Even before the pandemic, Black-business owners faced many financial roadblocks. The widening racial wealth gap continues to plague the Black community and how founders are able to scale their companies.
American Express recognized this and decided to put their money where their mouths were.
American Express recently announced the Coalition to Back Black Businesses awarded 25 Black-owned small businesses from the Coalition’s 2020 grant program an additional $25,000 enhancement grant to support their long-term success and resilience. Approximately 60% of the grant recipients were Black women-owned small businesses and 75% were Black-owned businesses with six or fewer employees.
“My business and life have done a full 180 since receiving support from the Coalition to Back Black Businesses program,” said Deandre Wade, owner of Fresh Sportswear, a small business in Antioch, TN that designs and manufactures custom uniforms for sports teams, with a focus on youth. “With the enhancement grant, I will be moving my business out of my living room and purchasing the tools and equipment needed to begin mass-producing our products.”
Launched September 2020 in response to the pervasive inequities in communities of color, the Coalition to Back Black Businesses is a multi-year grantmaking and training initiative with an initial $10 million commitment to help support and empower Black-owned small businesses. Through 2024, the Coalition will distribute $5,000 grants to qualifying Black-owned small businesses each fall and will provide the opportunity to apply for select $25,000 enhancement grants the following spring. In addition, the Coalition is providing grant recipients with exclusive access to mentorship programs, training and online resources to help them grow and manage their businesses.
American Express established the Coalition to Back Black Businesses collaborated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and four major Black chambers, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and Walker’s Legacy.
In its first year, the Coalition partners distributed 600 grants to Black-owned small businesses located in 33 states. The initial funds supported a wide range of critical business needs including paying employees, repaying debts, covering rent and utility bills, developing e-commerce capabilities, funding PPE purchases and expanding or pivoting business models. Grant recipients from 2020 were invited to apply for additional funds through the enhancement grants to help sustain and grow their businesses.
“The Coalition to Back Black Businesses gave us an opportunity to re-invest back into our business through marketing and advertising,” stated Melissa Hyles, owner of Oak Tree Financial and Tax Services, a family-owned financial services firm that has served the Rancho Cucamonga, CA area for over 25 years. “With the first grant of $5,000, we were able to update our website, which allowed us to have a much more visible presence on the internet. We plan on using the $25,000 enhancement grant to continue investing in marketing, opening a second location, and starting a mentorship program for our community so that we can pay it forward and give back.”