Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Podcast features U.S. Bankers chatting with industry leaders in unfiltered, easy-to-understand conversations.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Situation:
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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute “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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute The House Small Business Committee hosted the hearing to examine how important community support is to cultivating entrepreneurship and small business success. The hearing also explored how a thriving entrepreneurship culture can, in turn, improve communities.
Small businesses can be supported by communities in many different ways. Communities might have training and investments coming from the private-sector or support services and development programs coming from the government. It’s also important to have the right infrastructure and culture already in place.
“Business success is predicated on many factors,” Stephanie Carter, who testified on behalf of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, said during the hearing. “What is undeniable, however, is that those businesses that have a network of support behind them, fare better than those without.”
Carter adds such communities offer more expertise to help businesses as they launch and grow. Additionally, a community that understands and supports the business could help in spotting new opportunities for development. The culture can also create confidence and a drive to be entrepreneurial.
Ara Bagdasarian, who spoke on behalf of the Small Business Development Center, helped to create a framework that communities could adapt intended to foster entrepreneurship and small business growth. He developed it by working with private and public partners while exploring ways to boost development in Leesburg, Virginia.
“The fruits of this effort, I believe, have yielded a model that can be replicated in large and small communities all across America,” Bagdasarian said. “It is with this model, and others like it, that communities suffering from high unemployment or the uprooting of a key industry can plant the seeds of entrepreneurship and cultivate the growth of small businesses.”read more
Reading Time: 2 minutes 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!”read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.”read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Derrick Braziel & William Thomas II saw big changes happening to their Cincinnati neighborhood, Over-the-Rhine. They, along with co-founder Allen Woods, wanted to be a part of that change. Mortar is a company that provides a twelve-week program, pop-up shops, and business capital to help non-traditional entrepreneurs start and run successful businesses.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Thanksgiving dinner is the original Throwback Thursday. It’s a #TBT with a menu that might once have been normal to cook every day, but they’re foods we’ve gotten too busy and modern to make often.
Dinner rolls are one of those foods. Once, yeasty, soft, buttery rolls could have been on the dinner table anytime. Now, it takes a special occasion. Like Thanksgiving. Even though potatoes and stuffing and maybe sweet potatoes are on the menu, a pile of warm rolls wrapped in a cloth napkin makes the holiday meal complete.
More good rolls for Thanksgiving:
Gigi’s Kitchen makes rolls, either plain dinner rolls (Well, not plain. They’re nice and rich and buttery) or lightly sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. These rolls are served at the National Exemplar in Mariemont.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Cincinnati’s MORTAR, the accelerator born in Over-the-Rhine to help entrepreneurial residents rise with their neighborhood, won a national Small Business Administration contest.
MORTAR, for the second year in a row, competed with other accelerators across the nation and won the U.S. SBA’s fourth Growth Accelerator Fund competition. It was one of 20 winners nationwide, which entitles it to a cash prize of $50,000.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Derrick Braziel (Founding Partner & Managing Director of @weareMORTAR) was a guest speaker at the last #dogoodx conference. In case you weren’t able to make it to our event, check out his talk here! #changemakerread more
Reading Time: 1 minute What I really liked about MORTAR is how personal, transparent, and active my teachers were because it built a student-teacher trust that you won’t find in most schools. Whenever we had questions, we received thorough answers. I also appreciate how productive our group discussions were. My peers were really respectful with answering each other’s questions if they had answers and were willing to share their information with everyone. You know how some people will know something but won’t give a lil help to anyone else because “it could hurt their own business,’ not realizing that sharing their “light” with others won’t diminish their own? Yeah. Not at MORTAR.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Esoteric Brewing Co. is coming to the $20 million Paramount Square development in the Paramount building at the corner of Gilbert Avenue and East McMillan Street. Co-founder and CEO Brian Jackson hopes to open it by the fourth quarter of 2018.
Jackson’s desire to open his own brewery brought him to Mortar, the Over-the-Rhine accelerator that got started to help entrepreneurial residents come up with the neighborhood. He was part of its first class in 2015 and even won the Judge’s Choice award at the pitch night.
It was at Mortar that Jackson met co-founder Marvin Abrinica, an 18-year Procter & Gamble alum who founded his own agency, Thrivera. Abrinica also founded Wunderfund, the region’s first equity crowdfunding platform that gives backers a piece of the company they’re investing in rather than a T-shirt or a mug.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Pop-up shops have been springing up in Cincinnati, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to temporarily rent space instead of committing to long-term rental agreements.
While the concept isn’t new, more small-business owners and entrepreneurs are utilizing pop-up shops to not only sell products and raise brand awareness but also to test business ideas in real time.
“Typically, we see a lot of lifestyle businesses, but the space is open to anyone in the area that has an exciting idea or is currently running a business,” said manager Victoria Sumners.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute Retaining local talent — whether entrepreneurial, artistic, educational or otherwise — can be difficult. Whether young creatives leave for personal ambitions or job opportunities, or simply a desire to try something new, that flight has long been a challenge for Cincinnati’s workforce.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute What personality trait does being an entrepreneur require?
Patience and tenacity. There are times when you want things to happen more quickly, but if you have the patience to do – what you can when you can – and allow the rest to fall into place, entrepreneurship can be a wonderful journey. There are times when it’s difficult and you want to quit, so tenacity allows you to continue moving towards your goal even when everything around you tells you to give up.
Reading Time: 1 minute There are a variety of events that L. Mari Catering covers for its clients. “We provide catering services; whether it’s an intimate affair for ten people, a corporate luncheon, or a larger scale event of 300 people-we are able to accommodate you,” she says. “We also provide weekly meal preparation to clients who may find it easier to free up sometime and allow us to cook their meals for the week! Lastly, we have hosted events and have done many pop-up events, along with festivals!” Some of the foods that L. Mari Catering offers is butter chicken, blackened salmon, spiced Hennessy wings, seafood pasta, Cajun shrimp and pepper medley, Halal options, vegan black bean chili and more.read more
Reading Time: 2 minutes I don’t really concern myself too much with the thoughts or opinions of people I don’t know or care about. They don’t detract from my performance, nor do they distract me from my purpose or goals. But let me be at odds with someone I love, or who is supposed to love me. When there’s a conflict at the office, or a family dispute, my energy levels can drain like a wilting grain of grass in Phoenix heat.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute During the “Bridges to Success” roundtable with minority-owned small businesses, both Chabot and Garcia addressed questions from the 90 participants ranging from government contracting certifications, access to capital and other challenges that small businesses face.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute We have a lot of MORTAR alumni who are staying extremely busy this weekend – while many are located onsite at Paul Brown Stadium for Cincinnati Music Fest, there are several others who have events located elsewhere in the city. Check out the full event list here!read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 3 minutes 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
Reading Time: 1 minute “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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute “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
Reading Time: 2 minutes 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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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.
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute “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.
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 2 minutes “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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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…….
Reading Time: 4 minutes 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
Reading Time: 2 minutes 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
Reading Time: 3 minutes 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.read more
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute 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
Reading Time: 1 minute “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