On the surface, we are just a few people who want to use our gifts, talents and insights to inspire change.
Fundamentally, we believe in one of the core tenets of the American spirit: the power of a dollar and a dream.
Founding Partner & Creative Director
Director of Operations & Brand Strategy
Allen Woods is a devoted husband, father and entrepreneur – in that order. Born in Indianapolis, he’s never allowed the size of his city to place a limit on the size of his dreams. Allen is the creative force behind the MORTAR brand, as well as a business consultant and training facilitator for incoming students.
His determination (or stubbornness – as his mom would call it) has allowed him to develop a resiliency that has grown with him on his entrepreneurial journey – as a kid selling candy to classmates, a parking garage attendant with the latest homemade mixtapes for customers driving through his line, to a photographer inspired by meeting Gordon Parks, to an owner of a decade old graphic design firm.. the list goes on.
Allen, recognized as a 2016 Cincinnati Business Courier 40 under 40 Business Leader, is also a sought after public speaker (being a retired performance poet definitely helps) and brand strategist who has assisted directly in the growth of hundreds of small businesses and personal brands across the globe.
Founding Partner & Managing Director
Community & Partner Engagement
Derrick Braziel is a young, creative entrepreneur who is committed to the idea that all it takes to change the world is, “a dollar and a dream.” He supports MORTAR by deepening relationships with various community stakeholders while providing opportunities for external partners to support local entrepreneurs and their ideas. Prior to this, he (with the help of many!) decided to found an Indianapolis non-profit named Dreamapolis which continues to support hundreds of Indianapolis entrepreneurs.
His work has led to recognition from the Indianapolis Star as “One to Watch” in 2012; he has been named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs; he’s a member of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s C-Change Class 11 as well as a BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Fellow.
He is the proud of son of two first generation college graduates and he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wittenberg University.
William Thomas II
Founding Partner & Expansion Director
Leadership Strategy & Business Development
William Thomas is a passionate advocate, born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. Always been passionate about entrepreneurship, he started his first business making and selling origami to his 2nd grade classmates, then as an adult, went on to co-launch two successful non-profit organizations.
While William has certainly been able to turn his ideas into reality, he recognizes that many people have not been afforded with those same opportunities. William, in his efforts in fighting inequities, creating opportunities and driving social change, was recently recognized as one of Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs.
He has spent many years working to create better systems and policies in Cincinnati and nationwide around education. This is evident through his current position as Community Engagement Manager for the Cincinnati Preschool Promise where he works to make access to quality preschool a reality for every child in Cincinnati.
Fundraising & Development
Miranda Millard, mother, servant leader and creative strategic thinker, has long been a community organizer with broad involvement in social impact and engagement programs. She believes in people and the promise of their potential. Her role as Development Assistant at MORTAR, informs and executes strategies to identify and cultivate prospective funding streams, donors and relationships.
Founding member of Elementz Hip Hop Youth Arts Center, she recently graduated from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2016 New Faces class. Miranda is a current member of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s C-Change Class 12. She also serves as lead on the Startup Cincy Advisory Board, Diversity & Inclusion Committee and The Women’s Fund, Development Committee. Miranda is committed to the advancement of people, equity and the co-creation of solution-driven opportunities of meaningful social and civic innovation. Her commitment continues to fuel her drive for a life of leadership and service. Mother to two amazing humans; she’s passionate about Hip Hop culture, exploration through travel and dance.
Alumni Development & Resource Coordinator
Sadell Bradley has been passionately devoted to seeing lives dramatically transformed for many years in the Tri-State. She and her husband Sherman, have been catalysts for change through their civic and faith-based work, as owners of Consider the Poor – a poverty advocacy and consulting non-profit, and as pastoral leaders in the City.
Sadell, a native of Philadelphia and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is a dynamic speaker, teacher and trainer. She is also a gifted vocalist, creative artist, blogger and the co-author of, “Breaking the Cycle of Self-Abuse, the Lucreta Bowman Story.” Sadell has used her gifts across the country and around the world at conferences, workshops and events geared toward helping women, youth and the poor. She and Sherman have a beautiful family of three children and two grandchildren.
