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?”read more
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!read more
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...read more
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.read more
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...read more
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).
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.read more
Reading Time: 2 minutes The experience of being a workshop presenter for the first time has taught me many things. The main lesson I learned is that presenters are human, even myself, as a presenter.read more
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.read more
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.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute A co-founder of Mortar, a Cincinnati organization devoted to helping entrepreneurial residents of up-and-coming neighborhoods advance along with their surroundings, was selected by the Obama Foundation for a two-year fellowship.
Derrick Braziel, who in 2014 founded Mortar in Over-the-Rhine alongside Allen Woods and William Thomas, was selected by the Obama Foundation to join its second-ever class of Obama Fellows. He is one of 20 fellows selected for 2019.read more
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...read more
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...read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute Chanel Scales is the owner and curator of SHINGO fashion, stylist for Kontrol Magazine and fashion show producer of the Cincinnati Music Festival.read more
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.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute This week’s conversation is with Derrick Braziel. Derrick is a co-founder of MORTAR, an entrepreneurship program focused on uplifting minorities to start businesses and build community throughout Cincinnati. More on Mortar at wearemortar.com.read more
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.read more
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...read more
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.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute A Walnut Hills craft brewery – and Cincinnati’s first minority-owned brewery – has raised more than $500,000 to date through a route no other local brewery has taken: equity crowdfunding.read more
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.read more
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...read more
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.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute The owner of a Mount Washington restaurant that began in modest fashion five years ago is the recipient of a prestigious state award.read more
By Kaileigh Peyton March 15, 2019 These Cincinnati-based, industry-leading ladies discuss how they got into the business, battling sexism, working tirelessly, and creating a hopeful future for the next generation of women in the kitchen. [CLICK HERE TO READ FULL...read more
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.read more
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.read more
Giving Compass Feb 13, 2019 What do Teach For America, KIPP, Year Up, Jumpstart, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, BELL, iMentor, College Advising Corps all have in common, aside from being high-impact, nationally-scaled organizations? Each got an early boost as...read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute “I felt like it was important for me to have my firs[t] store on Vine Street. Just to show that a black woman can have a business on Vine Street. It’s okay for us to be business owners in a new area to some, but to me it’s Over-the-Rhine. It’s what I know.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute What are local entertainment or sporting event are you looking forward to the most in the new year?read more
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.read more
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 populationread more
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?read more
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.
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!”read more
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.read more
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.”read more
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.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute …
Earlier this week Bailey was honored as 2018 Client of the Year by SCORE’s Greater Cincinnati chapter. The award came with a $3,000 prize.
SCORE is the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration. Its 100-plus mentors provide no-cost mentoring and low-cost small business workshops for entrepreneurs.
Bailey’s mentor, Mike Mulligan, provided critical support. He helped her develop a business plan, hire staff, and secure financing for their various business ventures.
Mulligan offered a wealth of knowledge, Bailey said. He’s a great mentor, sounding board, and sometimes therapist, she said.
Honored to receive the SCORE award, it was a bittersweet moment for Bailey. Just four weeks earlier her mom, Michelle Bailey, died unexpectedly.
During the awards ceremony, the chair next to Bailey, where her mom would have sat, was empty. A poignant reminder of her loss.
Bailey’s mom played a critical role in the Sweets & Meats success story. She and others, including Gaffney’s friend Nedra Lang, volunteered many hours helping the business grow. Lang is now assistant manager at Sweets & Meats.
Reading Time: < 1 minute MORTAR accepts 12 to 15 people into each of its six yearly training classes, all of which are 14 weeks long. When students begin the program, they generally have one emotion.
“They’re usually very scared,” said Woods, MORTAR’s managing partner and creative director. “For most of our participants, based on their background, they’ve been told ‘no’ for so long, they’ve been taught to believe that everything is impossible. It’s often the first time they’ve been around people who have that spirit of affirmation, that they can accomplish these things, while holding them accountable.”
The class helps students understand business basics. It costs just $250, and MORTAR offers payment plans for students who can’t afford the entire fee upfront. The budding entrepreneurs get help refining their ideas and are assigned mentors to guide them through the class.
