Indigenous entrepreneurs from Saskachewan, BC, Nunavut and Ontario take home top prizes
Ottawa, ON – October 20, 2021 | Today, Pow Wow Pitch, Canada’s premier pitch competition for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, announced Harlan Wade Kingfisher, Founder and CEO of Smudge The Blades as the 2021 Winner of the competition and the recipient of the Grand Prize of $25,000.
Following a qualifying Semi-Final Round this evening, Canada’s top 29 Indigenous entrepreneurs, from 1,642 applications, went head-to-head pitching their businesses to an esteemed panel of Judges as part of the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch in partnership with RBC, Shopify and Facebook.
Hosted by Sunshine Tenasco, the creator of Pow Wow Pitch, the showdown featured entrepreneurs from nations across Turtle Island like the Mi’kmaq, Mohawk and Algonquin, Cree, Inuit, Metis and Squamish.
The entrepreneurs pitched to an esteemed panel of Judges who scored and selected the winners. The 2021 Judges included the 2020 Pow Wow Pitch Winner Lynn-Marie Angus, Co-Founder and CEO of Sister’s Sage; Pow Wow Pitch Alumni and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty, Jennifer Harper; former CBC Dragon and Chairman and CEO of Prairie Merchant, W. Brett Wilson; National Co-Chair of RBC Royal Eagles, Jessica Shute; and, Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program Manager at Shopify, Kyle St-Amour Brennan.
The First Place Prize of $25,000 presented by RBC went to Harlan Wade Kingfisher, Founder & CEO of Smudge The Blades, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan. Smudge The Blades is an Indigenous brand and hockey apparel company that provides hockey scholarships to Indigenous youth.
“I applied to Pow Wow Pitch because I was inspired after watching last year's Finalists pitch and thought it would be the right platform and community to support us to grow,” said Harlan Kingfisher. “Through Pow Wow Pitch, I have been able to connect with so many inspiring individuals in our community, and I have gained so much knowledge from the mentors, judges and trainers. It's amazing to see how creative, giving, and hardworking Indigenous entrepreneurs are across Turtle Island. Winning $25,000 means that we can take our online business to the next level faster and in time for the holiday season. With more growth, we can donate even more to Indigenous youth and hockey programs.”
The Second Place Prize of $10,000 presented by Facebook went to Ecko Aleck, Founder & Artist at Sacred Matriarch Creative, from the Nlaka'pamux Nation and Pentlatch, British Columbia. Sacred Matriarch Creative provides safe spaces for sharing sacred stories and fostering creativity.
“I am honoured to be among this wave of Indigenous excellence in all fields,” said Ecko Aleck. “I applied to the Pow Wow Pitch as the next natural step in helping my business spread its wings. Winning the $10,000 Prize will help Sacred Matriarch Creative to ground our internal structures in preparation for the next stages of expansion and spread the wealth by sending gratitude honorariums to our Sacred Creators Youth Council.”
The Third Place Prize of $5,000 presented by Shopify went to Bernice Clarke, Inuit Owner and Founder of Uasau Soap Inc. from Iqaluit. Uasau Soap provides sustainably sourced Indigenous soaps made with traditional Inuit practices.
“It was important for me to showcase my business amongst people I know were safe to openly express who I am and how Uasau operates,” said Bernice Clarke. “Far too often, Indigenous people aren't given the same opportunities and respect outside the indigenous community. So I appreciate the love and support. Pushing your boundaries is part of growing and is necessary.”
The winner of the Alumni Prize of $5,000, a prize pooled together by Pow Wow Pitch Alumni who have benefited from the program and community, went to Kendall White, Founder and CEO of Baamaapii Boxes from the Temagami First Nation. Baamaapii Boxes is a social enterprise subscription box service featuring Indigenous-made products. Funds raised support providing youth with mental health kits and donations to the Canadian Mental Health Association for suicide prevention efforts.
“I applied for Pow Wow Pitch at the last minute because was worried the idea I had wouldn't come across as developed enough, but I knew I had the passion and a need to make a change,” said Kendall White. “I've been told ‘no’ a million times before, and I believe ‘strength of character’ is built from those moments. I am excited to use the prize funds to expand the selection and access to Baamaapii Boxes and am equally as excited to be part of the Pow Wow Wow Pitch Alumni Community.”
“This year, Pow Wow Pitch scaled across Turtle Island, and I have been blown away by the passion, resilience, impact and comradery of all of the semi-finalists, finalists and winners,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Congratulations to Harlan, Ecko, Bernice and Kendall! Each of you displays the promise, vision and impact of Canada’s Indigenous entrepreneurs, and I know that you all have bright futures ahead.”
"Congratulations to all of the Pow Wow Pitch winners!" says Dale Sturges, National Director for Indigenous Financial Services at RBC. "Indigenous entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovation with creativity and ideas ready to change the world. It's an honour for us at RBC to be part of Pow Wow Pitch each year, and we are so proud of all the participants."
“Congratulations to all of the entrepreneurs and the winners of the Pow Wow Pitch competition!” said Garrick Tiplady, Vice President and Country Director, Facebook & Instagram Canada. “We’re honoured to be a part of the Pow Wow Pitch competition and play a role in supporting these incredibly innovative entrepreneurs as they start and scale their businesses.”
“Indigenous entrepreneurship is a movement,” said Kyle St-Amour-Brennan, Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program Manager at Shopify and Finale Judge. “A paradigm-shifting wave that is poised to establish Indigenous entrepreneurs and their communities from coast to coast to coast in collective empowerment that centers social, environmental, and cultural well-being with commerce being a fundamental catalyst. Pow Wow Pitch is truly one of the most incredible exhibitions of the richness of innovation in the global Indigenous entrepreneurial landscape.”
Digital services, platform fees, and creative assets can be some of the most significant expenditures for any business. Because of that, Shopify has leaned in to contribute an increase to the Pow Wow Pitch finale prize. Through Shopify, All 29 finalists will have access to a one-year free subscription to the Shopify platform to power their online, in-person, and digital eCommerce needs with additional and ongoing support to help onboard them through their Shopify Indigenous Team. As well as, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finalists will have access to $10,000, $5,000, and $2,000 respectively in an additional capital fund to help fund their entrepreneurial endeavours.
To watch the Grand Finale, click here.
To book an interview with Pow Wow Pitch Founder Sunshine Tenaco, Harlan Wade Kingfisher, Ecko Aleck, Bernice Clarke, or Kendall White, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Pow Wow Pitch
Pow Wow Pitch is an entrepreneurship program for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, which provides a safe, supportive, collaborative, empowering and culturally supportive environment that addresses the unique challenges of Indigenous entrepreneurs and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs. Pow Wow Pitch enhances, develops and accelerates the growth for current and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs in a sustainable way through programs and resources. Community leadership through volunteerism is promoted with respect and reciprocity as the foundation of the Pow Wow Pitch. For more information, visit https://www.powwowpitch.org/.
About RBC Indigenous Financial Services Group
For more than 100 years, RBC has been building strong relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada. We are committed to serving Indigenous governments, communities, organizations, businesses and individuals by creating opportunities for sustainable economic development through access to banking and capital, community and social development, employment, education and training and procurement. RBC also provides donations and grants that support Indigenous interests. More information is available at rbcroyalbank.com/indigenous.
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