PHOTO: Group photo of 2024 Summer Solstice Pow Wow Pitch Winners, Judges, Mentors, Pitchers, and Pow Wow Pitch Team.

Charity Fleming, Qualia Counselling, wins Summer Solstice Pow Wow Pitch

June 25, 2024

Wabauskang First Nation business owner wins $5,000 and a spot in the 2024 Pow Wow Pitch Grand Finale in Ottawa, Ontario

On June 22, 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 in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, MINI TIPI, and ADAAWE announced Charity Fleming, Founder of Qualia Counselling, from the Wabauskang First Nation as the 2024 Summer Solstice 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, 13 Indigenous entrepreneurs pitched their businesses live at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, for their chance to win cash prizes to advance their businesses.

Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch, co-hosted the action-packed program alongside Janelle Niles, Creator & Producer of Got Land? Indigenous Comedy Show, 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, June 22nd, judges Libier Gomez, Managing Director at Sklar Wilton & Associates; Althea Wishloff, General Partner at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners; Patricia Vincent, Vice President of Human Resources at EDC; Paula Hopkins, Director of Entrepreneurship at Invest Ottawa; Monika Sofrenovic, Marketing Specialist at CIRA; Relay Tangie, Director of Finance at NACCA; and Trisha Pitura, Co-Founder of MINI TIPI, deliberated and decided to push forward all 13 pitchers into the second-round pitch and to receive mentoring. 

All 13 pitchers were paired up with mentors from RBC, Futurpreneur, Canada Post, CIRA, ADAAWE, Sklar Wilton & Associates, MINI TIPI, and Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, to help them polish their presentations before they pitched one last time to judges Tamer Gabbour, Senior Commercial Account Manager at RBC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Senior Lead of Indigenous Entrepreneurship at Shopify; Kate Karn, Director of Public Policy at Mastercard Canada; Jocelyn Formsma, CEO of the National Association of Friendship Centres; and Jonathan Critch, Manager of Small Business Marketing at Canada Post.

“I want to thank Pow Wow Pitch for encouraging and inspiring me to pitch my idea,” shared Charity Fleming, Co-Owner of Qualia Counselling and 1st Place Summer Solstice Pow Wow Pitch Winner. “I loved hearing everyone’s pitches and stories and seeing the resurgence, reclamation, and empowerment from our community. I really loved this process and the energy of today, chi migwetch!”

Charity Fleming is the Co-Owner of Qualia Counselling, a mental health counselling service that offers culturally aware, safe, and inclusive programming and therapies, for those seeking mental health support. Qualia Counselling currently has four clinic locations in Ontario, serving Brantford, Cambridge, Ohsweken, and Waterloo. Charity shared in her pitch that she wishes to expand Qualia Counselling’s resources available to Indigenous youth, strengthen their social media presence, and hopes to create an app for their services. 

The 2nd Place $3,500 Prize Winners were Jennifer and Drew Tenasco, Founders of Tendesi Air Fresheners, an up and coming product that combines Indigenous art and fresh scents for all places. Jennifer and Drew are twin sisters that work together to design and curate their air fresheners by incorporating Anishinaabe traditions and designs created by Drew. The sisters  shared that they would use the funds to update their current equipment and fund their newly launched website. “I was really nervous at the start but we had a lot of support. This will really help us in our journey and I’m really grateful for today,” shared Drew Tenasco. “I’m so glad that we have each other to keep us going. My advice to other pitchers would be to believe in yourself, showing up is the hardest part,” continued Jennifer Tenasco.

The 3rd Place $1,000 Prize Winner was Pandora Wilhelm, Founder of Mulberry Design, a laser custom product, and workshop-based business centered around Early Learning Resources of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis languages. Since beginning in 2020, Pandora has notably scaled her business while also being a mother of six. Pandora shared in her pitch that she would like to hire a photographer to improve her product presentation on her website and to connect with an Indigenous digital marketing organization to expand her reach. “This is my fourth time pitching and every time I learn something new to improve my pitch and I encourage others to give it a try and learn something new,” shared Pandora.

The Fan Favourite $500 Winner and Youth Prize $500 Winner was fifteen-year old Kayden Tolley, Founder of Kayden’s Klean Up, a cleaning and lawn service business based in Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg. After not getting any of the jobs he applied for, Kayden took control of his own future and started up a lawn care business. Since then, Kayden’s Klean Up has been incredibly successful servicing his home territory and has been able to support 7 employees. In his pitch Kayden shared that he would use the funds to upgrade his equipment and to continue growing his team of Indigenous youth. “To all the youth who want to try Pow Wow Pitch, do it. Give it your all and hopefully you’ll get something out of it, either money or you’ll learn something new,” shared Kayden.

“Congratulations Charity, Jennifer and Drew, Pandora, and Kayden,” said Naomi Sarazin, Executive Director of Pow Wow Pitch. “We are incredibly proud of your achievements and are excited to see how you will continue to inspire and lead in your communities. Your success exemplifies the incredible perseverance you have in reaching for your entrepreneur dreams. Keep blazing the trail for the next generation!” 

“The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is thrilled to be hosting Pow Wow Pitch once again,” said Trina Mather-Simard, Executive Director & Producer of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. “This incredible opportunity for Indigenous entrepreneurs started right here on our Storytellers and Elders Stage. Each year we are blown away by the brilliance of our Indigenous community and love to watch them confidently pitch and ultimately grow their idea into a successful business.”

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,’ and will receive a free .CA domain courtesy of CIRA, and a 60-day free Shopify Trial.

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