American Express creates a new Blueprint to help BIPOC small businesses

Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet has got behind a new $1-million CSR effort from American Express to support BIPOC-owned businesses across Canada.

American Express has made helping small businesses a priority since early in the pandemic, and also signed the BlackNorth initiative to tackle racism and increase equity in the workplace last year.

This new program, “Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses,” encompasses both causes, providing BIPOC business owners with tools, resources and mentorship to help their businesses thrive and overcome some of the barriers they are more likely to face than their white counterparts.

Each of the 100 businesses accepted to the program will receive a $10,000 grant from American Express ($1 million in total), and take part in a 15-week mentorship and training program delivered by “seasoned mentors” and experts in areas like sales, operations and leadership.

“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 kickstart their next stage of growth,” said American Express Canada president and CEO Lisa Kalhans.

The Nielsen Company surveyed 1,124 SME owners for American Express (596 self-identified as BIPOC and 528 white) and found that:

  • 46% of BIPOC entrepreneurs report a lack of access to mentors to guide their decision-making, compared to 31% of white owners;
  • 68% agree that having consistent access to advice would make them a better business owner;
  • 53% of BIPOC respondents described the barriers they’re currently facing as “significant” compared to 37% of white business owners; and
  • 66% cent of BIPOC business owners say they have difficulty accessing capital and financing for their business, compared to 45% of white owners.

The mentoring and training will be delivered by Ryerson University’s DMZ business incubator, and programming will be developed in consultation with BIPOC-focused community and business organizations.

VanVleet, who owns his own business, FVV Shop, is on board as a spokesperson to spread the word through media and his own social channels.

“Running a business takes hard work and dedication, but for BIPOC entrepreneurs facing barriers that other entrepreneurs don’t, passion sometimes isn’t enough,” said the NBA star. “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.”

Other Canadian influencers have also signed on to help raise awareness of the program which is accepting applications until July 27. North Strategic is managing PR and influencer strategy, while Notch Video handled creative and UM the paid media.

David Brown