American Express Canada today launched Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses, which it described as a mentorship and grant program designed to support the advancement of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) business owners across Canada.
As part of Blueprint, 100 BIPOC business will take part in a program, “made possible by a grant from the American Express Foundation, designed to provide the tools, resources and community to help them thrive.”
Additionally, the company said it is contributing $1 million in grants that will be “dispersed between the 100 mentorship program participants, with each participant receiving $10,000 to fuel the growth of their business.”
According to a new survey commissioned by American Express Canada, BIPOC business owners face barriers to running their businesses at a rate higher than their white counterparts.
More than half (53%) of BIPOC respondents described the barriers they’re currently facing as “significant” compared to 37% of white business owners. In addition, 66% of BIPOC business owners say they have difficulty accessing capital and financing for their business.”
“Owning a business can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but unfortunately, we know the entrepreneurship journey isn’t the same for all Canadians,” said company president and CEO Lisa Kalhans.
“With Blueprint, we’ve created a program that aims to impact BIPOC business owners, one that responds to barriers, provides access to mentorship and helps kick start their next stage of growth.”
The research further revealed that 46% of BIPOC entrepreneurs report a lack of access to mentors to guide their decision-making and over two-thirds (68%) agree that having consistent access to advice would make them a better business owner.
To help respond to this need, a release stated, Blueprint “offers participants a 15-week mentorship and training program delivered by seasoned mentors and subject matter experts on topics ranging from sales and marketing to operations and leadership.
“Participants will take part in workshops, 1:1 coaching sessions and group learning sessions designed to help fuel business growth. On top of this, all eligible applicants will have access to Blueprint’s independent online learning platform.”
Blueprint is powered by the DMZ, a Ryerson University-based business incubator, with programming developed in consultation with BIPOC-focused community and business organizations across Canada, including the Afro Caribbean Business Network, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism.
“At the DMZ, we’re passionate about fostering a diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, so our involvement in Blueprint was a natural fit,” said Abdullah Snobar, its executive director.
“There’s a clear opportunity gap that BIPOC-owned, small businesses face – a problem that has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Together with Amex, we’re thrilled to provide BIPOC business owners with better access to funding, mentorship, and the resources needed to grow, and grow quickly.”
To help spread the word about Blueprint, American Express Canada has also teamed up with Toronto Raptors basketball player and owner of the FVV Shop, Fred VanVleet.
“Running a business takes hard work and dedication, but for BIPOC entrepreneurs facing barriers that other entrepreneurs don’t, passion sometimes isn’t enough,” he said.
“I’m excited to be a part of a program that helps even the playing field for these businesses, and offers them resources that will help take their entrepreneurial game to the next level.”
BIPOC business owners can review program eligibility and apply by visiting dmz.to/AmexBlueprint.