincinnatians.

PHOENIX continues to experience displacement in communities that have been marginalized for decades. Moreover, new investment is accelerating inequality and nonlocal land ownership. Despite these strong headwinds, communities are fighting for social justice by combating predatory lending, offering micro-loans for local entrepreneurs to generate local wealth, and increasing homeownership for people of color, according to local champion Kimber Lanning (Local First Arizona Foundation). Along with other local champions Katelyn Harris-Lange (African-American Women’s Giving and Empowerment Circle) and the Vitalyst Health Foundation, we are thrilled to bring the Institute to Phoenix so the city and its community members can keep innovating around finance for social justice.

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Small Businesses, Big Changes In Walnut Hills

The Walnut Hills landscape is changing by the day. Vacant storefronts are taking shape as the next businesses that will bring energy and a tax base into the neighborhood. When Kroger pulled its grocery store out of the neighborhood in 2017, it was a significant blow to the community. Now, a grant will help open a new Peebles Corner Grocery at the site of the old store.

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MORTAR’s entrepreneur training helps longtime residents ride the wave of revitalization

Most news stories about MORTAR note that it’s an African-American-led group but don’t explain why that matters. While small minority businesses are opening at a faster rate than any others, minorities are likely to receive smaller small-business loans and at higher interest rates than their white counterparts, as shown, for example, in a 2010 U.S. Commerce Department report. That lack of access to capital can kill a business before it gets off the ground.

None of that deterred MORTAR’s leaders, and things changed in 2015. MORTAR was seeking applicants for its first training class, and the announcement appeared in a local newspaper. The article also mentioned that MORTAR was looking for space for its burgeoning business.

The founders were contacted by a local entrepreneur who offered them free office and storage space in Over-the-Rhine.

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Opinion: Empowering Everyday Experts To Improve Our City

With the recognition that living an issue everyday makes you an expert, and that everyone has their own set of “Wouldn’t it be great if…” insights, we recently organized and co-hosted the region’s first-ever “Policy Pitch Night” to give people in Greater Cincinnati a chance to submit and pitch their policy ideas for how to improve our city.

The submissions were open to anyone, and we received dozens of innovative ideas from everyday experts across the city. Five finalists were selected by a group of judges from within our “Bridgebuilder” network of community leaders. On a recent weekday evening, these five finalists pitched their ideas – Shark Tank style – in front of a panel of city leaders and a diverse audience of 100 people.

Each person in the audience then voted for their favorite policy, and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s office has promised to champion and implement the winning idea at City Hall.

Ideas ranged from increasing the diversity of city-appointed boards and commissions to creating an Office of Homelessness Eradication to developing a new city branding strategy to attract more people to move here. Ultimately, the audience chose as the winning pitch an idea from MORTAR co-founder Derrick Braziel, whose experience led him to advocate for policy and personnel changes to better support minority business growth and innovation.

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Sittenfeld Invites New Ideas With Policy Pitch Night

OVER-THE-RHINE, Ohio (WKRC) – Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is inviting city residents to come to the table with new ideas on how to improve Cincinnati.

It’s called “Policy Pitch Night.” A total of 30 pitches were made and five were selected as finalists. The five ideas were pitched to Sittenfeld, city council member Chris Seelbach and Assistant City Manager Sheila Hill Christian Monday night along with a packed house at The People’s Liberty on Elm Street…
…Brief questions were answered after each pitch and then everyone in the room got one vote.

While the numbers were not made public, Isaacsohn said there was a clear winner.

That clear winner is Derrick Braziel of MORTAR and his pitch to promote minority business growth.

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Minority business office wins Policy Night vote

Braziel said the city needs to build a comprehensive business canvas, learning the nuances of business management, launch businesses that create jobs and circulate dollars locally and gain access to new customers and opportunities for additional funding.

He said his organization can do some of those things, but a true partnership with the city would make a more robust statement to minority business owners that Cincinnati wants to be a leader in the development of minority-owned business startups.

“If you are a professional African-American, the place to be is Atlanta,” Braziel said. “Why shouldn’t it be Cincinnati? It should be. That’s the vibe I want to create.”

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Building a community of entrepreneurs

“When we think of bricks, we think of physical spaces – but the mortar is what holds everything together,” said Woods, in a recent podcast interview. “For us, [that] is a representation of people. You can have beautiful buildings and great parks but if you don’t have people who care about those things, then it’s difficult to sustain.”
Since its founding in 2014, 175 entrepreneurs have graduated from MORTAR’s nine-week program – and among them, African Americans and women each represent a majority. Its alumni now run a wide range of businesses: a platform for neighbors to employ teenagers within their community; an indoor dog park where owners can work out with their dog; a graphic recording service that turns meeting discussion into visual art in real time; among many others.
“I want the legacy of MORTAR to be that we took a risk and told people ‘yes’ who were used to being told ‘no,’” said Woods. “We want to be known as the organization that told people their ideas were possible. And didn’t just give them lip service, but the tools, resources and connections to move forward.”

