Special Sauce

Reading Time: 2 minutes Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. If you’re a person of a particular age, that fabulous McDonalds Big Mac jingle from the ’70s just rolls off your tongue. It’s definitely unforgettable…but 45 years later, I wonder if the general public knows what’s contained in the ‘Special Sauce.’ They said it was a variant of Thousand Island dressing. In 2012, McDonald’s admitted to some of the ingredients: “store-bought mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, and yellow mustard whisked together with vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.” Now you know what’s in it, but you still can’t make that ‘Special Sauce.’

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Reading Time: < 1 minute Crew Love is an ongoing series that explores the MORTAR team, alumni, board members and partners – sharing their insights as to why they believe in MORTAR’s mission of providing equitable access to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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Be Patient With Yourself

Reading Time: 2 minutes It is hard to work all day and into the night, which is something that entrepreneurs who still hold regular jobs often do. It can be a strain to be expected to be close to perfect at our day jobs, and then head home physically tired but still holding the same, if not higher, expectations of ourselves when it comes to working on our own endeavors. But isn’t this a necessary evil? Don’t we need to convince ourselves that we have to work hard all the time to get where we want to be quicker? If we don’t do this, we’ll be giving up on ourselves, RIGHT?

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This MORTAR Grad’s Early Stage Startup Wants to Make Stock Photos More DVRS

Reading Time: < 1 minute During the MORTAR program, Early-Coleman (a University of Cincinnati alumna with an MBA), refined and solidified her mission for the startup, which looks to add increased diversity and representation in stock photos. After all, pictures are needed to illustrate PowerPoint projects and other content in schools, businesses and other professional circles, and making sure people of all colors are equally shown in legal and inexpensive photo repositories a huge need.

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Your name:Kymisha Montgomery  Your business name:FreshTime Garden Group Your neighborhood:West End  Tell us about your business:Eating local is all the craze! FreshTime Garden Group is a community supported agricultural group that grows seasonal produce using organic...

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Me, Myself, and I

Reading Time: 2 minutes At the start of 2019, I set several goals. I’ll call them goals and not resolutions since we all know how those usually play out. Calling them goals has worked very well for me. I’ve met most of them and I’m on a mission to complete the last few before the year ends. One of my goals was to have more experiences. It’s very general and vague but I think because it was general and vague, it allowed me more room to experiment and to feel accomplished despite the size of the “experience”. Experiences could include traveling, trying new food, attending a workshop, going to concerts, etc. Basically, anything that didn’t involve sitting on my couch bingeing Netflix.

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Moving The Needle

Reading Time: 2 minutes It’s nearing the end of the work day and a group of business partners walk into the MORTAR office in Walnut Hills. As each of them takes their seat, they are met with warm greetings from the MORTAR staff. Once pleasantries have been exchanged, the agenda for the next hour is explained, thus preparing everyone there for the greatness that was about to transpire. Ideas were abounding from person to person as updates were shared, questions were brewing, and learning took place. Then in one pivotal moment, someone asked inspiringly (paraphrasing), “What keeps you up at night?”

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Planning To Fail?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Most of us have heard about the importance of planning. Plans keep you on task, they are a vehicle to get what’s in your head onto paper. They are a way to track your progress to ensure that you are moving in the right direction. Years ago, before technology took over, everybody walked around with a personal planner. And you were really super organized if you had a Franklin Planner!

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Invest In Yourself First

William Thomas, Managing Partner & Expansion DirectorJuly 16, 2019 I am one of the crazy ones that make up almost 8% of the global population, who have devoted their lives to entrepreneurship. When I was in second grade, I started selling homemade origami and...