As Mortar’s Catalyst Strategist, Sadell works directly with alumni to help them see their dreams realized. She uses her coaching expertise, administrative skills and nurturing spirit to resource and support our entrepreneurs toward success.
Organizational Support – Administrative Assistant
Victoria Sumner is native to Columbus, Ohio, but has been captivated by the city of Cincinnati ever since she moved here. She received her Bachelor of Chemical Engineering Degree at the University of Cincinnati (UC) in the spring of 2016. Being a part of the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program, Emerging Ethnic Engineers Program, and serving as a missionary through Chi Alpha Campus Ministries has completely helped shape her as a person. With her undergraduate research experience at UC, she has gained the passion and desire to have a career in Water Treatment and in ministry.
Through MORTAR, she serves as the Administrative Assistant or better known as, “The Saucer”. She has a knack for handling office management ordeals and is skillful in assisting the MORTAR staff with additional projects or tasks to keep MORTAR running smoothly. With her heart for making Cincinnati a more equitable and positive place for EVERYBODY to thrive in, Victoria offers her skill set to MORTAR to help us continue to say YES and activate nontraditional entrepreneurs’ dreams.
Dawn Flanigan Johnson
Events & Pop Up Shop Manager
Organizational Support – Events, Projects & More
Dawn is an Ohio native, who has been working as an event planner, activist, talent agent & fashion consultant, for the past 13 years. She received two B.A.s in Mass Marketing Communications and Spanish from the University of Cincinnati. She has extensive knowledge in the fashion, arts, entertainment and event planning industry. Over the past several years, she’s held jobs ranging from spokesmodel on Home Shopping Network to the producer/creator/director of the First Eco Fashion show at the Green Festivals (the largest green living event in the nation).
Some of her recent achievements include traveling around the nation with the Green Festival organization creating mindful, cutting edge eco-fashion shows and events with powerful messages, and developing an eco-fashion collection of her own.
With her recent move back to the Cincinnati area, Dawn plans to bring her West Coast experience and out of the box ideas to the MORTAR family. She plans to create amazing, uplifting, and memorable events that help to further the mission of MORTAR and their talented pool of entrepreneurs. Dawn has found her calling.
Communications & Public Relations Strategist
Alumni Development – PR & Media Training
Kyla Woods is a MORTAR alum and the Founder of Crowd or Camera Communications Consulting. She also serves in many capacities as a Dynamic Speaker and an Enthusiastic Emcee. She worked previously as a Traffic Reporter and Fill-in Anchor at WLWT News 5. Kyla has a passion for working with people who want to improve their communication skills; including corporate execs, entrepreneurs, politicians, and young professionals, just to name a few. She enjoys showing her clients the power that exists in effective storytelling and intentional communication.
Kyla is a graduate of Ball State University with a B.A. in Telecommunications. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Kyla manages the Communication Strategy & Public Relations for MORTAR Alumni. She has also be instrumental in telling the stories about the organization’s ongoing efforts to provide opportunities to our entrepreneurial population and our strategies to bring equitable redevelopment to the forefront of community building initiatives.
Alumni Development – Culinary
Jordan Hamons is a classically trained chef, cooking teacher and food and travel writer. She works with MORTAR’s food businesses to help them get connected to resources and opportunities within the culinary industry.
Jordan is the owner of Tablespoon Cooking Co., a start-up that offers cooking classes and culinary events with the mission of teaching home cooks of all skills levels how to cook good food. Prior to starting Tablespoon Cooking Co., Jordan worked as a corporate chef in the Executive Kitchen at American Financial Group and gained experience as a private chef and caterer. Jordan has traveled the world to learn international cooking techniques and taste the best food around the globe. She writes a culinary travel blog called The Hungry Traveler.
Jordan is a graduate of the Lindner Honors-PLUS Program at the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business and completed her culinary training at Midwest Culinary Institute. Originally from Perrysburg, Ohio, Jordan is the daughter of two entrepreneurs and grew up in a family business.
