This time, Case’s hour-long visit last week was more of a check-in sandwiched between other meetings in town, but it was long enough to inspire folks like William Thomas.
Thomas, a Cincinnati native and graduate of Wittenberg University, is a co-founder of MORTAR, which helps underserved businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.
“Since the last time he was here in 2014, the ecosystem has been built out significantly,” Thomas said. “MORTAR was just getting started, OCEAN (a faith-based business accelerator) was not started, Hillman (a business accelerator focusing on minority- and women-owned businesses) wasn’t wasn’t even here.”
“Three years later the ecosystem is starting to thrive,” he said. “It is building up, and more and more organizations are taking part in what’s going on here in the Cincy start-up scene.”read more
At the end of the day, this is a difficult process. Picking the wrong partner and/or partnership can not only hinder the progress of your organization, it can also lead to its ultimate demise. But if it makes you feel any better, no person is perfect. We all make mistakes, which is why I encourage you to follow your heart (rule #1) and fully invest in the decision you’ve made.read more
“We don’t consider ourselves to be activists. It’s not like that. We just feel called down here,” Tia Brown said. “Let’s lift up the people who have been here. We want to be here with you.”
The West End has historically been an African American neighborhood, part of Cincinnati’s urban core. Divided by Interstate 75 in the 1950s, the community has high poverty levels and a low homeownership rate. The neighborhood lost housing, residents and schools in the last half of the 20th century.
But in recent years, as redevelopment has moved out from Cincinnati’s central business district and Over-The-Rhine, the West End has seen renewed interest and community energy. Tia’s position at Seven Hills was made possible by funding from Place Matters and support from LISC of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The West End is a Place Matters community.read more
What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We try to deliver the full BBQ culinary experience. Not only do we have the best in smoked meats, but we also focus on made-from-scratch sides and desserts. Quality is always important and customer service is second to none.”
Sweets & Meats menu features ribs and brisket, plus rotating dishes like smoked meatloaf, the BBQ 4-Way, the Triple Bypass Sandwich, smoked pork belly, rib tips and bacon wrapped pork loin. Homemade sides include mac ‘n’ cheese and sweet potato casserole, and you can’t forget the desserts.read more
“There are times when you feel like you have already reached your destination, but this experience has given me the ability to stretch, realizing there is something else that I have the ability to grow into.”
Founding Partner, MORTAR
Recently, I attended a session about the power of networking to help achieve goals and how this change in mindset about networking can entirely change one’s networking experience. The session facilitator demonstrated how it worked by having a participant share a goal they have and then having the rest of the group identify if they or someone they know could help achieve that goal.
The results were outstanding and incredibly eye opening for me. At the time, I was in a space of experiencing an incredible amount of anxiety around a situation at work to transition into the leadership role that I desired. I was lacking confidence about my capabilities – unsure I had the know how to be successful. The impact of the stress it was giving me was taking a toll.read more
Why does the work that MORTAR is doing in communities matter?
To me is very simple, everyone deserves a fair shot at succeeding. When the system hinders the possibilities of a group of people, something must be done. MORTAR’s approach is unconventional, inventive and creative, and above all is working!
Government can not solve all social issues, and that’s where community members step in.
The restaurant will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday with the food truck remaining in operation and focusing on private events and festivals. In the meantime, the food truck has been parked and serving in the parking lot of the new location to drum up excitement.
“We’ve been seeing people take our food into Standberry Park, and to me that’s awesome,” Bailey said. “Several areas have been hit hard by drugs, and there’s a lot of negative stuff that’s happened in the park, but there’s a lot of positive things going on, and it’s nice to see people taking their food into the park and having lunch with their families.”read more
Allen Woods has dedicated his career to empowering minority business owners, bringing people who often feel like outsiders into the entrepreneurial community. In his TEDx talk, Woods talks about how growing up an outsider in his own surroundings shaped his understanding and commitment to his business.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedxread more
After you find your passion that’s when success starts poking through. Once Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney decided to set out on the road with Sweets & Meats BBQ they never looked back. Even more so than that, they have set their sights on new and upcoming ventures to expand their business.
“My favorite thing about the food truck is that everything is so close together. You always know where to find everything because it has to be super organized because it’s so small. It’s also really nice working with everyone so close together because it’s really comfortable. We feel like a family on the truck. So that’s my favorite thing about it.”read more
My Experience... Food Truck Exclusive with Sweets & Meats BBQ
“My dad has always really liked to cook… he worked his way up to buy the truck.” Brittany Anderson from Sweets & Meats BBQ brags on her dad (and his bbq) in this food truck exclusive. Read about their expanding business in this Q&A: http://tinyurl.com/ychjfohn #HubertExperience #FathersDayPosted by Hubert Company on Thursday, June 15, 2017
“My dad has always really liked to cook… he worked his way up to buy the truck.”
