February 23, 2023 | Backing Small Businesses Grantee Stories: Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics
The American Express Backing Small Businesses grant program will launch its second year on Monday, March 20, with $2.3 million in grants available to eligible small business owners across the U.S. and territories. The grant program, formerly known as Inclusive Backing, began in 2021 to help underrepresented small business owners recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and grow their businesses. Now in its second year, the program is increasing the number of grants awarded and total funding to further support small business owners – this time, with a focus on helping underrepresented small business owners build their economic vitality and foster a thriving community. Also new this year is the opportunity for grantees who are awarded one of the $5,000 grants to be considered for a $25,000 Enhancement Grant, allowing them the opportunity to fund a transformational project meant to grow the business. For more information and eligibility requirements, visit the grant program webpage.
To gear up for the launch of the program, we’ll be telling stories about previous grantees – starting with Kim and Chris Casteel of Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics based in Detroit, Michigan.
Kim & Chris Casteel: Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics
Kim and Chris were among the first 75 grantees of the grant program when it launched in early 2022. The first cycle of the program awarded grants to small business owners who identified as persons with disabilities and/or as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander.
The Casteel’s business, Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics, offers a full spectrum of state-of-the-art prosthetics and orthotics to people of any age. The business’s goal is to help anyone without fitting or functional prostheses or orthoses to achieve their needs for daily activities.
The couple’s mission is rooted in Chris’s own story. Chris has been an amputee since losing his leg in a motorcycle accident. Shortly after the accident, he founded the University of Michigan Amputee Support Group in Ann Arbor, and was soon inspired to go back to school to obtain his master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics and residencies. After their completion, Chris and Kim launched Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics in February 2011.
“It is my passion to help every amputee or person with a limb loss to live their life with strength, courage, and confidence, and give them the motivation and determination to do whatever they put their mind to,” wrote Chris in the grant application.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a massively disruptive effect on their business. They lost several patients, resources, and referral sources – and most notably, they lost their ability to network with referral sources, halting their normal method for marketing and growth.
In their grant application, Kim and Chris laid out an innovative plan for reaching new audiences without their typical advertising channels. Their strategy was to use the $5,000 grant to purchase digital ads, including Google and YouTube ads, to increase their outreach online. They also planned to use the funds to improve their 3D printer so they could make supplies for their patients in a more cost-efficient way. In addition to these internal improvements, Chris and Kim planned to use a percentage of the funds to continue their work in providing care to underinsured and under-housed patients, many of whom lost limbs due to extreme weather exposure. In addition, they planned to expand care to refugees, asylum seekers, and individuals injured in overseas' conflicts.
Over a year has passed since the grant was administered, and Chris and Kim have reported that they have greatly increased their patient outreach, resulting in more calls, appointments, and new patients. Their increased outreach has enabled them to also provide services to underserved communities within their local community, including working alongside local non-profit and charitable organizations.
“We greatly appreciate the support you have given our company with this grant,” said Kim. “This grant has helped us to reach more people – and significantly impact our community.”
For more information about the Backing Small Businesses grant program, visit the webpage here. If you are an eligible small business owner interested in applying for the grant, please click here to set up a reminder on your calendar.
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