Vernard S. Fields
Alumni Development – Graphic Design & Video
During many years of rigorous studies and honing various mediums Vernard S. Fields has earned the title of being The Multimedia Specialist. With his skill sets he’s helped organizations, businesses and events create stunning works of art. Not only do they help tell the story of individual but help give those around an unforgettable experience.
Today Vernard S. Fields is one of the most sought after multimedia specialists for his creative perspectives and abilities. Not only is he wanted for his creativity within the arts but with his ability to capture audiences during his speaking engagements. He’s encouraged countless amounts of people, both artists and entrepreneurs/business owners on being better professionals and understanding the importance of brand.
At his core Vernard S. Fields has an amazing philosophy and that it’s not a one man show but a single project brought together with a company of creatives. It’s of great importance to not stay in the box or be afraid to walk off the beaten path to become a trailblazer in your own right. This is how awesome things are created and magic happens.
Graphic Design Associate
Alumni Development – Branding & Design
Hannah Williams is a multi-disciplinary designer striving to create work that is fun, considered, and experiential by working across analog and digital mediums. Through design, she facilitates the ideas and stories of individuals to help build stronger connections and community.
Hannah Williams is a Cincinnati native and former Baltimore resident. She received her BFA in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art with additional interests in printmaking and painting. Her areas of expertise range across Art Direction, Branding, Identity, Environmental and Exhibition Design, Illustration, Lettering, Poster and Print Design, Editorial and Publication Design, Screen Printing, and Web Design.
She is drawn to collaborating on projects from the ground up and helping ideas organically thrive. To yield interesting results, she embraces the unknown and chaos with a balanced perspective as part of her process.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD
Kala Gibson is Senior Vice President and Head of Business Banking for Fifth Third Bank. He oversees the strategic planning and sales force delivery / effectiveness for the Line of Business. This segment of Business Banking serves clients up to $10MM in annual revenues, across 1300 financial centers, and 12 states. Kala has received numerous awards, including the Michigan Chronicle’s“Men of Excellence” award and Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” award. Kala Gibson is an executive and finance committee member for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African – American History Board. He is a member of the Business Banking Executive Circle and the Consumer Banker Association (CBA) – Small Business Committee. Kala is currently serving as a member of the Cincinnati ArtsWave Regional Review Committee.
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD
Pranav Kothari serves as Vice President, Strategy & Innovation for KnowledgeWorks, where he oversees business strategy for StriveTogether, EDWorks, and StrivePartnership and develops new strategies to advance Mission for KnowledgeWorks more broadly. Kothari also serves as Adjunct Lecturer of Social Enterprise at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, teaching both MBA and executive education courses on the education sector and social sector performance measurement. He speaks nationally on measuring social impact, national nonprofit effectiveness, and education philanthropy. Kothari lives in Chicago, IL with his wife, Harpreet Khera, and is a native of Pittsburgh, PA.
SECRETARY OF THE BOARD
Natasia Malaihollo is a Co-Founder and CEO at Wyzerr, a tech startup that builds customer feedback surveys that look like games. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Ms. Malaihollo studied law, with a focus on Intellectual Property (IP). She worked for several years as a patent specialist and trademark agent, prosecuting applications for companies like IBM, Samsung, and Fujifilm. Ms. Malaihollo received her Bachelor’s Degree from UC Berkeley, and attended law school at Georgetown.
TREASURER OF THE BOARD
Jim Crosset is the Director of Business Affairs (CFO) at University of Cincinnati – College of Law. He has served Cincinnati area non-profits including The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, InkTank, Mariemont Preservation Foundation, and Cincinnati Public Schools. During his career, he has worked as a finance executive in several in local corporations and law firms. Jim lives in the city with his wife and has two grown daughters. He has been running 20 miles a week for the last 35 years and is going strong.
Brandon Black is an emerging leader, business owner and entrepreneur with a passion for mission driven enterprise and first generation wealth creation. He took the leap of faith into proprietorship in 2015 after completing the inaugural MORTAR entrepreneurship course and launching Drawnversation, a graphic recording and facilitation service. Currently, Brandon is further testing his entrepreneurial spirit spending the next year as the 2016 People’s Liberty Haile Fellow focusing on connecting trade experienced Retirees with aspiring DIYers for guidance through home improvement projects. Brandon resides in Silverton with his wife Marian.