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Reading Time: 2 minutes Math, fear, confusion, etc. We all have trauma or excitement based on what our parents, teachers and friends taught us about numbers and money. We use numbers all the time. We use them to announce a baby’s birth with pounds and ounces. We measure academic performance with numbers and percentages, in ACT and SAT scores. We rate candidates with numerical votes. We measure our food with fractions. Our travel is guided by numbers of miles and speed calculations. And, of course, as an Accountant and financial advisor, I am constantly working with people and numbers. Wealth and income are determined by numbers. Numbers are used as taxes are withheld, paid or avoided. Net worth is calculated by the number that remains after assets are acquired and debts are paid. Numbers are everywhere.

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The End of the Beginning

We’re at that season… Celebrations of life under late curfewed sunsets and twinkling fireflies camouflaged by the stars of awakening night skies. Lots of weddings, baby showers, outdoor parties and graduations. I absolutely love summertime! For me, it feels like a...

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These International Eateries Are Must-Visit Cincinnati Culinary Gems

Reading Time: < 1 minute Mahope
3935 Spring Grove Ave., Northside
This Northside eatery is introducing Cincinnati to Cambodian food. Try ban chao rolls (pork and vegetables, wrapped in a rice flour crepe and paired with a roasted peanut sweet and sour vinaigrette) or vegetable kathiew (a vegan dish similar to pho, with a variety of vegetables and mushrooms immersed in noodles and broth).

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Redemptive Entrepreneurship

Reading Time: 2 minutes I recently represented MORTAR at the UNFAMOUS Conference in Seattle. It was held at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian college that has a business school. Faith leaders, theologians, pastors, funding organizations and practitioners from across the country assembled to discuss Redemptive Entrepreneurship: how business ownership and social enterprises can be used to benefit the church and the parishioners it serves.

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What’s Cincinnati Doing To Increase The Success Of Minority-Owned Businesses?

Reading Time: < 1 minute The income disparity between African Americans and whites in Cincinnati is vast. Only 18% of businesses are black-owned, according to the State of Black Cincinnati report – a jarring statistic for a city whose population is 43% black. In other areas, black Cincinnatians fall behind their white peers in education, employment and income. Now, through a number of initiatives, efforts are underway to increase access to early childhood education, job training and other support mechanisms in an attempt to level the playing field.

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MORTAR Group Builds Foundation of Change

Reading Time: < 1 minute Cincinnati has changed a lot over the years with the rise of reinvigorated neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills. The flourishing city was even awarded an MLS expansion team, FC Cincinnati in 2018. Amidst all this growth, MORTAR is hard at work crafting equitable opportunities for urban entrepreneurs. Their goal? Making sure Cincinnati’s fast-paced revitalization isn’t leaving behind the movers and shakers who can greatly contribute to the community.

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Mortar co-founder lands Obama Fellowship

Reading Time: < 1 minute A co-founder of Mortar, a Cincinnati organization devoted to helping entrepreneurial residents of up-and-coming neighborhoods advance along with their surroundings, was selected by the Obama Foundation for a two-year fellowship.

Derrick Braziel, who in 2014 founded Mortar in Over-the-Rhine alongside Allen Woods and William Thomas, was selected by the Obama Foundation to join its second-ever class of Obama Fellows. He is one of 20 fellows selected for 2019.

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What This Means to Me

One fateful day in college I was introduced to a quote by author Stephen Gould that completely changed my life.  He wrote, “I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have...

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Crew Love [Staff Edition]: Tim Barr

Your neighborhood:Avondale What toppings are on a perfect pizza?Bacon, Pepp, Cheese, Peppers & onions. Has to be thin crust though. What is your role within the company?Outreach & Expansion Coordinator Why does the work that MORTAR is doing in communities...

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Own Lane Shoetique Gets You Runway-Ready from Head to Toe

Reading Time: < 1 minute Chanel Scales is the “mompreneur” behind Own Lane Shoetique. Her passion for style got its start at a young age, flipping through magazines at her grandma’s house when she was just five years old. This eventually led her to a fashion career made up of modeling and working in top shoe and clothing retailers. Chanel decided to open a shop of her own in Over-the-Rhine in October 2018.