Brittany Anderson from Sweets & Meats BBQ brags on her dad (and his bbq) in this food truck exclusive.
We want to continue to enrich the entrepreneur. I think that’s what is different about us. There’s different accelerators and incubators but for us, one, the demographic of people that we serve, but two, the sense of building community is really, really important to us, so it’s not like, “All right, you did your 12 weeks. Good luck. See ya later!” No, you’re the family of Mortar now. When you think about entrepreneurship, typically your friends and family is who supports you. Well, if you don’t have a great support network, who do you have? That’s our whole goal, is to become the friends and family of the entrepreneurs that we serve.read more
“Selection as an Echoing Green fellow means the world to me and Derrick,” says MORTAR Creative Director and Founding Partner Allen Woods. “This fellowship opportunity will allow us to not only grow and develop as leaders, but also leverage resources to better support the entrepreneurs and communities we serve in Cincinnati. Being a part of this valued community will give us the tools and connections to explore our long-term sustainability model as well as what a MORTAR expansion could look like.”read more
There, you’ll find an amazing assortment of products from MORTAR grads, @OATW, @GoodCoApparel, @MasterpieceMens, @NOVEdecor, @GiGiRolls, @WeAreMORTAR, @PaleoliciousCincy, @ByDistrict78, @CamsCrochet AND MORE!!
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This is only the beginning…….
MORTAR was the first organization that said “yes, you can.” The small business accelerator introduced us to a plethora of resources, including Mike Mulligan, our SCORE mentor and Lew Goldfarb, founder of ECDC; who has taken us on as a client and offered pro bono legal work for the past year. Our goal was always to open a restaurant. We needed people who believed in and would support us, in addition to providing some guidance along the way. I remember ordering our custom trailer during week 7 of our 9 week curriculum and not even having the deposit. Now, we are operating the trailer full time and opening a brick and mortar location, enabling us to have our own commissary for catering in addition to serving guests on a regular basis from a central location.read more
Originally our team started through relationships as neighbors in Walnut Hills. Seeing a desire in our neighborhood for work instead of labor. As the brainstorm turned into a reality Green Man Twist formed, as a business to truly bring the community together as well as create space for entrepreneurship training through the business. As RH always said “The problem is we don’t know each other.” Green Man Twist is a space that people from all walks of life can come and have a delicious treat and get to know their neighbors.read more
Although Vy is busy taking care of her children and elderly parents, she has long had the dream of opening her own Cambodian-style eatery. Things began to take shape last year, when she took a course with Cincinnati entrepreneurship program Mortar, whose mission is to enable under-served entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed. With their help, Vy hopes to put Cambodian cuisine on the map in Cincinnati. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and for me lots of things are falling into place at this moment.”read more
Growing up, she never expected this would be her plan. Early-Coleman always figured there were “enough” blogs out there and didn’t think she could make a difference. But luckily, through conversations with business owners and creative, she realized her voice and perspective do matter, and she couldn’t be more right.read more
“We like to attend community events in and around the West End to engage the residents and bring community art activity to events, such as, paint and peels and paint by numbers,” Brown says. “It gives us a chance to connect, get feedback on workshops they would like to attend, and let them know who we are. We have attended a number of events with the Seven Hills Neighborhood House, Carl H. Lindner YMCA, and Mortar Cincinnati.” She adds, “And by keeping the WEAG a family-friendly space, [patrons] can create art of their own while helping to build community.”read more
“Mortar is working hard to change the face of entrepreneurship,” founding partner William Thomas II said in a news release. “This partnership with Uptown Consortium will allow us to work with underserved entrepreneurs and businesses near the Uptown hospitals, zoo and UC, which is a high-energy area.”read more
Sok is a home cook and all of her recipes come from her mother. Opening a restaurant was always a dream of hers, but it didn’t feel real until her sister-in-law who was also going through the Mortar program encouraged her to sign up for the accelerator.
“Mortar lit that fire in me in trying to be an entrepreneur,” Sok said. “It’s not all talk anymore, everything’s going and all the things I’ve wanted Mortar has helped me obtain.”read more
MORTAR graduate Brandon Black doesn’t believe we have to communicate with words.
“Words are a useful tool but they’re not the only tool,” says Black, who last year was awarded one of two prestigious Haile Fellowships by People’s Liberty. “Drawnversation means to have conversations through images and pictures.”
