CINCINNATI -- It’s an unseasonably muggy and dreary February morning on East McMillan Street in Walnut Hills, but that doesn't stop the hot pink walls at Jazzy Sweeties bakery from pouring into the street.
She’s been in business for two years, but 25-year-old owner Jasmine Ford acquired this space recently, and sometimes gets up as early as 4 a.m. to start working on the treats at her bakery, located at 1006 East McMillan Street in Cincinnati.
“It took me a year to get this place open, just finding the funds to start the business,” Ford explained. “I was still working a full-time job when I started MORTAR. Just looking for funds, for grants. Looking for loans. Just finding the right people to help me.”
For some hopeful entrepreneurs in Cincinnati, especially minorities, it’s hard to find the right fit.
That’s where MORTAR comes in. The business incubator serves people of color and women.
Ford’s connection to Walnut Hills goes back to her childhood, even though she grew up near Vine and Race streets in Over-The-Rhine.
She opened her bakery in Walnut Hills because she knows it’s important for minority business owners to open shop in underserved places.
“I didn’t know where to start, I didn’t know where to look,” Ford said. “As I was coming up, I didn’t see black-owned business … so I feel it was very important for me to open up a bakery in this neighborhood.”
Walnut Hills lost its Kroger, and bakery along with it, almost a year ago. The grocery store closed after years of not turning a profit, Kroger officials told WCPO in 2016. The store lost $4.9 million from 2010 to 2016.
MORTAR and its properties are working hard to make sure minorities are included in the revitalization of Walnut Hills, especially on East McMillan.
Since its inception in 2014, 170 people have graduated from MORTAR’s business acceleration program. More than 120 people are currently enrolled, said Strategic Director Sadell Bradley.
“(MORTAR decided) we’re going to offer an accelerator program for minorities and women so we don’t exclude anyone,” Bradley said. “So people that have barriers -- that have been historically marginalized --have an opportunity to own their own business.”
That’s why MORTAR’s been a driving force for Ford.
“I didn’t see many people of color starting a business or owning a business because it was frowned upon if you owned your own business,” she said.
But neighbors are buzzing with the news of her shop. Ford's grandmother, who taught her how to bake pies when she was a little girl, even helps out in the kitchen.
Malinda Carson, who grew up in East Walnut Hills, stopped into Jazzy Sweeties with her 1-year-old grandson Ausar Jones.
“Everything looks delicious,” she said. “My grandson is loving this cookie.”
For Ford, seeing the smiles is just the icing on the cake.