Mortar turns locals into entrepreneurs in Cincinnati's gentrifying economy


Mortar's nine-week business development program is explained and celebrated in Yes! Magazine, a nonprofit, ad-free online and print publication offering tools for citizen engagement and stories about real people working for a better world.

While Mortar is open to all, Araz Hachadourian writes, the majority of its students are low-income women — like Jasmine Ford, who is featured in the story. After going through the Mortar program and raising funds through a Kiva campaign, Ford is planning to open a storefront bakery, Jazzy Sweeties, in Walnut Hills.

"The (Mortar) idea sprung from founders Derrick Braziel and Allen Woods, who live in Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood," Hachadourian writes. "Once a working-class neighborhood made up mostly of German immigrants, the area was later populated by African Americans arriving during the Great Migration. Most businesses then were bars and small shops.

"Over the years, tech firms moved in and more than $843 million was invested in Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding downtown area, bringing an onslaught of development and new residents. Braziel says the neighborhood still has small businesses, 'but they’re serving a different demographic now.'"

"A lot of the entrepreneurs that we work with operate out of the underground cash economy," Braziel says. "They’re running businesses out of their living room or they’re doing business out of their trunk or they’re hustling in some way, shape, or form. There’s talent all around, what’s lacking is the know-how."

Read the full Yes! Magazine story here.
 
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