Nationally Recognized Minority-Focused Startup Accelerator Coming To Akron

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Five community institutions partner to bring MORTAR to Bounce Innovation Hub

Akron, OH (Feb. 4, 2020) —Bounce Innovation Hub, GAR Foundation, Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the City of Akron and the Greater Akron Chamber announced today their partnership with MORTAR, an accelerator and business development service for historically marginalized entrepreneurs.

MORTAR was founded in 2014 in Cincinnati and is a 15-week program that helps both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs learn the fundamental elements of business ownership and build a comprehensive business canvas. A primary goal of the program is to launch businesses that contribute to local economic development and establish a path to generational sustainability and wealth. It has been credited by Essence Magazine with helping Cincinnati become the fastest-growing economic power in the Midwest for minority small business owners.

“It is incredibly important that entrepreneurs who haven’t seen themselves represented in the entrepreneurial landscape receive access to the tools and resources that their business counterparts have been given for years,” said William Thomas, co-founder of MORTAR. “MORTAR was founded and exists to provide that access and support, and we are thrilled to join the community of Akron.”

Applications open Feb. 4, and the program starts in early April (bouncehub.org/apply-to-mortar). The cost is $295 for the entire 15 weeks with an 18-month alumni program to follow. Payment plans are available if participants are unable to pay the entire balance at once. The program will be headquartered at and facilitated by the Bounce staff, led by Ace Epps, director of inclusive entrepreneurship. The official name is MORTAR at Bounce, and it is the second track of Bounce’s GROW program.

“I have been helping individuals grow their businesses in Akron for over 10 years. As a business counselor and facilitator of several entrepreneurial classes, I think it’s a monumental time in Akron for small business owners,” said Epps. “For these important local organizations to come together to provide support and assistance to our minority population is an amazing opportunity.”

The MORTAR program found success by focusing on entrepreneurs who are often ignored, and the new program in Akron will strive for the same focus. By targeting underserved and redeveloping communities, the team will be able to offer non-traditional or historically marginalized entrepreneurs

the opportunity to use their talents to not just make a dollar, but to positively participate in the rise of Northeast Ohio.

“From the beginning, I have envisioned and positioned Bounce to be a dynamic hub of activity serving entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds,” said City of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This partnership with MORTAR will continue to grow Akron’s support for non-tech and neighborhood businesses, and will engage and elevate some of our community’s most dynamic and promising entrepreneurs.”

In the spring of 2019, Bounce started looking for ways to expand programs and services beyond tech companies to also support non-tech entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as retail or home healthcare companies. At that same time, inspired by the findings of the Elevate Greater Akron plan, a number of other stakeholders were also looking at programs designed to support minority-owned startups and small businesses, which are under-represented in Greater Akron’s economy. MORTAR emerged as a proven model with strong outcomes.

“MORTAR at Bounce catalyzes startup activity among Akron’s black population which is a great complement to our ongoing work through the Opportunity Akron economic inclusion initiative,” said Robert DeJournett, VP of Opportunity and Inclusion at the Greater Akron Chamber. “Thus, positioning the region for growth and prosperity.”

Akron-based GAR Foundation has also come forward with enthusiastic support. “This program gives overdue attention to our community’s minority-owned startups and small businesses, said Christine Mayer, president of GAR Foundation. “MORTAR at Bounce will help strengthen the efforts of entrepreneurs who are more reflective of Akron’s population.”

The initiative is in service to the community’s collaborative spirit and with a vision for a city fueled by diverse entrepreneurs, spurred on by the Elevate Greater Akron initiative.

“Successful entrepreneurial ecosystems are built upon the collaborative interactions between entrepreneurship support organizations, philanthropy, government and others. Ecosystems that boast strong collaboration and trust are more cohesive, adept at meeting the needs of entrepreneurs, and capable of realizing their potential as drivers of innovative ideas and inclusivity,” noted Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation and board chair of Bounce. “Collective efforts in the Greater Akron area are bearing fruit; Akron is a place where entrepreneurs can grow their ventures. MORTAR at Bounce will build upon the spirit of collaboration already present so that we can all work more intentionally to serve historically underserved entrepreneurs in the non-tech space.”

For more information and to apply for MORTAR, please visit bouncehub.org/mortar.

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About Bounce Innovation Hub

Bounce Innovation Hub was founded in January 2018 and is the region’s first open innovation hub serving northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial and innovation community. Located in downtown Akron in the former B.F. Goodrich plant, the building comprises more than 300,000 square feet of coworking, event and meeting space and office, lab and light manufacturing space. It also includes a creative co-op/makerspace, an esports lab and a coffee house and café. With more than 50 organizations in the building, Bounce accounts for more than 250 people working and creating.

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