Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Turtle Island win $65,000 in prizes
Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard, announced Ashley Michel, Founder and Owner of 4 Generations Creations, as the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Winner and the recipient of the Grand Prize of $25,000.
Hosted by Sunshine Tenasco, the creator of Pow Wow Pitch, the showdown featured entrepreneurs from nations across Turtle Island like the Mi’kmaq, Secwempc, Algonquin, Cree, Inuvialuit, Métis and Diné.
Following a qualifying Semi-Final Round, the top 30 Indigenous entrepreneurs, from more than 2,000 applications from across Turtle Island, went head-to-head pitching their businesses to an esteemed panel of Judges who scored and selected the winners.
The 2023 Judges included the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Winner Harlan Kingfisher, Founder and CEO of Smudge the Blades; the 2022 Pow Wow Pitch Winner Erica Daniels, Founder and CEO of Kejic Productions; Tamer Gabbour, Senior Account Manager at RBC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Build Native Program Lead at Shopify; and Christy Buchanan, Director of Account Management at Mastercard.
MEET THE WINNERS
The First Place Prize of $25,000 presented by RBC went to Ashley Michel, Founder & Owner of 4 Generations Creations, from Secwempc Nation in British Columbia. Ashley’s business, 4 Generations Creations, is a marketplace based in Kamloops, British Columbia for authentic Indigenous fabrics, materials, art and aims to create designs that educate others about Indigenous issues & resiliency. Watch Ashley’s pitch.
“I chose to pitch again this year because I want a better future for my daughter and the generations to come,” said the 2023 First-Place Winner, Ashley Michel. “No obstacle is too big to overcome if you believe in yourself. I want the youth to see all of us succeed and realize that they could do that one day too.”
Ashley plans to use the $25,000 to purchase her own direct to garner machine to bring her production in-house and in turn, open opportunities to hire a team from her community.
“I am honoured to have been selected as the Pow Wow Pitch First Place Winner – this is absolutely life changing!” said Ashley. “I am excited to see the impact my business will have on our community to creating jobs for youth and providing authentic and accessible apparel for everyone. I want to thank everyone who has taken time to listen to my story and follow my journey so far. I also want to thank my mentors, community, & fellow artists/entrepreneurs for their mutual ongoing support. I also want to thank Pow Wow Pitch for providing this amazing opportunity for all of us!”
The Second Place Prize of $10,000 presented by Mastercard went to Alana Cook, Co-founder and MMA Coach of Walking Like Warriors from the Métis Nation of Alberta. Walking Like Warriors is a self-defence course based in St. Catharines, Ontario that teaches women and youth how to stay safe and boost confidence through inclusive, and culturally safe workshops. Alana’s motivation to help others embody the passion of a true warrior is nourishing the next generation of empowered youth. Watch Alana’s pitch.
“Winning second place in Pow Wow Pitch is an incredible gift,” said the 2023 Second-Place Winner, Alana Cook. “I hope to inspire other Métis women and girls to dream big, fight hard, and believe in themselves.”
The Third Place Prize of $5,000 presented by Shopify went to Jodie Moonie, the Founder and Owner of Muusa, from Timiskaming First Nation. Muusa is an Indigenous- and women-owned scrub apparel brand based in Notre Dame Du Nord, Quebec that combines the beauty of traditional design with the functionality of healthcare wear. Watch Jodie’s pitch.
“Winning Third Place has allowed me to gain so much confidence in myself as an entrepreneur,” said the 2023 Third-Place Winner, Jodie Moonie. “Public speaking has never been one of my strengths. I pushed through my fear when I pitched to the judges and I’m so happy that I did. We are capable of far more than we think and can do anything we put our minds to!”
ALUMNI PRIZE RECIPIENTS
In addition to announcing the top three winners, five Finalists were also awarded Alumni Prizes of $5,000, prize funds provided by Alumni who have benefited from the program and matched with the support of Mastercard. The Alumni Prize was presented by Pow Wow Pitch Alumni; Harlan Kingfisher, Bernice Clarke, Matthew Nadee, Amy Jackson and Sean Rayland-Boubar.
