CINCINNATI — From staffing to balancing the budget, building a successful business is not an easy task. And for small business owners, not having the right tools can lead to failure. But in Cincinnati, one organization is there to help.

What You Need To Know

  • MORTAR is a Cincinnati-based company that teaches foundational business management skills to aspiring entrepreneurs

  • In six years, MORTAR has helped 275 businesses get started

  • MORTAR has earned a $100,000 grant from PayPal to continue their efforts to support and sustain Black businesses and communities

Allen Woods is the co-founder and executive director of MORTAR, a Cincinnati-based company that teaches entrepreneurs how to run a successful business. 

“Ultimately, we just want to help people who are dreamers become doers,” Woods said. “We get a lot of people who come to us who have this concept of the business they wanna create, they just don’t know how to implement it, so we give them those next steps to help them get to that next level.” 

And that’s achieved through MORTAR’s 15-week Entrepreneurship Academy. So far, Allen and his team at MORTAR have helped 275 businesses open up.

One of those businesses is Esoteric Brewing company in Walnut Hills. Co-Founder and CEO of Esoteric Brian Jackson said MORTAR’s Academy helped him develop a business plan to make his dream a reality. 

“They’ve been integral in our ability to actually not only get funded and get our name out there, but find the space we’re in today,” Jackson said. “Build those relationships and constantly checking up to make sure that we have the tools we need to succeed.” 

Just down the street at Jazzy Sweeties Bakery, not only do you find some great smells when you walk in, but you find another business owner who learned from the team at MORTAR. 

“I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur so that was always a goal of mine,” Jasmine Ford, owner of Jazzy Sweeties Bakery said. “I’ve always had a passion for baking — owning a bakery? No. It’s just kind of happened, but it’s been a dream come true though.” 

Ford said without MORTAR, she would have never been able to achieve her goal.

“I didn’t know anything about business,” she said. “I’m actually the first in my family to start a business, so I basically had to start from scratch.” 
Woods said 79 percent of MORTAR’s participants are Black women. And Jasmine’s story is important because it’s what success looks like to her. 

“That’s one of the other components for us is kind of seeing that legacy piece,” Woods said. “Knowing that Jasmine can create a business that then she goes back generations and brings people in. Or she can go forward generations and bring people in. I think ultimately, that’s what it’s all about when we think about building community through entrepreneurship. This is what it looks like.” 

To propel MORTAR forward on their journey toward helping revitalize communities, PayPal has granted MORTAR $100,000. 
“For us, having a partner like PayPal come behind us — for one it’s kind of an additional checkmark to the fact that our program works,” Woods said. “And for two, it gives us the ability start to look at our staffing model and really make sure we have people in place to help our graduates like Jasmine and like Brian.” 

He said continuing to build on the relationships with their graduates is a core value and having the grant allows them to continue to do that successfully.

And when Woods walks through the neighborhoods of Cincinnati he knows he’s well-connected, not only to the businesses, but the communities as well. 

“There is no success of MORTAR if our graduates are not successful,” Woods said. So our success is 100 percent tied to whether or not they are successful. But for me this is more than passion, this is my purpose. I truly believe that I was put here on this planet to help people get better.” 
Woods is ready to help as many aspiring business owners as he can. 
“When it comes down to it we are entrepreneurs, and we’re helping entrepreneurs. In the same way that they are growing we are growing and we’re all in this together.”  

For more information on MORTAR’s entrepreneurship academy visit