MORTAR Covington goals to duplicate OTR entrepreneurship program’s success in Northern Kentucky

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COVINGTON, Ky. – Shannon Glover knows his way around a kitchen.

She was only 7 years old when she started helping out at Dot’s Diner, her mother’s old restaurant in Covington. And Glover received her formal education from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas.

When she decided to take her job as a personal chef to the next level, Glover didn’t need any cooking help. What she really needed was training on the business side.

She received this training from MORTAR Covington.

Nicholas N. Reece Photography

Shannon Glover

“Up until that point, I was a person who cooked. People ate my food. They bought it and I did, ”said Glover. “But that’s the entrepreneurship of getting your LLC, doing legitimate business, going to the incubator kitchen, figuring out you need health department certificates, getting insurance – that’s what MORTAR brought to the table for me.”

MORTAR Covington is a Renaissance Covington program and offers a 15-week course for entrepreneurs based on the training developed by MORTAR Cincinnati.

The goal is to focus on historically underserved populations, including people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community. However, the Covington program is not limited to individuals with any particular background, said Jill Schneider, program manager at MORTAR Covington.

“A large part of our mission is the opportunity for everyone,” said Schneider. “We would never want to leave anyone out. However, when we talk about traditionally underserved or traditionally marginalized populations, we really try to put the focus on people who traditionally do not have this opportunity. “

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Nicholas N. Reece Photography

Jill Schneider

Glover was one of five women who made up MORTAR Covington’s first entrepreneurial cohort in 2020. They began their training in August and concluded in November with a competition in which they presented their businesses to a jury. Glover was the Judge’s Choice winner. She received $ 2,500 plus 150 hours of $ 15,000 worth of marketing services to promote Legendary Eatz, her company that specializes in soul food recipes with healthier ingredients.

The awards are a big step in the right direction, but Glover said she knows her success won’t be instant or guaranteed.

“As I go on, you build each block,” she said. “It’s not an instant thing because nothing is instant.”

Glover found out about this from MORTAR Covington, she said.

Survey potential entrepreneurs

Work began in 2019 to bring the MORTAR program to northern Kentucky as an extension of Renaissance Covington’s efforts to make downtown Covington more vibrant, Schneider said.

“When they discussed how we can nurture existing and potential entrepreneurs, it was recognized that the diversity of business owners does not necessarily reflect the diversity and amazement of the Covington community,” she said.

The discussion naturally centered on MORTAR in Cincinnati, she said, due to the success the organization has had with emerging entrepreneurs from marginalized communities.

“Renaissance Covington believed that partnering with MORTAR Cincinnati would be an amazing way to really advance this mission across the river to Covington,” said Schneider.

Interest in MORTAR has extended well beyond the three-state realm.

The organization has also expanded to Kansas City, Milwaukee and Akron, said Tim Barr, outreach and expansion manager at MORTAR Cincinnati.

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Montel Adkins | MontelVisuals

Tim Barr

“Many of the obstacles our entrepreneurs face and many of the problems they face are nationwide,” Barr said. “We just really want to grow what we do and what impact we have.”

As MORTAR expands to other cities, the goal is to ensure that there are community organizations and individuals who can deliver the organization’s curriculum and connect aspiring entrepreneurs with the local people and resources who can make them succeed.

“We want to make sure these cities that expand with MORTAR have the same success as MORTAR here in Cincinnati,” said Barr.

The coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for everyone to work in 2020, he added, but the MORTAR Cincinnati team and its partners in other cities found safe ways to keep the program going.

“I see it as an opportunity”

At Covington, classes were held in person with social distancing. The pitch competition was recorded for the public to see live or later and vote for their favorite entrepreneur. Michel’e Tevis, the owner of Berries and More, was the People’s Choice winner and received $ 1,500.

MORTAR Covington hopes to have between 10 and 12 entrepreneurs in its next group, Schneider said, and is taking applications by the end of January.

Eventually, Schneider hopes that entrepreneurs who have completed the MORTAR Covington program will open stores in some of the city’s empty storefronts if their plans include stationary locations.

Barr said he was looking forward to it.

“I’ve been to Pike Street and I’m really excited to see the seats available,” he said. “I see it as an opportunity.”

Glover said she hoped to open a store for Legendary Eatz one day.

She is currently working on a website that will allow customers to order meals online via daily specials that include their special sauces.

She is also a junior at Northern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Glover said she wanted to become a licensed consultant while she worked on building her grocery business.

Her goal is one day to own a company that will provide jobs to people in need, she said.

“I want to be able to come back and employ people in my community who need a hand up,” she said. “You know, I work every day. Come here and I can show you what we’re doing in the kitchen. I can pay you, we can help you, and then you can move on because this is a community. “

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Courtesy Shannon Glover

Shannon Glover shot at the Center for Great Neighborhoods in Covington.

MORTAR Covington is accepting applications for its next cohort through January 31, 2021. More information is available online.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and to highlight issues that we need to address. She has been reporting on women and minority companies in the greater Cincinnati area for more than 20 years. To reach Lucy, send an email to [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.