PHOTO: Group photo of 2024 Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Pitch Winners, Judges, Mentors, Top 10, and Pow Wow Pitch Team.

Ashley Viner, Gorilla Muay Thai, wins Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Pitch

May 21, 2024

Red River Métis business wins $5,000 and a spot in the 2024 Pow Wow Pitch Grand Finale in Winnipeg, Manitoba

On Saturday, May 18th, 2024, Pow Wow Pitch, an Indigenous-led non-profit organization that empowers and supports Indigenous entrepreneurs with access to capital, mentorship, training and support, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard Canada, and with local partner North Forge, announced Ashley Viner, Founder of Gorilla Muay Thai, from the Red River Métis Nation as the 2024 Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Pitch Winner. The Indigenous-owned business has won $5,000 for their business and will advance to the 2024 Pow Wow Pitch Grand Finale where they will get the chance to win the grand prize of $25,000.

On Saturday, 39 Indigenous entrepreneurs pitched their businesses live at the Manito Ahbee Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for their chance to win cash prizes to advance their businesses.

Host Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch, emceed the action-packed program, where Indigenous entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and businesses in one minute for their chance to win prizes and support to make their dreams a reality.  

Following a first-round open pitch on the morning of Saturday, May 18th, judges Erica Daniels, CEO of Kejic Productions; Noah Wilson, Senior Business Development Manager of the Indigenous Entrepreneur Startup Program at Futurpreneur; Nermin Sa’d, Director of Global Entrepreneurship at North Forge; Ty Kushnir, Relationship Manager at RBC; and Shreeraj Patel, Vice President Commercial at RBC, shortlisted the ‘Top 10’ entrepreneurs to advance to round two. 

During the Top 10 Announcement, Tiffany Oakes and Monica Mispounas, Founders of Iskotew Pahkekin were awarded a 1 year membership to the North Forge Fabrication Lab by Nermin Sa’d from North Forge.

The Top 10 were paired up with mentors from Renterii, Futurpreneur, and RBC to help them polish their presentations before they pitched one last time to judges Willy Fogang, Regional Director of West Canada at EDC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Senior Lead of Indigenous Entrepreneurship at Shopify; and Katelyn Lawson, Relationship Manager of Commercial Financial Services at RBC.

The 1st Place $5,000 Prize Winner was Ashley Viner, Founder of Gorilla Muay Thai, a Muay Thai gym offering various programming and training sessions that empower and build self-confidence in its students while giving them a safe space. Ashley shared in her pitch the life changing effects Muay Thai had on her healing journey and is motivated to offer classes to empower others. Ashley shared that one of her goals is to grow her gym and hire a coach to help train and offer more classes to her growing community.

The 2nd Place $2,500 Prize Winner was Tiffany Oakes and Monica Mispounas, Founders of Iskotew Pahkekin, a leather work business that crafts beautiful leather belts that are a growing favourite on the powwow trail. Monica shared in their pitch of the businesses’ success in selling out at vendor markets and that the pair plan to expand their business by investing in leather working machinery to improve their efficiency.

The 3rd Place $1,000 Prize Winner was Shauna Fontaine, Founder of Anishinaabe Girl, a handmade Indigenous design brand that creates pieces that can be spotted everywhere on the powwow trail. Shauna shared in her pitch that she recently reached a goal to open her own boutique for her brand and to create a space for other artists and Indigenous brands. She also intends on investing into building her team and marketing efforts to grow her reach.

The Fan Favourite $500 Prize Winner was Dana Connolly, Founder of Mashkiki Garden Creations, a bath and body product brand that intertwines culture and selfcare. Dana shared in her pitch that she plans to expand her business by investing in industrial machinery to improve her business’ productivity. 

The Youth $500 Prize Winner was Simon Monteith, known as Simon the Scientist, who is inspiring the younger generation through science experiments on his YouTube channel and on social media. Simon expressed his motivation in his pitch that he has his eyes on the Pow Wow Pitch Grand Prize to reach his ultimate goal of sharing his scientific knowledge on a national level.

“I extend a heartfelt congratulations to the remarkable winners of this year’s Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Pitch,” said Naomi Sarazin, Executive Director of Pow Wow Pitch. “Entrepreneurship is an important tool for reclamation. By sharing our stories, ideas, and businesses, we not only celebrate our rich culture and heritage, but also pave the way for a thriving Indigenous economy. Together, through collaboration and innovation, we forge a path towards entrepreneur empowerment and prosperity. I also want to thank all 39 Pitchers who showed up Saturday morning and chose courage over comfort to pitch your dreams and transform ideas into success.”

“Congratulations to Ashley, Tiffany and Monica, Shauna, Dana, and Simon on winning this year’s Manito Ahbee Pow Wow Pitch,” said Lisa Meeches, Executive Director of the Manito Ahbee Festival. “You are all exemplary leaders in our community and we are so proud of your dedication to connect our community to our traditional trade economies. Thank you to Pow Wow Pitch for continuing to spotlight the talent we have here in Manitoba and the platform you give our entrepreneurs.”

All those who pitched are automatically entered into the Turtle Island (North American) Pow Wow Pitch competition and will be welcomed into the Pow Wow Pitch community for ongoing support. All pitchers have gained access to a free Indigenous Startup Program, the opportunity to have their products and services be considered to be featured in the annual Pow Wow Pitch Box and on Pow Wow Market for socially-conscious customers looking to ‘Buy Indigenous,’ will receive a free .CA domain courtesy of CIRA, and a 60-day free Shopify Trial.

Learn more about Pow Wow Pitch at