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Celebrate International Women’s Day with American Express and Women-Owned Small Businesses

March 8, 2023


Photo: Courtesy of American Express

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we are highlighting women-owned businesses that have received grants through our Backing Small programs.

From a teahouse in Sydney, Australia, frequented by world leaders to a Sacramento, California-based Spanish language school, these grant recipients offer the world vastly different experiences, all made possible by a diverse group of business owners. Learn about their unique journeys and how they used their American Express-backed grants to grow their businesses.



Photo: Courtesy of CASA de ESPAÑOL

Aprendamos! CASA de ESPAÑOL, a 2022 Backing Small grant recipient, is a Spanish language school and cultural center in Sacramento, California. Its mission is to share the Spanish language and the cultures of Latin America and Spain in a holistic and immersive way to both children and adults. A bilingual pre-school is planned for later this year. We caught up with the schools’ founder, María Harrington.

When is the perfect time to learn a new language?

Harrington: Whenever you want to! When we started in 2011, I assumed we would have more children. I also thought we would have more heritage speakers, like me, who grew up speaking Spanish at home, but not perfectly. Of our student population, almost 85% are not of Hispanic/Latinx descent but want to learn the language. Maybe they’re retired and traveling more, or service workers who want to connect with their base more intimately. We all learn easier as children, but I’ve had students who started learning in their 70s and now speak Spanish very well.

How did you use your grant to reach more students?

Harrington: During the pandemic, much like every other school, we had to go virtual, but we saw a bigger opportunity. We purchased TVs, 360-degree cameras, and other materials to grow our newest product, our hybrid classroom with the grant. Our mission has always been to exchange language and culture. I have a student who went home to Manila, Philippines and now joins us every day from her home country. It’s super awesome that we offer our students the opportunity to connect with other people to learn Spanish from anywhere in the world. The grant is helping us grow internationally, one student at a time. Right now, we have 391 total students, 272 of which are virtual students.


Photo: Courtesy of Tea Cosy

Tea Cosy, an Australian tea house and 2022 Backing Small grant recipient, is connecting generations and cultures over a good cup of tea. 

It’s grown over the last 18 years from a 25-seat tearoom to a 120-seat space. They’ve even been visited by Ireland President Michael Higgins and 30 of his closest friends.

We caught up with their tea master, Ash Kinchin.

How did you use the grant money?

Kinchin: It was a fantastic opportunity to redo our outdoor space after the COVID-19 lockdown. We bought umbrellas, outdoor lawn games, outdoor speakers, new signage, and lots and lots of beautiful plants. The place looks so much better now. 

Why does International Women’s Day mean so much to your story?

Kinchin: My mother moved to Australia from Ireland in 1974 and opened a Sydney-based Irish shop where I worked growing up. By 25, I opened the tearoom. Starting a business with a newborn wasn’t easy, but now my daughter is 13 and will have something she’ll be able to build on, too.


Photo: Courtesy of Power to Girls

Power to Girls Foundation is a 2022 Backing Small grant recipient, based in Toronto, Canada with a complementary organization in Ghana. It is a non-profit organization that prioritizes empowerment to girls in Black and under-represented communities through personal development, mentorship, mental health entrepreneurship, and STEM programs. It operates on the core principle that today’s youth need to build their skills to improve their well-being, which they say will lead to economic empowerment.

Power to Girls was founded in 2011 by Aisha Addo.

How did you use the grant money?

Addo: The grant money allowed us to scale our tech platform, the My Power App. It’s our tech-based social connection and mentorship app. With My Power App, girls can connect with mentors and one another in a more secure online environment while also receiving mental health support from our helpline and learning new skills from our learning hub. We have positively impacted more than 5,000 girls.

Why should days like International Women’s Day be recognized?

Addo: Women and girls deserve to be celebrated, respected, and supported daily. I believe it gives young and marginalized girls the opportunity to see themselves represented in various fields, as well as the space to aspire for greater achievements.

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