American Express announced the latest recipients of its 2022 “Inclusive Backing” grant program in partnership with Main Street America and supported by community partners, Bunker Labs and The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Sixty individual U.S. small businesses owned by U.S. veterans, women and nonbinary people received a $5,000 grant.
Together with Main Street America, the program is providing hundreds of underrepresented U.S. small businesses with financial support as well as other resources to address their critical business needs and challenges, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. For information on grant eligibility, how to apply, and terms, visit here.
Applications for the next cycle of the grant program are now open with a focus on small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQ+ or as immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced.
Several of the newest grant recipients shared that the roots of their diverse, woman-owned or veteran-owned businesses come from their personal experiences in their local communities and the desire to ensure doors are open to everyone to pursue their own passion projects:
Robert Capone, Co-owner of Capone’s Hoagies in Newkirk, Oklahoma: “I am a retired U.S. Army and Pennsylvania Army National Guardsman and together, my wife and I created our business as a mom-and-pop hoagie shop. Most sandwich shops around here are franchises so we wanted to bring something special to our local community. Community to us is everything – we have customers who travel hours to our shop because they heard about us from a friend and customers can buy a meal and place it on our “pay it forward” board which will go towards the less fortunate. But between the pandemic and the current challenges met by inflation, this grant has been incredibly encouraging. A portion of the grant will be used to build a wheelchair ramp so we can offer a more inclusive environment and additional funds will be used towards insulation and re-siding to make the shop more energy efficient because with costs continuing to rise, we need to save money where we can.”
Theresa Duncan, Co-Owner of Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store in Fernandina Beach, FL:“ My father Todd and I founded the business together to make a positive impact in our community. He served in the U.S. Army for twenty-three years and as a disabled Veteran, it was a challenge to re-enter the workplace following retirement. Our small business has really given him the opportunity to do something that he loves and having been away from home for so many years, it’s been an opportunity for us to re-connect as a family and to help other families connect and build memories, as well. Being a small business, we are incredibly grateful for this grant which will allow us to improve the online experience for our customers understanding this is essential for growing our business long-term.”
Maryann Lee, Owner of Indigo Blue Coffeehouse in Pine Bluff, Arkansas:“I opened my Indigo Blue Coffeeehouse in 2017. Indigo Blue is a community-minded space where we host art exhibits, book signings, poetry slams, community forums, and programs that support the academic achievements of high school students – and the reason I applied for this grant is to continue to expand and provide new opportunities. Something I took away from the pandemic as a business owner was the importance of having an outdoor space to welcome customers. The grant funding will be used to create a garden for tea and meditation with space for yoga classes. We also host a youth chess club and the new outside venue will be ideal for making this a summer activity.”
Heather Bennett, Owner of Beautè de Luxe Spa in Las Vegas, NV: “I am a twelve year Army Veteran and in my experience, getting out of the military was tough for me as I was medically discharged and always planned on retiring. However, I soon became a licensed esthetician and permanent makeup artist, opening Beautè de Luxe Spa. In starting my business, I never dreamed I would be where I am today and this grant will allow me to go even further. I plan to use this grant to stock up on some much needed supplies and equipment for a new room we just built in the spa.”
Dierra Crump, Owner of Cherry’s Beauty Supply Store in Baltimore, Maryland: “My business serves the Highlandtown Arts District Community and is so important because it’s one of the only beauty supply stores in the area that is woman and minority-owned. This grant makes me feel appreciated and hopeful – it will help grow the business by providing me the funds to pay some expenses, improve the window display, and order more inventory. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from owning a business, it’s having a realistic business plan and not being afraid to turn to financial support when needed.”
Jeremy Higgs, Founder of Net Diatom in Marshall, Illinois: “Net Diatom is a full-service provider of internet marketing services and as a veteran of the U.S. Army, I am proud to be able to use my business to give back to the community – a foundational value that became instilled in me through the military. We offer free computer classes and Wi-Fi to the downtown community and offer 10% off paid services for current or past military customers. Like many other businesses, it was difficult to secure funding throughout the pandemic and so this grant means the world. We will use it for continued recovery by making improvements to the business and maintenance upkeep.”
Verdell Simon-Tatum, Owner of YaNique Salon and Accessories in Richmond, California: “I opened my woman-owned business because after retiring from the local school district, I wanted to continue to create a positive presence within the community. We consider ourselves a community salon because we do all that we can to support each other – including hiring locally. As a small business owner, I am incredibly grateful for this grant which will help us to hire more staff and create new jobs and opportunities for people within the community – including two new braiding stylists who we will help to become licensed. Additionally, we will use some of the money to help us meet rent payments when needed.”
H.James Young, Owner and Chief Instructor of Youngsan Karate in Centreville, Maryland: “I come from a background of service and I started this Veteran-owned business because I wanted to provide a place for my community to practice self-defense as part of taking care of themselves – both physically and mentally. From my perspective, martial arts is not only about being active and learning self protection, but it’s about spirituality and gaining control. I’m very thankful to American Express and plan to use this grant money towards utilities, equipment, and the implementation of new health and safety measures, a big takeaway in recovering from the pandemic.”
Cecilia Cuff, Owner of The Nascent Group in Taos, New Mexico: “The Nascent Group is important not only because of the transformative work that we do in providing strategic consulting for businesses around environmental sustainability, but because of who we do it for. We are a Black, Hispanic, and woman-owned multigenerational firm and because of our diverse background, we have the experience that allows us to uniquely support developers and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds as they begin the exciting journey of starting and scaling their businesses. Our clients are a culturally diverse and inspiring group of people who care deeply about the impact their businesses have on humanity and their communities. We applied for this grant because our team has been transforming and growing rapidly – and this will help fund a new website that will support the business’ growth and that will help us to provide our clients with access to much-needed resources and information.”
Source: American Express