“There’s more to make a successful business,” Braziel said. “A network, legal help, mentors — that’s the special sauce of MORTAR.”
Graduates go into the alumni program, which provides further support, including business mentors, networking opportunities, access to business funding, pop-up store space to showcase goods and services, and legal help.
What MORTAR has done is leverage relationships in a way that helps more than just the individual graduates; it helps revitalize their neighborhood.
“One of the major connections has been the prominence of MORTAR as a change agent within the community,” said Bradley, MORTAR’s strategic director. MORTAR has forged so many connections it’s now a big part of Cincinnati’s fabric.
“The ties politically and socially, grant-making operations — it’s bringing everyone together in support of this cause,” Bradley said. “I’ve lived here 30 years, and I’ve not seen an organization that has been able to galvanize this kind of support.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute CINCINNATI — Means Cameron believes that most good things happen in coffee shops.
“People sit down, have a cup a coffee and usually the talks are really genuine,” Cameron said.
The 28-year-old also believes coffee shop conversations can foster creative communities, which is why he and business partner Marcus Ervin are opening Black Coffee this November. The coffee shop will be located next to Black Owned, the store the pair opened in 2014 at 822 Elm St., Downtown to sell the clothing brand they created.
“Our vision was to start a brand and promote black excellence and ownership through fashion,” Cameron said of the Black Owned fashion line he and Ervin originally launched in 2011. “What I wanted to do was create a brand that allowed me to express myself as a creative but also connect to people because I think that ownership idea in our community, there is a disconnect of what we can actually do.”
The West End native said Black Coffee will fill another need he sees in Cincinnati’s African American community when it opens.
“We’ve based our culture around hip-hop, street culture, fashion, art and music,” Cameron said of he and Ervin’s business philosophy. “And as an African American, I felt like in Cincinnati there was no coffee shops that spoke to me as an individual. Even if the coffee was good the environment wasn’t necessarily fitting. So, what Black Coffee is the fix to that. So that people like myself who are artists but also entrepreneurs, creatives can come to a space and feel comfortable.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute “Over-the-Rhine is one of the most popular business areas now, especially for folks that want to walk around and go to different bars, restaurants and retail shops. Unfortunately, it has not been very representative of the Cincinnati community so far,” said William Thomas, co-founder and expansion director of MORTAR, a business accelerator for low-income, inner-city entrepreneurs.
“With all this energy that’s being put into Over-the-Rhine right now, I do feel like there’s an opportunity to change that,” he said, “and in an ideal world, create the most diverse business district in Cincinnati and create a model that can be shown to the rest of the country.”
Over-the-Rhine community leaders and others with an interest in the neighborhood came up with Represent in a working group that Cincinnati City councilmembers Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman convened. MORTAR and the Over-the-Rhine Chamber are leading the effort along with a committee of representatives from the African American Chamber, 3CDC, Findlay Market, Model Group and Urban Sites.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute “Small businesses are the fabric of our community. They are extremely important. It is important that they are successful. Provide capital and technical assistance to small companies is something we are passionate about,” Fifth Third Bank CEO Greg Carmichael said. “When you are starting a small business, you need as much information as possible on the success criteria and make sure you have the adequate funding and have a business plan you can execute.”
The city, alongside MORTAR, Cincinnati’s entrepreneurship hub, will provide the businesses for the program.
“If you go to those neighborhoods again and you are driving along those main streets you see mom-and-pop main street businesses. The more of those we can create, the better we will be,” said MORTAR founding partner Derrick Braziel. “Whether it is occupied storefronts, whether it’s jobs or a great cupcake you never tried before. What MORTAR is trying to show is that there are people all across our city with great ideas if we just invest in them and give them a chance, it makes our city better.”read more
Your neighborhood: Current: Hartwell Tell us more about your role at MORTAR. As the Retail & Events Manager at MORTAR, I help small businesses and entrepreneurs book and coordinate their pop up shops at our four pop up shop locations by giving them the opportunity...read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute There are a lot of game changers in the Cincinnati startup ecosystem. One of those game changers is Lewis Goldfarb.
