left to right: William Thomas, Derrick Braziel, and Allen Woods

left to right: William Thomas, Derrick Braziel, and Allen Woods

Sometimes in the name of progress, the focus is put on improved buildings and places instead of people and communities. MORTAR believes that to build a true community, you need more than just great buildings. If we try to look at the buildings as a neighborhood’s bricks, then the people are the “mortar” that hold it all together, says William Thomas, co-founder of MORTAR.

Over the last decade, OTR has begun to grow with unprecedented determination, overcoming the long-standing reputation of poverty and violence. MORTAR seeks to further this growth, focusing on empowering underserved individuals through entrepreneurship.

“Although there is a great progress being made in this community, the benefits have not reached all of the residents equally,” says Thomas. “This program will seek to bring opportunity to those who previously may have thought that business and entrepreneurship was not an option for them.”

Thomas, Derrick Braziel, and Allen Woods started MORTAR in June 2014 with the belief that they could do more to support entrepreneurs who were traditionally overlooked. “We had concerns about the OTR development being equitable and we say MORTAR as a way to help create more opportunities through entrepreneurship,” says Thomas.

MORTAR offers a nine-week business course designed to help urban entrepreneurs start or grow their dream businesses. This course is targeted towards underserved and underrepresented Cincinnati entrepreneurs. Additional business services provided by MORTAR include: one-on-one mentorship, legal support and connections to potential funding streams.

They have also started a unique co-working/pop-up shop concept in OTR designed to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to test their ideas in real-time. Whether it is for a day, weekend or month, MORTAR’s co-working facility and pop-up shop will provide real-time experiences designed to help students earn revenue, customers and lessons associated with operating a business.

Since launching, MORTAR has continued to find additional ways to remove barriers and add to the entrepreneurship ecosystem here in Cincinnati. “I want Cincinnati to be a city where big things happen – where entrepreneurship comes from many different walks of life,” says Thomas. “I want Cincinnati to be a city in which your demography doesn’t determine your destiny. I want Cincinnati to believe in its own people.”

Thomas says Cincinnati is on the brink of a major comeback. “I hope MORTAR provides an opportunity for us to build together,” he adds. “We would love to be able to take MORTAR to additional neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati because it truly is a great city with awesome people.”

MORTAR is located in OTR at 1329 Vine Street and their pop-up shop, Brick OTR, is located next door. To learn more about MORTAR, visit www.weareMORTAR.com.