By Allen Woods
MORTAR Co-Founder, Chief Vision Caster & Branding Gladiator
I remember the beginning of my journey. The jump start that got me on the path as a business owner was meeting an entrepreneur as a kid.
Before that day at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, I had expressed an interest in photography – but it was never like this. I mean, that day literally changed my life. My parents surprised me with a trip to the museum that day and I remember seeing the stories of black lives captured on film. The triumphs and the trials were somehow propelled on ultra light beams through the lens of this man’s camera and frozen in time on display for the rest of the world to see. And I knew that I wanted to have that same effect on people with the images that I took. After we exited the gallery, I actually got a chance to meet the famed LIFE & VOGUE Magazine photographer, Mr. Gordon Parks. He sat behind a black draped table signing autographs and sharing wisdom with everyone as they made their way to the front of the line. I remember trying to figure out what I would say to him as I patiently waited in the line with my parents as if we were waiting to sit on the lap of a mall Santa that could make all of my wishes come true. I didn’t know why, but I was nervous. We finally made it to the front of the line and Mr. Parks smiled. He spoke to me and my parents as if we were old friends dropping by to sip lemonade on his stoop – I can still hear his voice in my head, but I can’t make out the exact words that he said to me (I’ve literally considered going to a hypnotist to see if we can draw out that memory). Whatever it was that he said to me on that day set me on a path that I’ve never strayed from.
Since then, I’ve been passionate, not just about photography, but about business ownership in general. I’ve stumbled along the road of success alone for more than half of my life with no real mentors or guidance – making a lot of mistakes along the way. It’s these mistakes, these errors in judgement, these flaws that have made me the confident entrepreneur that I’ve become. I’m not afraid of hitting potholes because that’s what I’m used to doing – and I keep driving towards my destination: SUCCESS. I don’t regret any part of this journey, but I do often wish that there would have been someone that I could have leaned on for directions when I felt lost. I remember those lonely moments struggling to make sense of it all, and that’s what drives me now. I want to make sure that MORTAR is able to provide the guidance to entrepreneurs (and prospective entrepreneurs) all across this region. And we’re changing the game.
Two and a half years ago, we started with the goal of helping adults chase their dreams and develop local economies inside of redeveloping communities – and now, we’re adding a different type of jump start. This school year, we’ve begun a new partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools. As a part of their Vision 2020 initiative, we’ll be actively engaged in teaching entrepreneurship to children at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy and Westwood Elementary. As I was at the Rothenberg Prep back-to-school kickoff, I realized that my life has come full circle. This time, I was the one sitting behind a black draped table smiling & talking to students and families as they made it to the front of the line. Through our MORTAR Remix youth entrepreneurship program, I have the honor and privilege to be the spark for the next generation of amazing entrepreneurs – and that’s a moment that deserves to be captured on film.