New fund aims to help minority entrepreneurs struggling because of COVID-19 crisis

'We don't have the luxury of waiting'
African American Chamber New Headquarters
Posted at 3:46 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 15:46:40-04

CINCINNATI — Hoping to save struggling minority-owned businesses throughout the Tri-State, the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce and MORTAR are teaming up to create a fund to help minority business owners being hurt by the COVID-19 crisis.

The fund is called the Minority Business Emergency Assistance Fund, and the goal is to raise $100,000.

The African American chamber and MORTAR, a resource hub for urban entrepreneurs, are leading and recruiting a coalition of regional organizations to help raise the money. Groups involved in the work include:

· The Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative

· Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA

· The Indian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky

· The Local Initiatives Support Corporation

· The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce

· Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

“We are acting now to save a generation of minority small businesses in the Cincinnati region. The Minority Business Emergency Assistance Fund represents good people and great corporate citizens doing the smart thing to maintain and grow our black and minority business community,” African American Chamber President Eric Kearney said in a news release. “We are overwhelmed and grateful for the cooperation and support.”

Derrick Braziel, MORTAR’s development director and co-founder, said in the release that the region is “home to one of the nation’s strongest ecosystems for entrepreneurs of color.”

MORTAR wins $50K in national competition for second year in a row
William Thomas (left) and Derrick Braziel, two of the co-founders of Mortar, sit inside the nonprofit’s Over-the-Rhine office.

“We don’t have the luxury of waiting for politicians to devise solutions, many of which will fall short of our true needs,” Braziel said. “The only way this generation of hard-working, job-creating businesses will survive is by identifying needed resources and creating a mutual aid network to fill those needs.”

Urban League President and CEO Eddie Koen said in the release that the Urban League is thrilled to partner with the African American Chamber and MORTAR on the effort.

“It is imperative that we provide relief and inclusive pathways for capital for businesses in our community,” Koen said in the release.

“Our businesses are committed to getting through this,” Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative Executive Director Willie Hill said in the release. “Let’s help make the support for them more equitable.”

Applications for funding will be accepted from vetted minority entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. Funding will be for businesses experiencing an acute need for immediate cash. Emergency needs include, but are not limited to, payroll gaps, rent or mortgage payments and bill payments, according to the news release.

The businesses that receive help also must agree to work with service providers to develop ways to make technology a bigger part of their businesses.

Minority entrepreneurs and small business owners interested in receiving funding should complete an online questionnaire.

Those behind the fund are counting on corporations, individuals and other organizations to contribute to the fund, both in money and in-kind gifts. Anyone interested in helping financially or by other means should email Kristi Clement Williams at