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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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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What This Means to Me

One fateful day in college I was introduced to a quote by author Stephen Gould that completely changed my life.  He wrote, “I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have...

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Crew Love [Staff Edition]: Tim Barr

Your neighborhood:Avondale What toppings are on a perfect pizza?Bacon, Pepp, Cheese, Peppers & onions. Has to be thin crust though. What is your role within the company?Outreach & Expansion Coordinator Why does the work that MORTAR is doing in communities...

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Own Lane Shoetique Gets You Runway-Ready from Head to Toe

Reading Time: 1 minute Chanel Scales is the “mompreneur” behind Own Lane Shoetique. Her passion for style got its start at a young age, flipping through magazines at her grandma’s house when she was just five years old. This eventually led her to a fashion career made up of modeling and working in top shoe and clothing retailers. Chanel decided to open a shop of her own in Over-the-Rhine in October 2018.

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Cincinnati Restaurant Launches Second Food Truck

Reading Time: 1 minute A Cincinnati restaurant that was born as a mobile food trailer has returned to its roots in a sense with the purchase of a second food truck.

Sweets & Meats BB launched with Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney smoking meats in the parking lot of the Mount Washington Creamy Whip in 2014. They went through the Mortar entrepreneurship program, then debuted a food truck in 2016, before opening a brick-and-mortar take-out restaurant in Mount Washington in 2017.

They hit the streets in their newest food truck on April 11.

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The Marathon Continues

Dedicated to the life & legacy of Nipsey Hussle. I can’t believe that it’s already been 5 years. It was April of 2014 when I sat down with Derrick & William and we talked about a dream to Hussle & Motivate - creating a culturally competent entrepreneurship...

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Brewery To Be Part of Major Redevelopment In Walnut Hills

Reading Time: 1 minute WALNUT HILLS, Ohio (WKRC) – The Tri-State will get its first minority-owned brewery opening later in 2019.

It’s part of an $187 million revitalization happening in Walnut Hills, but this brewery is about more than beer.

The historic Paramount building in Walnut Hills has been home to many businesses, including a department store. You can still see the old tiles with the name at the entrance. This 85-year-old building has been abandoned for years. Now, it’s going to be home to Esoteric Brewing Company.

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Give Yourself A Break

Reading Time: 2 minutes Give yourself another chance. You didn’t get that loan or grant? You were rejected when you applied for that job or opportunity? Ask again, but this time inquire at a different place or appeal to a new person. Persistence does pay off.

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Crew Love [Staff Edition]: Roycelle Parker

Your neighborhood: Hartwell Tell us more about your role at MORTAR. Office manager: front-line greeter, promoter, encourager, organizer, cheerleader... Share your thoughts on the idea of “building community through entrepreneurship.” In order for any community to...

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“You can’t handle the truth.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes There are times at MORTAR when business owners come to us ‘wanting answers.’ We sometimes ask, “Do you want the truth? Or do you want approval?” Some actually desire honest answers and will consider and even implement ideas that are outside of their own. Others unfortunately only really want feedback that agrees with their original ideas or perspectives. If we as leaders don’t say the words they want to hear, there is a laundry list of reasons why we’re wrong or not supportive, even when multiple people give the same feedback. Contrary to popular opinion, there is safety in a multitude of counselors. That’s why large corporations invest so much money in focus groups. As Sojourner Truth said, “Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

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Opportunity to build her ‘Own Lane’

Reading Time: 1 minute In a district with only 6 percent black business owners, Chanel Scales lives out her entrepreneurial journey with the support of the MORTAR family as a brick-and-mortar business owner in the heart of Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood.

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Chanel Scales Is Conquering Fashion and Motherhood

Reading Time: 1 minute Described by her family as fearless, confident and a fighter, Chanel Scales is a successful mom to be and passionate mother of one. From the age of 5-years-old, Chanel had a love for fashion. Enamored with the pages of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, her grandmother would always tell her, “Chell, one day you will make your mark in the fashion industry.”

Now, years later, Chanel is doing exactly that. She’s the owner of a successful fashion brand call SHINGO, a shoe store on one of the busiest streets of Cincinnati and she works as a stylist for popular magazine Kontrol. Her journey as a fashion designer started when she couldn’t find the garments to create the vision she had in her head. Passionate about bringing her ideas to life, Chanel didn’t give up.

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Mortar Receives Entrepreneurship Grant

Reading Time: 1 minute A Cincinnati philanthropy group awarded Over-the-Rhine-based Mortar a three-year grant to aid in its work helping entrepreneurs in emerging neighborhoods keep up with development.

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati awarded Mortar a $60,000 grant, disbursed over three years, which includes hundreds of hours of donated consulting from the group’s members.

