Backing Small Businesses

Supporting economically vulnerable business owners

In 2021, American Express and Main Street America created the Backing Small Businesses* grant program to help economically vulnerable small business owners recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and grow their businesses. In its first year, the program provided $1.65 million in grants to more than 300 small business owners across the country.

Now in its second year, the program will increase the number of grants awarded and total funding to more than $2.3 million to further support small business owners in building their economic vitality and fostering a thriving community. On March 20, 2023, applications will open for 350 small business grants of $5,000 to eligible businesses in the U.S. and territories. 

Robert Capone, owner of Capone’s Hoagies in Newkirk, OK, was a grant recipient in the third cycle of Backing Small Businesses. The third cycle provided grants to small business owners who identify as women, nonbinary people, and U.S. Veterans. Photo courtesy of Capone’s Hoagies.

Elisa Lyew, owner of Elisa’s Love Bites in New York, NY, was a grant recipient in the fourth cycle of Backing Small Businesses. The fourth cycle provided grants to small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQIA+, or immigrants, refugees, or forcibly displaced. Photo courtesy of Elisa’s Love Bites Dessert Atelier.

NEW! $25,000 Enhancement Grants

If you are awarded a $5,000 grant through this program, your business may be eligible to be considered for an additional $25,000 Enhancement Grant! All grant recipients will be required to submit a final grant report using a simple template provided. The report will include questions regarding how the grant money was spent plus additional questions about how the business could use additional funding to either expand on their small business grant project or fund a separate project. You will need to showcase how, if selected, the project would further improve the business, while providing goods or services that address cultural, environmental, and/or access needs in the local community. A limited subset of 25 grantees will be selected to receive the additional $25,000 Enhancement Grant.

Enhancement Grant Project Examples:

  • Community educational event to celebrate a historical or cultural moment that is meaningful to the neighborhood
  • Partnering with a charity to provide meals in a food security program for the community 
  • Partnering with local artists for a community event or mural 
  • Language translation of menus or websites to be more inclusive 
  • Innovations to reduce food waste or improve sustainability

The application period is now closed.

Program Timeline

  • Applications Open on March 20, 2023
  • Applications Close on April 7, 2023
  • $5,000 Grant Recipients Notified in June 2023
  • Grant Reports Due by September 15, 2023
  • $25,000 Enhancement Grants Announced in October 2023

Backing Small Businesses is one of many Backing Small programs American Express has launched to support small businesses. Others include the Coalition to Back Black Businesses and Backing Historic Small Restaurants. More information and resources about American Express' support for minority-owned small businesses can be found here.

Main Street America provides a number of resources to support small businesses, including:

Main Street Business Insights Podcast
Every Wednesday, tune into the Main Street Business Insights podcast, highlighting downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs succeeding along Main Street. Learn about the innovative ways that these Main Street businesses have overcome adversity and the advice they have for others on how to keep their businesses on track.

Main Street Online, powered by GoDaddy
This free assessment tool was designed by industry experts to provide consultative recommendations to businesses of all stages and ages with 20 or fewer employees in the following sectors: Retail, Service Providers, Food & Beverage.

COVID-19 Recovery Resources
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Main Street America has been actively supporting commercial districts through grantmaking opportunities, webinars, research, and more for both Main Street organizations and local small businesses.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building
Supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, this resource center provides tools and information on building greater local support systems around entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Click here to sign up for Main Street America’s small business emails to stay connected with us about new resources and future funding opportunities!

Past Grant Cycles

Cycle 1: Provided grants to both small business owners with disabilities and/or those who identify as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander. Learn about the recipients here.

Cycle 2: Provided grants to personal services businesses. Learn about the recipients here.

Cycle 3: Provided grants to businesses owned by women, nonbinary people, and U.S. Veterans. Learn about the recipients here.

Cycle 4: Provided grants to small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQ+ or as immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced. Learn about the recipients here.


Contact or call 312-610-5613 and leave a voicemail with any other questions.

Please allow up to two (2) full business days to respond to all inquiries.

Main Street America (the National Main Street Center) has partnered with American Express to launch the “Backing Small Businesses (the “Backing Small Businesses grant program”) which is administered by Main Street America. No personal information received from your application to the Backing Small Businesses Program will be shared with American Express without your consent; only business information necessary to administer the program will be provided to American Express. Please review the Main Street America privacy policy here:

*Formerly known as Inclusive Backing