Model & Strategy

MORTAR believes that entrepreneurship for historically marginalized people and populations has the potential to change lives, preserve communities, and stem the ever-growing wealth gap in the United States. MORTAR uses a four-pronged strategy that includes: a culturally relevant entrepreneurship and business development curriculum taught over a 15 week period; brick and mortar pop-up shops where entrepreneurs can ‘fail forward’; the Iron Chest Fund through which they can provide ‘friends and family capital’ to entrepreneurs who have completed their course; and city level advocacy to influence agenda-setting and decision-making in favor of entrepreneurs of color and female entrepreneurs.

At a Glance
Founded: 2014
Executive Director: Allen Woods
Economic Empowerment
Location of work: Domestic
Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati’s entrepreneurship hub
Meet Allen Woods

Executive Director, Allen Woods is the creative force behind the MORTAR brand, as well as a business consultant and training facilitator for incoming students. Recognized as a 2016 Cincinnati Business Courier 40 under 40 Business Leader, 2017 John F. Barrett Entrepreneur Vision Award and 2017 Echoing Green BMA Fellow, Woods is also a sought-after public speaker who recently shined on the TEDx stage. As a brand strategist and designer, Allen assisted directly in the growth of hundreds of small businesses and personal brands across the globe.


The largest demographic of entrepreneurs nationally continues to be Black women (with the number of Black women business owners growing by 89% just in the past year) and that trend remains true in the MORTAR community of students and alumni. 65% of the 261 MORTAR graduates are Black women.


38 new businesses were created as well as 79 new jobs following completion of our Entrepreneurship Academy in 2019.

Since 2015, MORTAR has awarded $263,000 in loans, grants, and equity investments to graduates of our program.