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“All Men Are Created Equal?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes I doubt that the reality of inequity in America is news to anyone. The difficulties of reaching the ‘American Dream’ for people who look like me have been evident from the time I was a small girl. Sure, there are plenty of accomplished and successful black people in America, but proportionately, it is not reflective of the general population

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This Isn’t Just A Side Thing

Reading Time: 2 minutes What I mean is, dedicate just as much time to brand development as you do to creating new products.  This isn’t just something that you pay attention to in your free time. Why develop a product or service that you can’t sell? A customer isn’t going to buy something from you that they can buy from someone they know better, or a person who sells it cheaper, or whatever other justification they may have. Why should they? What is the value of your product or service? What would make them trust you more? What experiences will they associate with you?

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Three Quick Pop Up Shop Tips

Reading Time: 2 minutes Hosting a Pop Up Shop is a great way to expose your product or service to a new crowd of
potential customers or give online customers a different buying experience. As the Retail &
Events Manager at MORTAR, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of companies that
utilize our BRICK Pop Up Shop locations to do just that. From beauty products to handmade
clothing to custom jewelry, our space has transformed from weekend to weekend into different
experiences based on each company’s unique vision.

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Reading Time: 1 minute Allen Woods is the creative force behind Mortar. Mortar is a Cincinnati based non-profit organization that focuses on providing opportunities for entrepreneurship for nontraditional entrepreneurs. He has over 25 years of business experience along with a background in Design and Branding. He has been recognized locally and nationally for his leadership in our community both through Mortar and throughout his career for bringing life to businesses.

On this episode of Unfinished Business, Allen shares his story of how creativity and passion to help entrepreneurs has been the key ingredient to his success throughout his career.

“Cincinnati was designed to be a stepping stone for me and my family… but that has now changed. Not only is Cincinnati now home for us but we’re also committed to making our community better.”

“What would happen if we created opportunities for residents to become entrepreneurs? What if we gave them the actual tools to pursue their dreams?”

“For us, it’s all about building the community and to focus on investing in the people within those communities.”

“Being a Co-Founder of Mortar is more like a brotherhood than a partnership!”

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Cambodian eatery Mahope sets opening date for brick-and-mortar location in Northside

Reading Time: 1 minute CINCINNATI – Vy Sok and her partner, Mike Laguna, busily worked to wrap up final touches inside the future location of their Cambodian restaurant, Mahope, two days before Thanksgiving.

After starting her own family in Greater Cincinnati, Sok said she wanted to open a Cambodian restaurant and introduce people to the foods she loves.

“There’s nothing like it around,” she said.

In 2016, Sok enrolled in a program at Mortar, the Cincinnati entrepreneurship hub in Over-the-Rhine designed to help prospective small-business owners launch their dreams. After graduating from Mortar, Sok and Laguna launched Mahope as a food cart.

“We started off in Urban Artifact at a Cinco de Mayo event (in 2017),” Sok said.

Over-the-Rhine bar Rosedale then invited Mahope to serve its food from Rosedale’s Mortar Mess Hall this past summer. Sok said she often put a twist on the Cambodian dishes she served at Rosedale and Urban Artifact in Northside.

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Cincinnati Access Fund: a new tool to support small businesses, build strong communities

Reading Time: 1 minute LISC provides capital and support to small businesses, and leverages its relationships with other national philanthropies and corporations to find other sources of funding, as well as build partnerships between the public and private sectors.

LISC also puts residents and business owners at the center, Jones says, “to make sure they’re not being done to, but are being the authors of the work in their community.”

And this fall, LISC Cincinnati announced a new tool that brings all those roles together: the Cincinnati Access Fund.

The $3.5 million fund is a collaboration among Fifth Third Bank, the City of Cincinnati, and LISC Greater Cincinnati, and will provide needed financial support as well as technical assistance to women- and minority-owned small businesses.

“We talk about equity, and this is putting it into practice,” says Derrick Braziel, founder of MORTAR Cincinnati, which fosters minority entrepreneurs. “This is a major milestone.”

“I believe Cincinnati could become the most equitable ecosystem in America,” Braziel adds. “This is going to catalyze that.”

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Own Lane Shoetique

Reading Time: 1 minute A passion for fashion, an eye for stylish shoes — especially in extended sizes — and a love for OTR led this local lady to open a new shoe store on Vine St. Kick your heels up and keep reading for all the fashionable details.

Located in Over-the-Rhine, Own Lane Shoetique is a new women’s shoe store carrying a variety of styles in sizes 6-12. “Own Lane’s mission is to offer quality, name-brand shoes, and accessories in an assortment of sizes and styles to accommodate the chic in every woman who stays in her own lane,” explains Chanel Scales, Owner of Own Lane Shoetique. “We want to be the shoe destination for Cincinnati and the Midwest area.”

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