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Cincinnati Restaurant Launches Second Food Truck

Reading Time: < 1 minute A Cincinnati restaurant that was born as a mobile food trailer has returned to its roots in a sense with the purchase of a second food truck.

Sweets & Meats BB launched with Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney smoking meats in the parking lot of the Mount Washington Creamy Whip in 2014. They went through the Mortar entrepreneurship program, then debuted a food truck in 2016, before opening a brick-and-mortar take-out restaurant in Mount Washington in 2017.

They hit the streets in their newest food truck on April 11.

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The Marathon Continues

Dedicated to the life & legacy of Nipsey Hussle. I can’t believe that it’s already been 5 years. It was April of 2014 when I sat down with Derrick & William and we talked about a dream to Hussle & Motivate - creating a culturally competent entrepreneurship...

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Brewery To Be Part of Major Redevelopment In Walnut Hills

Reading Time: < 1 minute WALNUT HILLS, Ohio (WKRC) – The Tri-State will get its first minority-owned brewery opening later in 2019.

It’s part of an $187 million revitalization happening in Walnut Hills, but this brewery is about more than beer.

The historic Paramount building in Walnut Hills has been home to many businesses, including a department store. You can still see the old tiles with the name at the entrance. This 85-year-old building has been abandoned for years. Now, it’s going to be home to Esoteric Brewing Company.

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Give Yourself A Break

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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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Opportunity to build her ‘Own Lane’

Reading Time: < 1 minute In a district with only 6 percent black business owners, Chanel Scales lives out her entrepreneurial journey with the support of the MORTAR family as a brick-and-mortar business owner in the heart of Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood.

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Chanel Scales Is Conquering Fashion and Motherhood

Reading Time: < 1 minute Described by her family as fearless, confident and a fighter, Chanel Scales is a successful mom to be and passionate mother of one. From the age of 5-years-old, Chanel had a love for fashion. Enamored with the pages of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, her grandmother would always tell her, “Chell, one day you will make your mark in the fashion industry.”

Now, years later, Chanel is doing exactly that. She’s the owner of a successful fashion brand call SHINGO, a shoe store on one of the busiest streets of Cincinnati and she works as a stylist for popular magazine Kontrol. Her journey as a fashion designer started when she couldn’t find the garments to create the vision she had in her head. Passionate about bringing her ideas to life, Chanel didn’t give up.

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Mortar Receives Entrepreneurship Grant

Reading Time: < 1 minute 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?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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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Reading Time: < 1 minute 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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Cambodian eatery Mahope sets opening date for brick-and-mortar location in Northside

Reading Time: < 1 minute 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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Cincinnati Access Fund: a new tool to support small businesses, build strong communities

Reading Time: < 1 minute 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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Own Lane Shoetique

Reading Time: < 1 minute A passion for fashion, an eye for stylish shoes — especially in extended sizes — and a love for OTR led this local lady to open a new shoe store on Vine St. Kick your heels up and keep reading for all the fashionable details.

Located in Over-the-Rhine, Own Lane Shoetique is a new women’s shoe store carrying a variety of styles in sizes 6-12. “Own Lane’s mission is to offer quality, name-brand shoes, and accessories in an assortment of sizes and styles to accommodate the chic in every woman who stays in her own lane,” explains Chanel Scales, Owner of Own Lane Shoetique. “We want to be the shoe destination for Cincinnati and the Midwest area.”

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Sweets & Meats Owner Wins Award At A Bittersweet Time

Reading Time: < 1 minute
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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MORTAR’s entrepreneur training helps longtime residents ride the wave of revitalization

Reading Time: < 1 minute 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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Coffee shop with a creative, hip-hop twist set to open Downtown

Reading Time: < 1 minute 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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New Represent initiative aims to bring more black-owned businesses to Over-the-Rhine

Reading Time: < 1 minute “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

Reading Time: < 1 minute “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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