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American Express Takes on the Small Business Cause

By Geri Stengel

Corporate America is stepping up to the plate to support small businesses and nonprofits in ways that will benefit the economy, the small businesses, and the corporations. They’ve seen the light and realize that big businesses can’t continue to thrive unless small businesses do so too. The facts:

  • 65 percent of net new jobs for the last 17 years have been generated by small businesses;

  • Only half of all small businesses survive their first 5 years, according to the Small Business Administration. Money matters but when you look at Michael Ames’  list,  Why Small Businesses Fail, the overriding problem is lack of experience and basic skills. Imagine the number of jobs small business could sustain if entrepreneurs had a good grounding in business strategy as well as  mentoring and support so they could benefit from the experience of others as they face new challenges.

  • Corporate America has recovered from the great recession with record-breaking profits. For those profits to continue, corporations need to ensure that small businesses, who are their suppliers and customers, can start up, grow, and survive.

This new corporate social responsibility model involves a lot of cross-sector collaboration due, I think, to social media, which is shifting the paradigm from hierarchies and silos to connected communities.

Here’s how one company, American Express, is using social media and collaboration to help small businesses:

  • American Express started  Small Business Saturday to encourage shopping at small businesses and raise money for Girls, Inc., a nonprofit that educates young women entrepreneurs. It worked:

    • Participating merchants reported a 27 percent increase in sales over the previous year.

    • 1.2 million people "liked" American Express on Facebook, thus raising $1 million for Girls, Inc.

  • Startup America Partnership is a White House campaign to support, facilitate, and ramp up the growth of small businesses. It brings together government (the Small Business Administration), corporations including American Express,  foundations, nonprofits, and venture capitalists.

  • The Social Impact Exchange brings together cross-sector members to share information and facilitate the growth of successful nonprofits. Again, the emphasis is on collaboration. American Express provides  funding.

  • American Express’s  Membership Project is a Facebook collaboration with the TakePart social action network to engage volunteers and donors, and give millions of dollars to nonprofits.

  • The American Express $20,000 Big Break will give five small business owners a trip to Facebook headquarters for a two-day, one-on-one Facebook makeover and skill-building session.

American Express is not alone in these efforts but it exemplifies a new direction in corporate social responsibility, one based on the realization that the walls have come tumbling down between sectors, thanks to social media.

Geri Stengel is founder of Ventureneer, which connects values-driven small business owners with the knowledge they need to make the world a better place and to thrive as businesses. You can learn new skills, collaborate with peers, develop solutions to your real-world problems, get one-on-one help from experts, and access the information you need to make better decisions for your organization.

3p Contributor

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