Ten-year old Simon Monteith, also known as Simon the Scientist, is Opaskwayak Cree and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Simon creates educational Youtube videos teaching kids about the different landscapes of STEM combined with cultural significance. “I am super excited to win this prize! It feels awesome to be recognized knowing that people like to watch my videos and support Simon the Scientist,” said Simon. “I have met so many great Indigenous role models.” Watch Simon’s pitch.
Shay Dekock-Kruger the Founder and CEO of HOLO EYES, is from the Penticton Indian Band in British Columbia. HOLO EYES is an eye makeup and stickers brand that specializes in elevating eye looks at festivals and powwows. “My business has been a super fun way for me to express my creativity while also creating fun experiences for others,” said Shay. “I think my biggest lesson that I’ve learned since being an entrepreneur is to not overthink things, keep pushing forward and you will eventually find success.” Watch Shay’s pitch.
Desiree Streit, the Founder of Friday.Night.Beading.Club, is Cree, Ojibwey, and Métis and lives in Gatineau, Quebec. Desiree is the inventor of her brand’s original ‘BOO-zhee Boards’, an innovative storage accessory and system for beading that allows its users to take beading everywhere, with ease. “Winning this prize means everything to me,” shares Desiree. “It’s hard to explain where I was even a year ago to where I am now, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I cannot thank Pow Wow Pitch and my mentors enough!” Watch Desiree’s Pitch.
Tanis Simpson, Founder and CEO of Qiviut Inc, is Inuvialuit and lives in Nisku, Alberta. Qiviut Inc. manufactures qiviut yarns and knit wear from the traditional knowledge of qiviut fibre harvesting and muskox hunting. “It means so much to receive this recognition–not only for myself, but on behalf of my whole team, because this wouldn’t have been possible without them,” said Tanis. “We have all worked so hard, and we’ve faced no shortage of challenges, but winning the Alumni Prize tells us that we’re on the right path and that we should keep it up!” Watch Tanis’s pitch.
Jordan Smith, Founder and CEO of Renterii, is from the Red River Métis Nation and lives in Toronto, Ontario. Renterii is a rental share app that allows its users to rent everyday items with convenience. “It makes me beyond proud to have won the Alumni Prize!” said Jordan. “The Pow Wow Pitch community has been one of the first to believe in me as an entrepreneur, and I can’t wait to join the other Alumni in continuing to inspire folks to build the next million-dollar Indigenous idea.” Watch Jordan’s pitch.
“This year, Pow Wow Pitch grew its impact on the powwow trail by reaching more communities and Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Every step taken by our semi-finalists, finalists, and winners shines with determination. The future is bright for Indigenous entrepreneurs and the Indigenous economy! Congratulations to Ashley, Alana, Jodie, Simon, Shay, Desiree, Jordan, and Tanis! You all embody the spirit and promise of Indigenous entrepreneurship. I look forward to following your journeys ahead, well done!”
“Pow Wow Pitch is a tremendous showcase of Indigenous innovation and entrepreneurship, and the stories and achievements of this year’s semi-finalists are a testament to their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Michael Ferencich, Senior Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “We’re so proud of all our participants and semi-finalists, and we will continue to support their growth and success in the future.”
“Being involved in Pow Wow Pitch is not just an honor, it’s a privilege to witness the creativity and innovation of Indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Build Native Program Manager at Shopify. “It’s a reminder of the resilience and strength of our communities and the power of entrepreneurship to create positive change. Shopify has played a proud role in supporting Pow Wow Pitch, so it is exciting to see how things have grown over the years. What an incredible opportunity for Indigenous entrepreneurs!”
“At Mastercard, we’ve been inspired by the innovative thinking and solutions brought forward by all the Indigenous entrepreneurs involved in this year’s Pow Wow Pitch,” said Sasha Krstic, President of Mastercard Canada. “The future is brighter when Indigenous entrepreneurship is recognized, supported and celebrated, and we are honoured to play a role in continued success and growth of these entrepreneurs. Congratulations to all the pitchers and congratulations to Ashley, Alana, and Jodie on winning the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch.”
To watch the Grand Finale, click here.
To book an interview with Pow Wow Pitch Founder Sunshine Tenaco, Ashley Michel, Alana Cook, Jodie Moonie, Simon Monteith, Shay Dekock- Kruger, Desiree Streit, Jordan Smith, or Tanis Simpson, 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/.