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Frequently asked questions

What is Blueprint: Backing Businesses?

Blueprint: Backing Businesses is a mentorship and grant program designed to support the advancement of small business owners who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour across Canada. The mentorship program is a 12-week virtual program run on a part-time basis consisting of workshops, one-on-one sessions with designated mentors, and networking sessions. The grant program provides selected participants with $10,000 CAD, and requires participation in the mentorship program.

What does the mentorship program entail? What is the time commitment required to participate?

The program consists of workshops, small group sessions, and one-on-one meetings with experienced program mentors focusing on the areas of sales, marketing, operations, and leadership. This year, we will be offering streamed programming to provide participants with tailored insights on proven strategies for success in their sectors.

The program also includes access to Blueprint: Backing Businesses’s online learning platform, as well as virtual networking opportunities. The program is run and supported by leaders and mentors who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour.

The program is 12 weeks and runs on a part-time basis. Participants can still work on their business full-time while attending the workshops and meetings required to complete the program. One-on-one meetings will be scheduled based on a participant's availability. If a participant cannot attend a live workshop, recordings will be available. Participants will need to be able to commit to two hours per week.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for Blueprint: Backing Businesses, an applicant must:

  • Identify as a member of the Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour community
  • Be a Canadian citizen, a Permanent resident of Canada, or Hold Current and Valid Authorization under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • Be a founder, owner, or hold a senior position within a privately held, for-profit company, where the company is at least 50% owned by a member of the Black, Indigenous or People of Colour community
  • Have a business incorporated in Canada, where the business is primarily operated and managed in Canada, with a maximum of $500,000 CAD in annual revenue
  • Your business must be currently active in the Canadian market or have been previously active in the Canadian market (i.e. made sales and/or have an existing customer base)
  • Speak English or French fluently

Note, 2021 and 2022 selected participants are not eligible to re-apply to the program in 2023.

Preference is given to applicants that demonstrate:
  • Commitment to participate in the mentorship program
  • Understanding of opportunities for growth and demonstrating commitment to business success
  • Intended use of funds and illustrates grant impact
  • Challenges that have been addressed in the course of running or starting the business
  • An understanding of existing competitors and their industry’s landscape

The following industries and business types are ineligible for the program:
  • Any government agency or Crown corporation, public administration, non-profit or charitable organization, or political organization of any type
  • Businesses engaged in any illegal activity
  • Any business that is primarily in the business of manufacturing, promoting, or selling tobacco, firearms or other weapons (including related equipment)
  • Businesses which derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a sexual nature
  • Franchises not founded in Canada, are not founded or run by the applicant, or have over ten (10) franchisees
  • Businesses, private clubs, and memberships which limit the number of memberships for reasons other than capacity

I haven’t yet registered or incorporated my business. Can I apply for Blueprint: Backing Businesses?

To be selected to participate in Blueprint: Backing Businesses, your business must be federally, provincially or territorially incorporated. If the status of your business incorporation changes before the application deadline you are still welcome to apply for the program. While American Express cannot provide business advice, feel free to check out the resources linked below that may be of help to you.

I was selected to participate in the 2021 or 2022 program. Am I able to re-apply this year?

In order to offer mentorship and financial support to a new group of businesses in this next cohort, those selected to participate in the 2021 or 2022 program are not eligible to re-apply for the program in 2023.

I applied for the 2021/2022 programs but was not selected. Am I able to re-apply this year?

Those who applied and were not selected for the 2021 or 2022 Blueprint: Backing Businesses program are eligible and welcome to apply for the 2023 program.

How do I apply for Blueprint: Backing Businesses?

Eligible business owners can apply via this site until December 13, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. For more information on what to expect after you complete your application, please refer to the How it Works section.

Is there a participation fee?

No. There is no participation fee to apply or take part in the program.

What support will I receive if I am accepted into the program?

You will receive access to all elements of the mentorship program as well as individualized support. The individualized support includes an assigned Program Lead from DMZ who will ensure you are able to access all available resources, answer questions, provide guidance and help troubleshoot any issues you may have.

Where is Blueprint: Backing Businesses taking place?

The program will run virtually and take place anywhere you can connect to the internet.

What is the selection process?

Applications open November 22, 2023 and close December 13, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Once applications have closed, the Blueprint: Backing Businesses team will review all submitted applications. Applicants will be contacted to learn if they are moving to the next stage in the selection process via email from DMZ staff by December 19, 2023 informing them of their application's status.

For applicants moving on to the second stage of the selection process, a staff member from DMZ will reach out via email and schedule an interview where we will ask applicants to confirm details of their business and answer any outstanding questions that arise while the committee reviewed applications.

When will grants be awarded?

Companies who submit their grant form by the program start date (January 16) will receive their grants by February 15.

What happens if I’m not selected?

All eligible applicants will receive access to our learning platform. The platform includes content and advice from subject matter experts and seasoned entrepreneurs.

If you are not selected for the 2023 program, you may have the opportunity to re-apply for future programs as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

How is my personal information being used?

Your information will be used solely for the purpose of administering this program, or with your express permission. The application is designed to collect information to establish eligibility for Blueprint: Backing Businesses and to facilitate the planning and implementation of equitable and relevant program activities. Please click here for the Toronto Metropolitan University privacy policy and here for the American Express privacy code.

How is the program funded?

The Blueprint: Backing Businesses mentorship program is made possible by a grant from the American Express Foundation. Additionally, American Express Canada is contributing $500,000 in grants to be disbursed to the 50 selected participants.

Who is administering the program?

DMZ is administering both the mentorship program and the grant.

I am a member of the news media and want to learn more.

Members of the news media interested in learning more about Blueprint: Backing Businesses should email their inquiries to

For questions relating to Blueprint: Backing Businesses, please contact