CINCINNATI -- A local nonprofit that helps low-income entrepreneurs start or expand their businesses is among 20 accelerators to win a national contest last month.
It's the second year in a row MORTAR will get $50,000 from U.S. Small Business Administration as part of its Growth Accelerator Fund competition.
The winners -- stretching from Brooklyn to Hawaii -- include industries and sectors from manufacturing to tech startups to farming.
MORTAR's mission is to help the people who are sometimes left behind as their neighborhoods redevelop. The accelerator has focused primarily Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills, reaching out to "non-traditional entrepreneurs" -- people who have inherent drive and talent, but don't have a business background or access to the resources they might need to start and grow a business. Those entrepreneurs can take part in a nine-week course to help them learn the ins and outs of business.
MORTAR's plans for the SBA funds include opening an extra pop-up space for entrepreneurs to test their businesses and developing a more cultural-sensitive curriculum.
"Since 2014, we've worked to ensure that all entrepreneurs -- regardless of race, background or class -- will have the opportunity to participate in Cincinnati's burgeoning regional economy," said Derrick Braziel, MORTAR founding partner and managing director. "This year, we hope to continue opening doors of opportunity for our region's brightest, yet under-represented entrepreneurs."
The SBA's Growth Accelerator Fund contest brings attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
For one year, MORTAR will have to report metrics on jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained, among other pieces of information. The SBA hopes to use that data to measure accelerators' impact, and to develop long-term relationships with startups and the community.
MORTAR had to go through a two-tier panel process with experts in entrepreneurship, investing and business plans both inside and out of the federal government. The finalist expert judges reviewed the applications and pitch videos submitted by the finalists.