Supporting nontraditional entrepreneurs to build vibrant local economies.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
In many cities across the country, historically marginalized entrepreneurs and communities do not have the support or capital to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. In Cincinnati, Ohio, a city with one of the highest rates of income inequality in the country, many small-business owners and entrepreneurs have struggled to overcome the hurdles of starting a business amidst gentrification and lack of resources. Across the country, traditional entrepreneurship programs have failed to serve marginalized leaders, who face a unique layer of barriers and challenges. Without support designed to target these barriers, local business leaders find it difficult to escape cycles of disinvestment.
In the heart of Cincinnati’s vibrant and developing community, Derrick co-founded an entrepreneurial hub to give local talent the resources they need to thrive as entrepreneurs and community leaders. MORTAR runs an Entrepreneurship Training Academy, hosts pop-up shops to test out ideas around the city, and invests in small-business owners, all the while committing to lifting up disadvantaged leaders. MORTAR is building a model and an ecosystem that invests in people as a way to invest in cities. Since 2014, Derrick and MORTAR have led 17 cohorts of entrepreneurs in Cincinnati and 2 in Milwaukee, partnering with financial institutions, nonprofits, city government, corporations, and school systems to transform the economic landscape. MORTAR’s goal is to help 1,000 historically marginalized entrepreneurs start and/or grow businesses by 2022.
“A woman named Chanel joined MORTAR for our third cohort in 2015. At the time, Chanel had a business named Shingo that specialized in designing creative, high-end apparel for customers all over the world. As she was looking for opportunities to increase exposure for her business, MORTAR connected her with P&G to curate a fashion show through the Cincinnati Music Festival, which Chanel has now been doing for three years.
She wanted to build on her experience in fashion by opening a shoe store in Over-the-Rhine. She approached MORTAR for help in which we were able to offer her access to our permanent pop-up space in Over-the-Rhine with the opportunity to land a business loan in partnership with First Financial Bank and MORTAR’s Iron Chest Fund. This support led to Chanel being named as the OTR Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018, showing what’s possible with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of support.”
-Derrick wrote a blog about his selection as a 2019 Obama Foundation Fellow. Read it now +
-On the heels of MLK Day, MORTAR was recognized as the 2020 recipient of the State of Ohio MLK Commission Award for Economic Opportunity. Learn more about the award +