Kathy Laker Schwab has 30 years of experience working in urban neighborhoods in both for-profit and non-profit real estate development. She is currently the Executive Director of the LISC Greater Cincinnati, a national non-profit intermediary organization that helps resident-led, community-based development organizations transform distressed communities. A life-long urban advocate, Schwab became established as a resource for downtown living as Vice President of Residential Development for Downtown Cincinnati Inc. from 1998-2004, a business improvement district (BID), where she helped put together the tools for residential revitalization in the urban core. In her non-profit role she directed the formation of at least 2 CDC’s in Cincinnati and has served as a development consultant to the Cincinnati Zoo, the University of Cincinnati, 3CDC and the Uptown Consortium. Schwab is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where she is a member of the UC Real Estate Executive Advisory Council. She serves on the boards of the Cincinnati Development Fund, United Way Financial Stability Impact Council, PNC and JPMorgan Chase Community Development Advisory Councils, and both the Human Services and Community Development Advisory Boards of the City of Cincinnati. A life-long urban advocate, she resides in Over-the-Rhine.
Sean L. Rhiney, is the Director of Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning. The Center serves as a catalyst for faculty, students, and staff to partner with the broader community to promote student learning and community well-being. Rhiney earned a BA from Xavier and his JD from Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. Prior to joining Mortar’s board his involvementin Over-the-Rhine included co-founding the MidPoint Music Festival and OTRAglow, serving as a former officer of the OTR Foundation, and as an organizer of the annual OTR Summer Celebration. He currently serves on the steering committee of the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, and on the boards of King Studios – a community development and educational initiative that celebrates Cincinnati’s rich musical history – and the Music Resource Center, a nonprofit after school program that teaches teens music and record production skills. He lives in East Walnut Hills with his wife Jessica.
Lew Goldfarb is a CPA, business lawyer, law professor, author, and entrepreneur. He currently works as Professor of Clinical Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, serving as Director of its Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC). Through the ECDC, Goldfarb and his students provide free legal help to local entrepreneurs who could not otherwise afford it, including many entrepreneurs participating in the Mortar program. Goldfarb spent much of his professional career as a business lawyer, serving as an associate at Baker & Hostetler LLP and Associate Chief Counsel at Honda of America Mfg., Inc. Lew is a native of Sandusky, Ohio and currently resides in Hilliard with his wife, Sharon, and twins sons, Benjamin and Joshua.
A native of Compton, Calif., Ross received his bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Cal-State University in 1970 and headed straight Cincinnati for a career at Procter & Gamble. To this day, P&G remains his only job interview. Sam began his P&G career as an assistant art director, then moved through the design ranks, ultimately becoming design manager for the company’s fabric and homecare global division. As such, he was responsible for the look of some of the company’s biggest brands of the day, such as Tide, Ariel and Downy.
Since retiring from P&G, Sam went on to start Ionic Communications, a design firm which has worked with companies such as Kroger, Pepsico. and P&G. Sam also obtained his M.B.A. from Xavier University in 1973.
Richard Westheimer taught in the Cincinnati Public Schools for 16 years before joining his family’s investment enterprise, which focused on early stage investing. He has served many Cincinnati non-profits including The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, and The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance. He is the pleased parent of five adult children and lives on his small farm in Clermont County where he, with his wife Debbie, tends to a prolific vegetable garden, plays music with friends, writes, and runs.
Teresa Hoelle believes in creating opportunities for all Cincinnatians. She has served as Vice President of Institutional Advancement for nearly four years at ArtWorks, a Cincinnati non-profit that provides employment and training for local teens, artists, and entrepreneurs. Teresa has fifteen years of in marketing, external relations, and business development. She was recognized in 2006 as a Forty Under 40 recipient, and earned her MBA from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, with concentrations in Marketing and Global Business. She is proud to serve on the boards of MORTAR and Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati.