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
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.
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. 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.
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.
Derrick’s work has led to recognition from the Indianapolis Star, YES! Magazine, Next City, Politico, the Stanford Social Innovation Review and NBC Nightly News. He has also been named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs and the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 2018 40 under 40 list.
He is an Echoing Green and 2016-17 BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Fellow, a 2018 Next City Vanguard and the proud son of two first generation college graduates.
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.
Shannon Hooten has been writing since she was twelve years old and woke up from a vivid dream she just had to write down. Since then, she’s experimented with other forms of creative writing; including, poetry and scriptwriting and has offered her expertise in copy editing to other writers. Currently, she’s working on her debut novel; a young adult fantasy that she hopes will give voice to black fiction authors and black women with an interest in fantasy and science fiction.
Shannon is a graduate of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and a current student at Xavier University. She’s co-owner of Elevated Soul Food, a catering company in Cincinnati, and dreams of starting her own publishing company.
As MORTAR’s Retail & Events Manager, Shannon manages the Brick Pop-Up Shop in Walnut Hills and is responsible for booking the Brick Pop-Up Shops in Over-the-Rhine. With a strong background in retail and marketing, she offers her expertise to merchandise and promote the Pop-Up Shops and the vendors who use them. She couldn’t be more excited to help small business owners realize their dreams and be a part of the MORTAR team!
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 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 Program and Evaluation Manager. Victoria implements whatever moving parts need to happen to ensure that our newest entrepreneurs have a life-changing experience through our Academy. She also collects and analyzes data to make sure that we’re completing our mission and can vie to gain more funds to support more and more entrepreneurs as we aim to tear down as many historical and systemic barriers as possible. 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.
Graphic design wasn’t a career choice for Naimah until it came time to choose a major at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The only one that really rang true to what she loved was graphic design.
Up until then, she had a love of visual arts and fashion design, and had been raised an entrepreneur. For many years she worked on her skills as a fashion illustrator. She loved (and still loves) to draw things by hand. She later founded her first clothing line, “Designs By Naimah” at 14 years old, and offered unique, handmade, crochet garments to her eclectic audiences. Then in her late teens she developed her own illustration style which she named “aura vibrations”, and began to sell her pieces to lovers of art all over the city of Cincinnati. Her love of beautiful, creative expression, and her artistic talent, helped her to easily move into the graphic design field as she began to efficiently work on computers, not just work by hand.
Post graduation (and an internship @ MORTAR) she officially became apart of the MORTAR team and started her own graphic design company, Above The Grid, LLC. She currently offers branding work to small business owners through her company and manages design projects for MORTAR alumni and MORTAR itself.
Karla Dunn is a multi-faceted personality. She has wide business experience ranging from being an IT Consultant for a Fortune 100 corporation to Sales Consulting in the Beauty industry to providing Personal Chef services for professional athletes and Cincinnati elites.
She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, with a B.S. in Marketing. She is an entrepreneur at heart and has had several businesses of her own in the past, some successful, some not. She believes in the motto, “The difference between success and failure is the last time you got up.” She has a passion for those who have new ideas and desire to start a business. She loves talking to entrepreneurs and consulting with them to assist in any way that she can to help them realize their dreams.
Currently, she has a faith-based clothing line called, “God’s Girl”. Though she loves all things creative, her greatest artistic passion is food, she attended Midwest Culinary Institute and has spent many years as a caterer and food entrepreneur.
Karla is very excited to be a part of the MORTAR Team; working with alumni and helping their visions come to reality.
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.
Roycelle Parker LOVES helping and supporting – PEOPLE. Even as the oldest girl in a family of six children, she assisted her mom in managing their home. She is very excited to help and support the MORTAR vision as the Office Manager, bringing a wealth of knowledge gained from over 30 years of experience in the field. She has also obtained an Accounting Degree, and is also a Bookkeeper, Certified Tax Professional, and Notary Public.
When you come to the MORTAR office don’t be surprised if you hear Roycelle “burst out” singing. She loves singing songs and writing lyrics, including poetry. She has currently has published a CD single titled, “Not Until You Love With the Love of the Lord.” She is also an entrepreneur for over 10 years providing administrative services to clients.
Roycelle is married to Reggie, her husband of 38 years. They have 2 children and 2 grandchildren.
Candice Hayes-McInnis is a licensed CPA who has been working in public accounting for the last 4 years. After graduating with her Masters of Accounting from Ohio State, she has been a tax accountant in a number of arenas from the big 4 to middle market. Now she is a Corporate Learning Manager for the Ohio Society of CPAs. In this role, she creates the continued education all CPAs must complete to retain licensure.
She also recently launched a nonprofit of her own called PROVIDOM which aims to positively transform relationships with money through financial literacy education and access to solutions that promote and support financial freedom! PROVIDOM offers financial literacy education and provide access to financial solutions giving you knowledge and confidence to “Grasp Money Differently.” Candice is also the accountant for Mortar and is an avid supporter of the organization. All alumni are welcome to reach out to her for guidance and advisement.
Tim Barr, originally from Dayton, OH is a graduate of Xavier University with a degree in Communication Studies. After graduation, Tim took on a year of service through the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati program with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, where he worked as a Food Pantry Coordinator.
Following the year of service Tim managed the volunteer experience as their Volunteers Coordinator. Tim is passionate about developing neighborhoods and empowering communities to function at their greatest potential. Tim has also worked in 3CDC’s civic spaces promoting civic engagement through customer service. Previously, Tim was a Community Engagement Specialist with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.
Tim serves his community as a Board Member of Cincinnati Young Black Professionals (CYBP) providing inclusive engagement for young professionals and serving also with MedMentor of Greater Cincinnati providing one-on-one mentorship to youth living with chronic illnesses. In his down time Tim enjoys traveling and exploring music and is eager to learn and grow with the MORTAR team
Vic Mullins is a mom to three beautiful children and was born and raised in Cincinnati. She is a graduate of Walnut Hills High School and Northern Kentucky University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media and Broadcasting. Vic is dedicated to using her skill set to improve the lives of other Cincinnatians through her career path of service.
As an alumnus of both the Cincinnati chapter of AmeriCorps Public Allies and New Faces of Fundraising, Vic joined the MORTAR family bringing along with her an extensive background that spans the media, the arts, teaching, and fundraising. After spending a few years serving as an art teacher for Cincinnati’s youth, Vic decided to make a career pivot to focus more on her skills as a development professional.
Because support from the surrounding communities is vital to MORTAR’s success, Vic is working diligently in her role as Development Manager to expand awareness in Cincinnati communities in hopes to broaden our donor base.
In her free time, Vic enjoys binge-watching Netflix shows and reading.