2022 Blueprint gives a leg up to 100 new BIPOC-owned businesses

Nevell Provo

One hundred BIPOC-owned businesses selected for the 2022 Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses, powered by the DMZ, a mentorship and grant program that supports the advancement of Black, Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC) business owners in Canada. The project is an American Express Canada initiative and is part of its DE&I Action Plan.

The 2022 cohort of 100 BIPOC entrepreneurs received access to comprehensive coaching, networking, and mentorship.

The 100 Blueprint grantees own and operate small businesses in cities across Canada, from Vancouver, B.C., to Dartmouth, N.S. These businesses represent a wide range of industries, from apparel, to gaming, to design, and fast food.

“We’re thrilled with the success of the 2022 mentorship program. Each business owner we worked with exemplifies the passion and commitment Canadian entrepreneurs are known for,” said Lili Ibarra, CFO, Amex Bank of Canada and Chair of Amex Canada’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

A survey of the 2022 program recipients showed the positive impact of the program, with 93 per cent of last year’s graduating class reporting that Blueprint was ‘significant or vital’ to their businesses’ success. In addition, over the course of the program, nearly three quarters (74%) introduced new services, products, or processes. Additionally, 85 per cent indicated they were on track to meet their business milestones.

Jennifer Kim

Among the participants in the Blueprint program was Nevell Provo of Smooth Meal Prep, a Halifax-based, nationwide food delivery and catering service. Mr. Provo said applying to the program was a “no brainer” as he looks to grow his business. “Understanding the landscape and networking with other Black entrepreneurs around the country is huge,” said Provo.

Chelsee Pettit of Aanin, a Toronto-based apparel company promoting Indigenous culture, said she looked forward to developing onboarding protocols and an investor relations process, as well as building connections with potential mentors. “Being an entrepreneur can be fast moving and lonely,” she said. “It was great to have connected with others who have already been through this process and came out the other side.”

Jennifer Kim of Nooroongji Books, a Vancouver-based bookstore, was eager to develop a more comprehensive marketing strategy to better establish her store’s online presence. “I’m also glad I was able to connect with other passionate BIPOC entrepreneurs whose values resonated with our vision: a world where multilingualism and multicultural identities are celebrated and considered the norm,” she added.

Amex Canada developed Blueprint with the goal of helping BIPOC entrepreneurs overcome challenges related to running their businesses and it is part of American Express’ “Backing Small” initiative to provide financial support and resources to economically vulnerable small business owners.

Nicole Perryman

Blueprint is powered by the DMZ, a world-leading business and tech incubator, to provide key infrastructure and programming support.

“We’re so pleased to have welcomed a new group of 100 entrepreneurs to take part in the Blueprint program for 2022,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of the DMZ. “We’ve seen first-hand the tremendous impact the program – especially the mentorship and educational components – has had, and look forward to seeing how participants leverage their learnings from Blueprint as they move forward with their businesses.”

Headquartered in Toronto, the DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, the DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, the DMZ has helped more than 700 startups raise $1.83 billion in capital and create 4,700+ jobs.