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Game On: Awe-inspiring black entrepreneurs in Greater Cincinnati

Marvin and Tabatha have weathered the storm of entrepreneurship, through the good and the bad. Over the past 20 years the two social entrepreneurs have made formidable gains, both behind and in front of the counter. “I attended the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP for fashion design and sports management,” Marvin said. “I never thought I’d be doing what I do today.”

Outside of their two-decade career, they have managed to follow their hearts as well. After the loss of his sister to cancer, Marvin wanted to make sure that more people were aware of the pitfalls of the disease and founded The Butts Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization with an aim to reach into the lives of others for positive change through giving, caring, sharing, education and, most of all, love.

And they’re not alone: There’s a large number of black entrepreneurs who have made sure that, as their success grows, their giving grows as well.

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Why Cincinnati?

I wanted to talk to the people. I wanted to shake their hands, look them in the eye and learn about the city from their words and actions. I met guys like William Thomas and Derrick Braziel. William and Derrick are the co-founders of a company called Mortar. Mortar works in the Over the Rhine community training local men and women to become business entrepreneurs. 175 members of the community have graduated from the Mortar Program. 90% of those are African-American, 70% of those are women. The goal is to change lives through entrepreneurship, knowing that people take pride in ownership. Pride breeds involvement and that turns people into doers. Curate My Community. I was beginning to realize that this was more than a slogan, this is the soul of Cincinnati. Mortar and the businesses that it has produced are part of the reason why the Over the Rhine community, a community that was destroyed in the 2001 riots and was one of the poorest communities in Cincinnati as recent as six years ago, is now one of its most progressive and promising.

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L. Mari Catering serves up a broad range of multicultural dishes

CINCINNATI — Salimah Mari Abdul-Hakim wants to make her mark in Cincinnati’s food scene and she has the hustle to get it done.

As the owner and chef of L. Mari Catering, she’s dishing up a full menu of urban cuisine steeped in multiculturalism.

“Urban cuisine is an infusion of soulful and multicultural dishes,” said Abdul-Hakim, who goes by L. Mari (“L” is short for Salimah). “It’s made from a place with a lot of love and soul.”

Having lived in Atlanta, Abdul-Hakim is used to having abundant choices when it comes to international food.

“When I relocated to Cincinnati, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of restaurants offering cultural cuisine,” she said. “I decided to change that.”

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African American Chamber Introduces Business Accelerator

The African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin is launching a new business accelerator called RISE for entrepreneurs in underserved neighborhoods.

RISE is based on the successful MORTAR program in Cincinnati. A cohort of Milwaukee leaders, including African American Chamber president and chief executive officer Ossie Kendrix, traveled to Cincinnati several months ago to see MORTAR in action, Kendrix said.

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United Way Partner Spotlight – MORTAR Cincinnati

United Way of Greater Cincinnati announced in December that 80 percent of investments would now be directed toward moving children and families out of poverty. Part of that effort will include investing in innovative strategies, such as the MORTAR Entrepreneurship Academy. MORTAR is also one of eight new United Way partners that is black-owned and operated. This is part of United Way’s intentional decisions to be inclusive and create more space for equity in our community.
MORTAR’s mission is clear: “Building Communities Through Entrepreneurship.” Co-Founder Allen Woods explains how important this new partnership is for our community at large.

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Caroline Woolard defines what it means to be a solidarity economy artist

The work of Springboard for the Arts is rooted in arts-based economic and community development. We believe artists are critical assets in that work, and support them by offering a variety of resources that enable them to make both a living and a life. This is why Springboard is a member of the New Economy Coalition (NEC): because we believe in the vision of a new economy, one that is just, sustainable, and democratic; one that is ethical and community-rooted; and one that does not rely on the exploitation of disenfranchised communities in order to thrive. This is the fifth in a series of stories highlighting the work of other arts-based NEC member organizations and affiliated organizations that have developed ways to sustain themselves while also sustaining artists, demonstrating that, yes, a new economy is possible. Read the rest of the series here.

In previous features examining the relationship between arts and the economy, we have focused on organizations doing work towards developing a creative economy with an emphasis on self-determining communities, financial sustainability, and economic equality. Here we are taking a different approach, profiling one single individual, Caroline Woolard, who identifies as a “solidarity economy artist.” In a written interview, we ask her what that means, how she demonstrates the intersection between art and the economy in her work, and how that work translates into real world practices. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

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MORTAR Moves Uptown Accelerator Into UC 1819 Innovation Hub

This is the second year MORTAR is hosting the nine-week accelerator program in Uptown. Robinson recruited MORTAR to Uptown last year and knew that it was a priority to continue to support MORTAR’s ability to attract a non-traditional, urban population.

The partnership between the Uptown Consortium and MORTAR builds on the organizations’ shared belief that community development should grow neighborhoods in harmony with its residents.

