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The DMZ teams up with American Express for a second year to fuel the growth of 100 BIPOC-owned businesses in Canada

Applications are now open for year two of Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses™, providing 100 BIPOC business owners with comprehensive mentorship and $1,000,000 in grants to help them thrive

TORONTO, June 14, 2022 – Alongside American Express Canada, the DMZ is excited to announce the launch of the second year of Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses™,a mentorship and grant program designed to support the advancement of 100 business owners who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC) across Canada. The program will award $1,000,000 in grants – $10,000 to each recipient – contributed by American Express Canada, to fuel their next stage of growth. Selected participants will also be offered comprehensive coaching, networking, and mentorship, made possible by a grant from the American Express Foundation. BIPOC entrepreneurs can review program eligibility and apply today at

“Following the success of the 2021 Blueprint program, we’re thrilled to deepen our commitment to BIPOC small businesses and introduce an all-new group of 100 entrepreneurs to this powerful springboard for growth,” said Lisa Kalhans, President and CEO of American Express Canada. “Blueprint is a part of our long-standing commitment to backing small business owners in meaningful ways. This year’s program builds off the strong foundation we laid last year with new enhancements that will be sure to deliver even more impact.”

2021 Participants: Blueprint a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Amex Canada developed Blueprint with the goal of providing tangible benefit to help BIPOC entrepreneurs fuel business growth. A survey of 2021 program recipients revealed that the program provided them with critical support, with 94 per cent of companies reporting that Blueprint was “significant or vital” to their business success in the past year. Further to that, nearly 1 in 3 companies introduced new products, services, or offerings over the course of the program.

Among the 2021 participants was Jason Courtepatte, the proudly-Métis founder of Kite Electric, an electrical and solar installation company based in Edmonton, Alta. For Courtepatte, his selection arrived at a time of marked financial difficulty: “I just let out an audible sigh of relief when I received my Blueprint acceptance,” he recalled. “I also had a massive need for mentorship, so this was my opportunity to partner with someone who could provide a 30,000-foot view of my business.”

Similarly, the timing couldn’t have been better for owner of Toronto-based Filipino bakery New Pie Co., Shiela Labao, who said the program helped her overcome key obstacles to growth: “At that time, there were a lot of pain points going on in my kitchen. I didn’t have the fridge space, I wanted to hire more people, and I didn’t have the capacity for that,” she said. “Blueprint felt like light at the end of the tunnel.”

Added value through new program streams

This year, Blueprint will offer even more tailored programming to provide participants with proven strategies for success in their sectors. The new programming options consist of small group workshops with industry professionals, “ask me anything” sessions with successful entrepreneurs, peer-to-peer sessions to address shared challenges, and increased access to industry-specific mentors.

Blueprint is again being powered by the DMZ, a world-leading business and tech incubator, to provide key infrastructure and programming support, and to facilitate grant distribution across all stages of the program.

“Canada is witnessing a new wave of entrepreneurship, and at the DMZ we’ve seen firsthand the grit, determination and drive of Canadian entrepreneurs,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of the DMZ. “It’s an honour to continue powering the Blueprint program with American Express to help fast track their dreams, especially for BIPOC business owners who face additional barriers to growth.”

A powerful assist from a partner

Amex Canada is continuing its partnership with pro basketball player and owner of the FVV Shop, Fred VanVleet. As Blueprint’s program ambassador, VanVleet will help spread the word about Blueprint, and will share first-hand insights on running his own business with participants.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I know how important small businesses are to their communities,” said VanVleet. “But with so many barriers in the way for BIPOC business owners, it can be harder to stay in the game. That’s why I’m pumped to be back for the second year of Blueprint, this time letting some participants in on my entrepreneurial side and sharing my own experiences.”

Starting today, BIPOC business owners can apply for Blueprint by visiting: Applications close July 26, 2022 EDT.

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. American Express was established in Canada in 1853 and offers a variety of consumer and business products. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

The DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator equipping 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 720 startups raise $1.75 billion in capital and create 4,600+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, the DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam and India, and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia. Learn more at

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