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The DMZ teams up with American Express to power a new program supporting BIPOC-owned businesses

Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses™ provides 100 BIPOC business owners across Canada with a comprehensive mentorship program and $1,000,000 in grants to help take their businesses to the next level  

TORONTO, June 15, 2021 – Today, the DMZ is announcing its involvement in Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses™, a mentorship and grant program led by American Express Canada. Leveraging the DMZ’s experience helping entrepreneurs grow, Blueprint will support the advancement of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) business owners across Canada.

Blueprint will support participants in a 15-week comprehensive mentorship program made possible by a grant from the American Express Foundation. Additionally, American Express Canada is contributing $1,000,000 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. 

The DMZ will provide key programming infrastructure for the mentorship component, which will run on a virtual basis and consist of workshops, one-on-one sessions with designated mentors, and community networking sessions. Blueprint programming will provide business owners with the guidance and tools needed to succeed in sales, marketing, operations, leadership, and more. Participants will also have access to online resources designed to help fuel business growth. 

“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, Executive Director of the DMZ. “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.”  

Blueprint is founded on research insights about the experiences of BIPOC business owners across Canada. According to a new survey commissioned by Amex, more than half (53 per cent) of BIPOC respondents described the barriers they’re currently facing as “significant” compared to 37 per cent of white business owners. Sixty-six per cent 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 Lisa Kalhans, President and CEO of American Express Canada. “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.” 

Blueprint programming was created 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 (CILAR). 

To help spread the word about Blueprint, Amex also teamed up with pro 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,” said VanVleet. “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.”

Starting today, BIPOC business owners can apply for Blueprint by visiting: Applications close July 27, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Media Contacts

Luvy Hardy

Emily Collins




The DMZ helps companies grow their business. That means when founders want a high-impact and highly customized incubator program, they come to the DMZ. Ranked as the top university-based startup incubator in the world by UBI Global, the DMZ provides a launchpad for founders to build and scale fast. Bigger and bolder than any other program of its kind, the DMZ has been creating the next gen of game-changing, global businesses since 2010. To date, the DMZ has helped more than 500 startups raise $1.24 billion in capital and create 4,200+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam and India, and 70+ partnerships around the world. Learn more at


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 FacebookTwitter and YouTube.


This survey was conducted by The Nielsen Company on behalf of American Express from April 9 to April 29, 2021, among 1124 Canadian business owners or partners in small or medium enterprises, 596 of which self-identify as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour (BIPOC) and 528 which self-identify as white.

Highlights of research findings:

  • 61 per cent of BIPOC business owners agree that ongoing obstacles have impeded their business’s growth.
  • Three quarters (75 per cent) of BIPOC business owners say access to capital is an important resource for their business.
  • Close to one half (48 per cent) of BIPOC business owners believe that their race and/or the colour of their skin has negatively impacted their opportunities as a business owner.
  • Over two thirds (68 per cent) of BIPOC business owners plan to access more support for their business this year.
  • Over two thirds (68 per cent) of BIPOC business owners believe that having consistent access to advice would make them a better business owner.
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