W.chicken MORTAR Cincinnati Executive Secretary Allen Woods, who opened the first site in 2014, recalls that Cincinnati is listed as one of the cities with the highest income inequality and social inequality among black residents. Fortunately, Woods and co-founders Derrick Brazilel and William Thomas II saw these obstacles as opportunities for growth. After five years, Essence Magazine has named Cincinnati the fastest growing business hub in the Midwest, and MORTAR’s Academy of Entrepreneurship has helped. “People generally crave the grassroots entrepreneurship movement,” says Woods.
To date, MORTAR’s Academy of Business Development has completed 300 students, many of whom not only provide services, but also provide a path to sustainable common good.
“We’ve created our own culturally literate curriculum and licensed it to other organizations,” explains Woods. “We work in eight different cities, which can increase our footprint and create a fair and lucrative ecosystem for black and brown entrepreneurs.”
In April, MORTAR partnered with Kroger and P&G to support business-to-business entrepreneurs in a historically marginalized community. Woods “blends” a rigorous 15-week program into an 8-week virtual program, with two industry giants funding moderators and funding MORTAR’s nationally recognized entrepreneurship academy. They say it will be expanded. The participating entrepreneurs benefited directly from working with executives with backgrounds in brand development, social media marketing, sales and distribution. The first cohort will graduate next month.
“Economic inclusion is an important part of our community and our country,” said Pat Cady, P&G senior vice president. “Our leaders are excited to share their unique experiences and skills with these entrepreneurs. We are excited to combine resources with MORTAR and Kroger to help the community. . “
“Our ‘Framework for Action: Diversity, Justice and Understanding’ is designed to harness Kroger’s collective energy to promote racial equality in culture and communities.” Said Angel Colon, Senior Director of Diversity for Croger’s Companies and Suppliers.
Both Erikka Gray and Brandon Z Hoff started working full-time in 2019. Gray is passionate about helping brands develop their fragrant identities and creating the signature fragrance for ArtsWave’s Power of HER campaign. “The scent can connect us with nostalgic memories and set us in the mood for self-care and relaxation,” says Gray. District 78 Short Vine is a new retailer offering tranquility like plants and hand-poured scented candles. The Gray Store is one of four in the recently opened holistic space. Break Cincinnati, and all of them belong to MORTAR graduates.
Upon his release, Hoff designed and made college spirits inspired by the colors of the Pan-African flag (red, black, green). When his mother asked him what he wanted to do, he said, “I’m proud of my ancestors.” It became the slogan for his Blue Ash-based company, Heritage Hill. Hoff says he would like to learn capacity building strategies and framework.
Rather than using a “universal” approach to finding candidates with a business degree, MORTAR seeks people who are interested in perseverance, a fresh approach, and heritage.
One of the earliest MORTAR graduates was Means Cameron, who participated in his clothing line’s program. Black outerwear .. “”[Cameron] I understand there’s more to learn after graduation, ”explains Woods. “Entrepreneurship is very different from what you learn in a traditional business administration degree.”
I also own Cameron BlaCk Coffee Lounge Downtown now has apparel partnerships with Cincinnati FC and Bengals, and it’s not uncommon to see hip-hop celebrities in music videos with BlaCKO Ned. Quoting the success of graduates like Cameron, Woods compares the economic potential of Cincinnati to Tulsa before the 1921 massacre that devastated the entire black community.
“When we think of Cincinnati’s potential to be a variation on what was built on Black Wall Street, it’s not an unrealistic possibility,” he adds. “I think we have the tools, insight, and brilliance to do this. Hopefully we’ll make some of the changes we need to make to position Cincinnati like this: I can [a place where] You can say, “This is the city you want to go to if your a black business,” but it takes more than mortar. “