Drawnversation provides graphic facilitation and graphic recording for people and businesses looking for new ways to communicate ideas. Black defined graphic facilitation as utilizing drawn imagery and words to enhance a process or communicate an idea, so that people are able to see the ideas in front of them. Graphic recording is the art of capturing communication in a visual format.read more
“My mission is to bring play time back to its natural state by combining wholesome foods and organic play in a relaxing atmosphere that parents and children can enjoy together. We will focus on green living, minimizing the use of plastics and chemicals,” says Renee Laguna, founder of Green Elephant. “Green Elephant will include an indoor play area, a café that serves fresh, organic baked items from Nay Mama’s Sweet Treats, natural and healthy foods from other local eateries and retail items related to natural food and parenting sourced from local and global natural retailers.”read more
“I wanted to bring the neighborhood back together,” Sweeten said. “We started thinking about what makes people happy: good music, ice cream and people mingling.”
Dietz met Leeman and the others through a student group at the University of Cincinnati called MUD (Mission Urban Development), for which she would volunteer to help fix up houses in Walnut Hills. She developed Green Man Twist last spring as part of Over-the-Rhine’s MORTAR program, which teaches entrepreneurship classes and helps people develop business ideas. But it took the group another year to launch Green Man Twist.read more
With the outdoor market season upon us, we checked in with a few MORTAR alumni to get pointers on how to make the most of these fair weather opportunities and maximize revenue. Special thanks to Erikka from District 78, Donny from Good Co. Apparel and Christina Davis...read more
Your neighborhood: College Hill Tell us about your business and how you got started. GO(O)D Company stresses the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will encourage, support and build you up on your road to success. With it's unique logo, it's a word...read more
Each year, Echoing Green evaluates thousands of applications in order to identify high-potential social change leaders from around the globe.
We believe these 73 next-generation innovators have the talent and drive to launch bold new ideas for solving some of today’s most pressing and entrenched problems around the world.
We are eager to bring this remarkable group to New York for connections and interviews as Finalists for the Echoing Green Fellowships – our two year immersive leadership development program that provides seed-funding and hands-on support, and embeds them in the Echoing Green network. Ultimately, the investment we make in selecting the 2017 Fellows will be from this group of dedicated entrepreneurs, who will go on to join our unparalleled community of 700+ innovators.
In addition to leadership development programming, the 2016 Fellows toured Derrick’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, visited Our Harvest Urban Farm, met with local officials, and had a meal served by a graduate of the accelerator program, Mortar, that Derrick co-founded.
Every Fellowship immersion takes place in or near the home city of one of the Fellows. This allows each cohort to see local economy ecosystems at work in communities other than their own and leverages the deep connections of local Fellows to foster understanding, inspiration, and new relationships in each community visited. These visits invite reflections on Fellows’ own communities, begin conversations around how solutions might be adapted in other places, reinforce the idea that our struggles are shared, and remind us that, truly, we are all in this together.
What was your overall experience like at City Flea?
Donny: My overall experience was very GO(O)D! I was able to network and build my brand in various ways.
Christina: We were able to introduce our product to new faces and a different population of customers.
Erikka: I’ve always been very successful at City Flea. It’s important to set yourself apart from everyone else. It’s been a great way to get the word out about my business.
By introducing means of bridging gaps through entrepreneurship, the majority of this country, the middle and lower class, has a chance to invest in their community by building their ideas and gain invaluable information to create a local businesses. This then increases the wealth and economy of the inhabitants of the community and a legacy (financial and personal) can be created for their children and children’s children to inherit.read more
In the African-American community, it’s called ‘the Black Economy,’ or we use colloquial phrases like ‘off the books’ or ‘under the table’ to describe businesses that operate without paying taxes. The work is often legal. Avoiding taxes is not. Some operate this way in response to a recession or economic crisis. When the unemployment rate escalates, people are hustling or ‘on their grind’ to survive full-time, or as side income. For others it’s an education gap – underground is all they know. They’ve never filed taxes, nor have they seen anyone around them do it. People in poverty, (the poverty line in the US is $23k for a family of four) can see taxes as something burdensome that they can’t afford to pay. From a macro standpoint, the government still observes currency flowing and people spending, but the corresponding taxes are somehow not being paid to the tune of a $500 billion gap.read more
The goal: “Empower neighborhood residents. We are building communities through entrepreneurship,” says Woods. MORTAR runs entrepreneurship classes and teaches the basics to fifth and sixth graders at Cincinnati Public Schools, too. “We have the opportunity to help create a more equitable city and help dreams come true,” says Thomas.read more
I decided to attend the Mortar Entrepreneurship Academy because I wanted to learn the tools necessary to grow a successful and prospering business. The experience enhanced my business acumen as I learned how to properly advertise to customers, how to identify our target customers, how to calculate our costs/profit, and so much more. The Mortar experience has changed our business significantly!read more
This is important because while all of the aforementioned problems are still happening and are still very real, the narrative that connects everyone is our humanity. If there is no planet, there are no humans; if we do not love one another, we will eventually destroy one another. Any way you attempt to slice the pie, humans are at the center of the story.read more
Haute Ohio Magazine has named Blue Candies Brand as one of the Best of The Best Designers in the Midwest.read more
As a daughter of a small business owner I know firsthand that small business’s & Entrepreneurs are the heart of every community. They provide opportunities that can help bring new ideas and products to the market. Jobs, direct contact with customers, customized products, are all key benefits that bridge disparities among people in the community. In the community life cycle it’s small businesses that provide the foundation for the continued acceleration and market growth, which is vital for building community through supporting entrepreneurship.read more
Sweets and Meats BBQ, which had operated a food truck in the area in 2014, is planning to open a carryout and catering service at 2249 Beechmont Ave.
