By Allen Woods
Co-Founder, Chief Vision Caster & Branding Gladiator
Those lyrics, from the song that launched FLOETRY’s musical career are words that mean something.
You see, the world is full of people who will tell you, “No.”
Sometimes you just need that one person to take a chance on you – someone who will see your potential and push you to becoming the best version of yourself; just by telling you, “YES.”
There’s so much power in the word “YES.”
Entire legacies (and families) are built on the foundation of a YES at the perfect time (typically as one knee presses into the dirt in the ultimate stance of surrender). It’s these moments that encourage and uplift individuals. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get you started on the path of possibilities. Does that one YES mean that you’re on a journey that is always going to be certain, smooth and without obstacles? Absolutely not. But it’s a starting point. In early 2014, an amazing journey of entrepreneurial development started with three yesses. On a warm spring day in Over-the-Rhine, Derrick Braziel, William Thomas and Allen Woods gathered on the steps of the City Library discussing the current complexion of Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial ecosystem – compared to what the city looked like as a whole and determined that it was time for something new.
This team agreed that it was past time to break a few unwritten rules – and the perfect time to start building our own. On this day, MORTAR was born. MORTAR’s mission is to enable underserved entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed and thrive; creating opportunities to build communities through entrepreneurship. We accomplish this mission by telling entrepreneurs in redeveloping neighborhoods that YES, with a lot of determination and hard work, their dreams are possible.
MORTAR works to remove three specific barriers to entry for the entrepreneurs that it serves:
YET TO SECURE FUNDING:
Financial Literacy and Lending Many of the students entering MORTAR programs have never really had anyone teach them about the importance of good money management or why credit matters. MORTAR works to educate and assist students in developing great habits relating to their personal finances so that they’ll carry these practices over to their business finances. For high performing students who’ve completed the course, a venture capital fund is planned, to invest in financially challenged entrepreneurs served through MORTAR.
Business Training and Development MORTAR launched separate 9 week and 12 week business courses designed to help urban entrepreneurs start or grow their dream businesses. These courses have been instrumental in assisting many of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s most promising new entrepreneurs move to their next level. Though an entrepreneurship program is targeted towards underserved and underrepresented Cincinnati entrepreneurs, MORTAR maintains a diverse group of students with various background. Additional business services provided by MORTAR include 1-on 1 mentorship, legal support, branding and marketing support, and a constantly expanding network.
Business Incubation and Testing MORTAR has started a unique pop-up shop concept in OTR designed to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to test their ideas in real time. Whether it be for a day, weekend, or month…. MORTAR’s pop-up shop, Brick OTR, will provide valuable experiences designed to help entrepreneurs earn revenue, customers, and lessons associated with operating a business in one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the country.