Goldfarb founded and runs the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. He has had a storied career, ranging from working as a CPA to being an entrepreneur himself. The drive through these career choices has always been simple.
He wants to help people.
“I have had several different jobs and careers and I’ve always been looking for the jobs where I feel like it can make a real difference in the lives of people,” he said, “and that’s what led me to this job in Cincinnati.”read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute ATLANTA is full of community organizations that are hungry to attract the capital for programs, jobs, and developments to grow their neighborhoods in a just and equitable way, according to local champions Nikishka Iyengar and Melonie Tharpe (The Guild). But despite (or perhaps because of) the prevalence of finance and banking in the city, Atlanta is still in its early days of impact investing and including communities in the conversation around capital flows. With The Guild, as well as local champion TransFormation Alliance, we are hopeful the Institute will catalyze the process of dozens of community organizations engaging with finance as a tool for social justice.
CINCINNATI is at the heart of some of America’s most exciting community and economy development, according to local champions Derrick Braziel (MORTAR) and Kristen Barker (Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative). The Institute will build on the pioneering work already being done by the local community around social entrepreneurship and socially-conscious funds by exploring new economic tools and unlocking potential for underserved Cincinnatians.
PHOENIX continues to experience displacement in communities that have been marginalized for decades. Moreover, new investment is accelerating inequality and nonlocal land ownership. Despite these strong headwinds, communities are fighting for social justice by combating predatory lending, offering micro-loans for local entrepreneurs to generate local wealth, and increasing homeownership for people of color, according to local champion Kimber Lanning (Local First Arizona Foundation). Along with other local champions Katelyn Harris-Lange (African-American Women’s Giving and Empowerment Circle) and the Vitalyst Health Foundation, we are thrilled to bring the Institute to Phoenix so the city and its community members can keep innovating around finance for social justice.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute Mortar, the group born in Over-the-Rhine to help entrepreneurs in up-and-coming neighborhoods grow their businesses along with their community, has opened a second space in its original neighborhood.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute
The Walnut Hills landscape is changing by the day. Vacant storefronts are taking shape as the next businesses that will bring energy and a tax base into the neighborhood. When Kroger pulled its grocery store out of the neighborhood in 2017, it was a significant blow to the community. Now, a grant will help open a new Peebles Corner Grocery at the site of the old store.
Reading Time: < 1 minute Most news stories about MORTAR note that it’s an African-American-led group but don’t explain why that matters. While small minority businesses are opening at a faster rate than any others, minorities are likely to receive smaller small-business loans and at higher interest rates than their white counterparts, as shown, for example, in a 2010 U.S. Commerce Department report. That lack of access to capital can kill a business before it gets off the ground.
None of that deterred MORTAR’s leaders, and things changed in 2015. MORTAR was seeking applicants for its first training class, and the announcement appeared in a local newspaper. The article also mentioned that MORTAR was looking for space for its burgeoning business.
The founders were contacted by a local entrepreneur who offered them free office and storage space in Over-the-Rhine.read more
Reading Time: < 1 minute With the recognition that living an issue everyday makes you an expert, and that everyone has their own set of “Wouldn’t it be great if…” insights, we recently organized and co-hosted the region’s first-ever “Policy Pitch Night” to give people in Greater Cincinnati a chance to submit and pitch their policy ideas for how to improve our city.
The submissions were open to anyone, and we received dozens of innovative ideas from everyday experts across the city. Five finalists were selected by a group of judges from within our “Bridgebuilder” network of community leaders. On a recent weekday evening, these five finalists pitched their ideas – Shark Tank style – in front of a panel of city leaders and a diverse audience of 100 people.
Each person in the audience then voted for their favorite policy, and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s office has promised to champion and implement the winning idea at City Hall.
Ideas ranged from increasing the diversity of city-appointed boards and commissions to creating an Office of Homelessness Eradication to developing a new city branding strategy to attract more people to move here. Ultimately, the audience chose as the winning pitch an idea from MORTAR co-founder Derrick Braziel, whose experience led him to advocate for policy and personnel changes to better support minority business growth and innovation.read more