American Express, in partnership with Main Street America, announced the latest recipients of its 2022 “Inclusive Backing” grant program. The grantees were each awarded $5,000 each to 120 small business owners who identify as Native, Indigenous, Hispanic, Latinx, LGBTQ+, immigrants, or as refugees. These small businesses were selected with the help of community partners including: HIAS, the Hispanic Federation, Oweesta, and The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Last year, American Express and Main Street America, created “Inclusive Backing” Grant, a program to help underrepresented U.S. small business owners recover from the pandemic and grow their businesses. The program has provided educational resources and $1.65 million in grants to 330 U.S. small business owners from underrepresented communities.
Emily Kaplan and Piseth Sam, Co-Founders of P+E Wellness, a boutique fitness studio in Somerville, Massachusetts in “Inclusive Backing” Grant said: “As part of the LGBTQ+ community, so many of our experiences with wellness and fitness spaces involved some form of sexism and discrimination. We knew that we needed to start a business to diversify the fitness industry and that would champion for inclusivity, making wellness accessible to all ages, abilities, bodies, and backgrounds. With P+E Wellness – we’re proud to offer a trusting and collaborative community where all people feel comfortable exploring and pushing their physical limits. This grant money will primarily go to operations, payroll, and our Pay it Forward fund.”
María Harrington, Owner and Director of CASA de ESPAÑOL, a Spanish language school and Latinx Cultural Center in Sacramento, California: “I started the business in 2011 to create a hub for education, empathy and cultural exchange – and it’s been amazing to see the impact we’ve had opening new doors through language exchange. Many of our students are civil servants, educators and medical professionals, and the language skills they learn with us allows them to serve our Spanish-speaking community with empathy and authenticity. After hearing about this grant from our local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we knew this was a much-needed opportunity to advance a hybrid model of combined virtual learning that helps make classes so much more accessible to our community.”
Ammar Hwanah, Owner and Founder of Hawana’s Sweets and Kitchen, a restaurant offering traditional Middle Eastern (predominately Syrian-based) desserts and food in Cleveland, Ohio: “I came to America as a refugee originally from Syria, where my parents themselves had worked as small business owners in the food and dessert industry. Owning this business in the U.S. allows me to continue the family tradition of providing delicious food and culture to my community today, uniting my homeland with my new land. Hearing about this grant through HIAS and US Together Cleveland’s Microenterprise Development Program (MED Program) was such a wonderful gift. I plan to use the money towards rent payments and improvements including enhancing the restaurant’s displays by purchasing a new refrigerator.”
Nate Johnson and Tara Folenius, Co-Owners of Sage Against the Machine in Bellingham, Washington: “We originally started as a food truck in 2018 to share a plant based diet with our community. Then, by 2020, we were outgrowing our commissary kitchens and knew we had to expand to a brick-and-mortar. So that’s what we did and while great for the company’s growth, the decision impacted our finances in a big way due to the immense costs of building materials imposed by the pandemic. The remodel took two years and since opening in February of this year, we’ve had to use nearly all of our funds to get the business running. Coming from the Inupiat group of the Alaska Natives, programs supporting small business owners of the Native community are hard to come by. This funding will be used to build our outside seating area for our growing customer base and we also plan to get a new sign to help make the store more visible and easier to find.”
Tammy Hauser, Founder & CEO of Discover Sarasota Tours, a trolley tour business in Sarasota, FL: “I started the business in 2019 as a love story to Sarasota to connect both tourists and locals to the area’s many communities and neighborhoods – a place rich in history, art and culture. Growing up with parents from Mexico and Germany, my multi-cultural identity really showed me how important it is to be able to bring communities together – and when moving to Sarasota that’s exactly what I wanted to do. As a travel business, the pandemic and its relentless challenges have really hit us hard. Now that travel is back and Sarasota itself has become one of the fastest growing communities with so many new residents and visitors, this grant money will help support operational costs and allow us to expand our year-round tour offerings (we currently offer 15 different daytime tours) for nearly double the demand we’ve been seeing since 2020. We can’t afford to take on debt, so this grant has been a true gift that really validates all the hard work my staff and I have put in to persevere during these hard times.”
Source: American Express