This Puzzling Time We’re In.

Reading Time: 2 minutes This last week has been trying for most of us – especially the entrepreneurs who are trying to make decisions today that will keep their businesses open in the future. We are trying to piece together our lives amongst circumstances that we can’t control. We’re referring back to our boxes, looking at our plans for what this time in our lives was supposed to look like. When it seems unfamiliar, we feel compelled to walk away, to blow off some steam – but those of us who are dedicated to this entrepreneur-life understand that sooner or later we will return to the table. And when we do, life will make a little more sense, and we’ll feel like we’re a little closer to reaching our goals.

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FHN Recap: Surrounded by Black Excellence

Reading Time: 4 minutes What a day to remember! MORTAR’s Future History Now (FHN) was held on Saturday, February 15, 2020. FHN has been MORTAR’s contribution to Black History Month celebrations for the past five years as a way to share, learn, and network with our community. While many celebrations focus on the accomplishments of our past (and there’s nothing wrong with that), FHN focuses on bringing our community together today in order to better prepare for the future.

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Cultivating Non-Traditional Entrepreneurs for Good with Allen Woods

Reading Time: < 1 minute Guest Biography

Allen Woods is a devoted husband, father, and entrepreneur – in that order. A lifelong Midwesterner, he’s never allowed the size of a 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.

Recognized as a 2016 Cincinnati Business Courier 40 under 40 Business Leader, 2017 John F. Barrett Entrepreneur Vision Award and 2017 Echoing Green BMA Fellow, Woods is also a sought-after public speaker who recently shined on the TEDx stage. As a brand strategist and designer, Allen assisted directly in the growth of hundreds of small businesses and personal brands across the globe.

When Allen isn’t at MORTAR, he’s probably somewhere with his wife, Kyla, planning or recording the next episode of their brand new marriage podcast, Permanent Plus One.

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Leading the Leader

Reading Time: 2 minutes After I eliminated the actual bad ideas, here’s what I was left with: certain ideas never came through because of fear and lack of dedication. Admitting that, in itself, is personally a hard pill to swallow. The barriers that stand between us and our greatest success stories are often barriers we create ourselves!

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Reading Time: 2 minutes …Which begs the question…how long is your runway? How many months could you live without a paycheck or other influx of cash? In America, 40% of Americans don’t have $400 for an emergency…

We don’t know what lies ahead, but we’ve been told since we were kids to save for a rainy day because eventually, it’s going to rain. Now is a great time to build a substantial runway for yourself, your family and your business.

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New Entrepreneurship Training Coming to Covington

Reading Time: < 1 minute A new program to help entrepreneurs in Northern Kentucky is coming as part of a partnership between Renaissance Covington, the nonprofit downtown promotional organization, and Cincinnati-based-MORTAR, which assists historically-underserved populations in business development.

The new program consists of a 15-week course for aspiring or existing entrepreneurs. MORTAR alumni have access to new customers and opportunities for additional funding as well as a mentorship network of business leaders, a news release said.

“MORTAR’s focus on historically underserved populations has seen tremendous growth in inclusive entrepreneurship for Cincinnati,” said Renaissance Covington Director Nick Wade. “We could not be more excited to collaborate with MORTAR and bring their program to Northern Kentucky.”

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Long Live The Chief

By Shannon Hooten, Retail Spaces and Events ManagerOctober 30, 2020 It’s 9:30 p.m. and I’ve been standing for over two hours in a small venue with no seats and little ventilation. I’m with friends from work and we’ve already watched two fellow concert goers pass out...

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Bounce Hub Partners To Offer Classes Aimed At Minority, Non-Tech Startups

Reading Time: < 1 minute The Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron is now taking applications from non-tech entrepreneurs for classes created through a new two-year relationship with a minority-focused business startup program…

Ace Epps, newly promoted director of inclusive entrepreneurship at Bounce, will lead the program, which is officially called MORTAR at Bounce. The classes will take place in meeting rooms on the first-floor Generator space at Bounce.

Adding the minority-focused classes is one way Bounce is taking part in the Elevate Greater Akron initiative, said Jeannine Black, the organization’s marketing officer. One top goal of the Elevate Greater Akron initiative is to expand economic opportunities for the region’s long-neglected minority population.

MORTAR at Bounce also diversifies technology-focused Bounce’s offerings.

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Write It Down

Naimah Quinae, Design & Apparel ManagerFeb. 6, 2020 One of the prompts for a leadership workshop homework sheet was to identify something that you assume annoys the crap out of your teammates. I continuously impress myself with how no matter how often I come into...

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Black-owned Eateries Increasing In Cincinnati

Reading Time: < 1 minute CINCINNATI — Six years ago, Allen Woods, Derrick Braziel and William Thomas launched entrepreneurial hub MORTAR in Over-the-Rhine to help minorities and women in Cincinnati take their talents and turn them into viable businesses.