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From Backyard to Brick and Mortar: BBQ Business Uses SBA Resources Every Step of the Way


The idea for Cincinnati-based barbecue business Sweets and Meats began in Kristen Bailey’s backyard. She and her partner Anton would host cookouts, serving family recipes to their friends. As word spread about their food and many people began to encourage Kristen and Anton to open a restaurant.

In 2014, the two leaped into entrepreneurship, starting their business with a smoker, $500 in capital and a volunteer work force. For the first 18 months, the business did not have a payroll.

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A bold wall of vintage ads recalls Walnut Hills’ history of black-owned businesses

The slogan of the Andrew Hardin grocery in Walnut Hills was “The path that leads to satisfaction.” That was truth in advertising for African-Americans living in Cincinnati in the early and mid-20th century. Whether black families needed food, a florist, photographer or funeral planning, all roads led to Walnut Hills during the age of segregation. At Hardin’s and dozens of other black-owned businesses clustered near the intersection of Lincoln and Gilbert avenues, they knew they wouldn’t be turned away.

Residents over the age of 50 can still recall a bustling retail district where neighbors took care of neighbors. “Yeah, this was our place,” they’ve told Aprina Johnson, community coordinator for the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation….
But a wheat-paste installation by artists Janet Creekmore and Ben Jason Neal is taking a trip down memory lane. Reproductions of old advertisements and fresh images inspired by the long-gone businesses cover a boarded-up building in the 900 block of Lincoln. The black and white artwork is part of a larger project that Johnson calls “a beautiful collision” of people with overlapping interests in art, history, urban redevelopment and social justice.

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Iconic Walnut Hills landmark to become city’s first minority-owned brewery

The graffiti-laden building at the corner of East McMillan Street and Gilbert Avenue, which towered above Peebles Corner when it opened in 1931, has been “down in the dumps for about 20 years,” Brian Jackson said. The first time they stepped inside, he and marketing partner Marvin Abrinica weren’t sure it was the home their company, Esoteric Brewing, needed.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, is this even doable, making something out of this space?'” Abrinica recalled.

CEO Jackson believed — and convinced Abrinica — that they could. He saw the potential for a restoration that moved the space into the future while preserving the art deco aesthetic that made it fashionable in the ’30s.

He wasn’t the only one. When Esoteric Brewing opens in 2019, it will be just one part of a $15-million-plus development meant to reinvigorate the heart of Walnut Hills.

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The new businesses, including a coffee shop and jazz club, sneaker store, video-themed bar, barbeque restaurant, and Brick Haus, a storefront for MORTAR, a nonprofit minority business accelerator program, are located in the Trevarren Flats buildings in Walnut Hills. More than 70 new jobs are projected to be created by the businesses, according to Cincinnati developer The Model Group.

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“There is a rich heritage of black businesses in Walnut Hills, so many successful businesses that were run by black residents. We want to be part of rebuilding that legacy,” said Allen Woods, one of three friends who launched MORTAR in 2014. Community leaders, who helped renovate the flats are hoping the Brick Haus helps revitalize Walnut Hills.

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#BlkWomeninBiz: Tyler Townsend

Tyler Townsend is a 26 years old Cincinnati Ohio native and mother of two. She is also the proud owner of Cincy Sweet Pot. Cincy Sweet Pot provides hemp and cbd infused edibles, oils, soaps and ingredients geared to improve the quality of life.

She began reading and researching the different ways people use cannabis. When she discovered the different foods that can be made with cannabis, she felt it was perfect fit as she was already an avid cooker; so she began creating her own edibles!

One of the first steps she took to truly explore this new venture, was attending the Mortar Cincinnati Entrepreneur program in 2016.

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Fabric of Humanity

I ask myself (and I ask you) to dig deep and ask what I’m actually willing to sacrifice for the place of our fellow human within this beautiful, sacred tapestry of humanity.  When the time requires us to step up – will you risk your comfort, your hopes and dreams, and say, “yes!”

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Cincinnati’s first minority-owned brewery coming to Walnut Hills in 2018

Beer is big in Cincinnati — it’s not exactly news. As breweries spring up around the Tristate, each one has to work hard to differentiate itself from a crowded craft beer market.

Recently announced Esoteric Brewing Company has several tactics for setting itself apart from others, starting with the fact that it will be the first minority-owned brewery in the city. Founder and CEO Brian Jackson honed his skills at MadTree before deciding to set off on his own; he’s also a MORTAR grad.

“’Esoteric’ means ‘sophistication,’” says Jackson. “We’re trying to elevate the palates of customers and the entire experience of people coming to breweries in Cincinnati.”

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The Lady’s Sparrow Period Pop-Up Shop

Last weekend, Lady’s Sparrow Foundation hosted The Period Pop-Up Shop at Innovation Alley in Covington to educate and empower young women when it comes to their bodies and health. The purpose of The Period Pop-Up Shop is to disrupt periods by eradicating the embarrassment and discomfort for young ladies and to equip parents with the necessary tools for this important conversation around womanhood.

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