“It’s home,” said owner Kristen Bailey, who is also a resident of Mount Washington, about why she wanted to set up shop once again in the community.read more
I think being involved in MORTAR has helped expose me and “my brand” to Cincinnati. I have a suspicion that there were people who liked my concept, but who were also legitimately rooting for me. I also think having some guidance with pitching my idea and engaging customers was helpful. At the end of the day, you have to go and do the work and MORTAR is really good at making sure the people that come through the program are aware of that.read more
How do you think your co-workers would describe you? It would probably be something like a mad scientist. I think I’m just now starting to realize the strength of my thought process. I’ve always known that it was different, but to have a team around me that appreciates and celebrates the way I think is honestly something new for me.read more
When I started, as a business, it was more so my hobby, and my family & friends would request it. That’s what kind of got me to the place of creating a pricesheet or a chart to charge people, but when I took the MORTAR class it made me realize this is something I can actually successfully do.read more
Although I believe that history is history and should be thoroughly and accurately passed down from generation to generation; this is the time of year that Carter G. Woodson proposed would focus the attention of the entire nation on the contributions of African-Americans to the flourishing of the Country.read more
MORTAR alumni Tia Brown, owner of the West End Art Gallery, recently hosted a workshop aimed at providing a creative, fun, and fashionable family atmosphere. “Wearable Art” has gained popularity in the fashion world, and the WE gallery brought that same style to...read more
As Over-the-Rhine becomes a more prosperous neighborhood, some have undertaken efforts to make sure the long-time residents don't get left behind. [bctt tweet="As the neighborhood becomes less black fewer businesses are run by black entrepreneurs."...read more
MORTAR’s Black History Month Marketplace features black-owned businesses in the Brick OTR retail space. One of the businesses is advocating for more awareness around blood diseases that affect the black community.read more
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Donny Harper is an entrepreneur with a message. “It’s about who you are and who you want around you,” says Harper. “When was the last time you had a conversation about the company you keep? Who’s challenged you on that lately?”
Part of the inspiration for his two-and-a-half-year-old brand, GO(O)D Company Apparel, was an incident involving his nephew. As Harper tells it, years ago, at age 20, his nephew was riding with a friend who jumped out of the car and robbed someone at gunpoint. Harper’s nephew was sentenced to six years in prison over the incident, his first criminal offense, “all because he was with the person who held the gun and did the crime.”read more
The brick-and-mortar will also serve as a commissary for Sweets & Meats’ catering business. The food truck will remain in service, but Bailey said it will scale back and focus on private events and larger food truck festivals. The food truck spent the last year in a blitz, attending as many festivals and events as possible to get the word out.
Bailey intends to initially open the restaurant Fridays through Sundays. It will operate as a carry-out restaurant with no indoor seating.
Sweets & Meats is a graduate of small business accelerator Mortar’s first class in Walnut Hills in 2015. Bailey credits the program for her ability to open a brick-and-mortar store after just more than two years in business.read more
By Dawn Flanigan-Johnson MORTAR Events Manager How often do you use the "F" word? Chances are that if you're an entrepreneur, you use it more than most. Here’s what MORTAR Founding Partner Derrick Braziel had to say when asked about the “F” word…. “I'm still afraid to...read more
Low-income teenagers learn the value of hard work.read more
“There are millions of kids all over the world who are in poverty,” Jones said. “The goal is to disrupt that and sort of get the community to bootstrap their way up.”
Just Hire Me aims to match teen workers with neighbors or nearby businesses that want to hire them for small jobs or light chores. The neighbors and businesses fill out forms on the Just Hire Me website to explain what they need to have done. Teens that have gone through the company’s training fill out online forms to explain their skills and availability.read more
Today, on January 20th 2017, I remain hopeful. I’ve seen the power of hope and hard work combined. Together these qualities produce an unconquerable force. Just four years ago, thousands of children across Cincinnati did not have access to quality preschool. As a community, we decided that this was wrong and we decided to do something about it. Through the hope and hard work of our city, the Preschool Promise initiative passed, every child was promised the tools for a bright future, and we showed the world that we CAN do more.read more