“There are people who are very creative and have these brilliant ideas, but maybe they don’t have the know-how of how to get started or they don’t have the resources for finding a location or capital to get a business started,” Woods said. “So, we wanted to create MORTAR to help them through those processes.”

Fast-forward to today: Cincinnati is seeing an increase in new black-owned bars, restaurants and other small businesses. Several of those business owners have participated in programs at MORTAR or the restaurant-focused Findlay Kitchen small business incubator that opened in 2016.

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MORTAR Presents Future History Now

Reading Time: < 1 minute As we celebrate Black History Month, MORTAR, a local business accelerator, is looking to the future instead of the past. MORTAR Managing Partner and 2019 Obama Foundation Fellow Derrick Braziel presents Future History Now, a day filled with impactful programming and conversations on Saturday, Feb. 15.

The event is focused on topics that aren’t always discuss in the black community. Sessions focus on mental health, financial planning, and black relationships. The schedule will also include the Buy Black Business Crawl, to encourage participants to support black-owned businesses in Over-the-Rhine, Clifton and Walnut Hills.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss the event are MORTAR Managing Partner and Development Director Derrick Braziel; PR and Communications Coordinator Kyla Woods; and Managing Partner and Creative Director Allen Woods. Kyla and Allen are also co-hosts of the Permanent Plus One podcast.

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Black Then

Reading Time: < 1 minute As we begin Black History Month, I stopped to consider how much African Americans have impacted the culture of America in a positive way, even in the midst of very arduous and trying circumstances. I think most people are aware of the prominent inventors that are trotted out every February to remember their contribution to society at large. We are are very thankful for the traffic light, cotton gin, peanut products, hair products, refrigeration system, blood plasma, light filaments, etc. But the contributions didn’t stop back in the day! African Americans continue impact the entire world with ground-breaking innovations and life changing products.

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The Space Between

Reading Time: < 1 minute At some point in the game, as the arena camera was shifting from fan kiss cams, to silly dances, it stopped on a familiar face: Kobe Bryant. He stood, flashed an enormously gracious smile, and waved at the crowd now offering up a standing ovation. I clapped. I didn’t stand – but I clapped. (Am I a hater?) Thinking back, I was honestly mesmerized by this moment because of the love, the care, and the obvious impact this man had on that city.

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Pause Cincy

Reading Time: < 1 minute A group of four entrepreneurs is teaming up with Mortar to launch their very own retail space. With an official grand opening date of Valentine’s Day, Pause Cincy will offer a space that allows customers to take time for themselves.

“The name represents pressing pause on your life and making time for yourself,” says Mortar co-founder William Thomas III. “There’s an increase demand in the wellness space, and a lot of people are searching for a way to make time for themselves.”

In its opening, Pause will include these Mortar graduates:

-Matunda Juicery, a vendor of fresh cold-pressed juices founded by -Timothy Harris, named for the Swahili word for “fruit”
-Perfect Touch Helps, services from licensed massage therapist Lolitha Perry
-Diamyn’s Crystal Bar, by Diamyn Rembert, a vendor of crystals and stones as well as host to mediation classes and courses for spiritual wellness
-District 78, founded by Erikka Gray, a lifestyle brand and vendor of handcrafted candles

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They Say Black People Don’t Give [PART ONE]

They Say Black People Don’t Give [PART ONE] Vic Mullins - MORTAR Development Manager Being a black development professional is already an uphill battle. Most of my professional peers are well-to-do white women who have gravitated to fundraising as a hobby. One of the...

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Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Reading Time: 3 minutes luation. What is it? It sounds like a bunch of boring data and numbers, doesn’t it? What if I were to tell you that evaluation is actually involved in most aspects of your life and can be a tool to increase your quality of life? Merriam-Webster defines evaluation as the determination of the value, nature, character, or quality of something or someone. In regards to business, evaluation is defined as a rigorous analysis of completed or ongoing activities that determine or support management accountability, effectiveness, and efficiency.

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Your name: Christina Davis Your business name: Davis Cookie Collection  Your neighborhood: Bond Hill Tell us more about your business and your origin story:Davis Cookie Collection launched in 2014 while I was a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati studying...

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Your name: Diamyn Rembert Your business name: Diamyn’s Crystal Bar Your neighborhood: Mount Lookout, OH Tell us about your business: Diamyn’s Crystal Bar promotes mind, body and spirit wellness through healing crystals. We’re here to help you become more mindful of...

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Neighborhood Clifton Toppings on a perfect pizzapesto, goat cheese, tomatoes, olives Why does MORTAR's work in communities matter?Entrepreneurship is key to developing viable communities where all citizens can thrive, prosper, and grow. Listen to one musician the rest...

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A Seat at the Table

Reading Time: 2 minutes Seat…seated…a special chair of one in eminence…the status represented by it…a right of sitting…a seat of learning…forming the base of something…using experience and intuition rather than mechanical aids or formal theory…to cause to sit or assist in finding a seat…to repair the seat of or provide a new seat for.

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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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