Communications pairs with MORTAR

By: Emily Linginfelter ~Staff Writer~

The Xavier Communication Arts Department is partnering with MORTAR, a small business accelerator course, to provide a unique combination of learning and service for students this fall semester.

MORTAR - Joseph Allen Woods
Photo courtesy of | Allen Woods is one of MORTAR’s three co-founders.

Eighteen individuals from Dr. Wendy Maxian’s “Writing for the Media” course are paired with exactly 18 startup entrepreneurs from the historical Over-the-Rhine district. Alongside learning skills in the classroom, the students are responsible for gathering primary and secondary research for the new businesses and gradually piecing together a promotional portfolio, which will serve as nonfiction narratives for media content.

“The idea is to make the portfolios as turnkey as possible, so that the entrepreneurs can quickly receive and apply the work wherever it is potentially needed,” Maxian said.

By the end of the semester, the samples from Xavier students include feature stories, press releases detailing the launch of the businesses, webpage content and 30-day social media templates. Jasmine Ford, a business owner for a newly established dessert shop called Jazzy Sweets, believes this partnership gives Xavier students the opportunity to learn about running a real business while the MORTAR participants benefit by gaining professionally written material.

“When using words to grab people’s attention, some of us may not know what the words are, but with the help of a student, we could craft some amazing work together,” Ford said in an email.

Specifically, MORTAR serves to deliver the proper business tools for success to aspiring entrepreneurs. Its co-founders, Allen Woods, Derrick Braziel and William Thomas II, are three successful businessmen who formed the idea to assist the current neighborhood residents in Over-the-Rhine. The area recently faced gentrification, which drew popularity for incoming professionals and causally displaced long-term residents. MORTAR aims to help people who live in the neighborhood thrive in its new development.

The program’s syndication with Xavier became possible through the efforts of Sean Rhiney, board member of MORTAR and director of the James and Delrose Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning. Rhiney and Woods believe the collaborative work accurately reflects the university’s mission of pursuing social justice in the immediate area.

“I think a partnership like this is valuable because the students are actually working with real businesses, and so the work that they put in will actually make a difference in somebody’s life,” Woods said.