Indigenous entrepreneur from Okanagan First Nation wins $5,000 and advances to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals
On Saturday, August 5th, 2023, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard in collaboration with CFDC of CIFN, announced Charles Kruger, from Okanagan First Nation, founder of Kruger Mountain Gear, as the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Kamloopa Winner. Charles has won $5,000 and is advancing to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow his business.
Twenty-four Indigenous entrepreneurs pitched their businesses live at the Kamloopa Powwow in Kamloops, British Columbia, for their chance to win cash prizes and advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals.
Co-host Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch, co-hosted the action-packed program alongside Suzette Amaya, media and entertainment entrepreneur, 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 in the evening of Friday, August 4th, judges Anjula Benjamin, Senior Relationship Manager Indigenous Markets at RBC, Tracy Antoine, Senior Director of Indigenous Programs and Policies at RBC, Yvette Rasmussen, Program Manager Toronto Metropolitan University at Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, and Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Senior Lead Indigenous Entrepreneurship of Shopify, shortlisted the ‘Top 10’ entrepreneurs to advance to round two.
The following morning, on Saturday, August 5th, the Top 10 entrepreneurs were paired with mentors from RBC, CDFC of CIFN, Futurpreneur, Elevate Consulting, Tapestry Collective Co-op, and Amplify Consulting Inc., to help them polish their presentations before they pitched one last time to judges Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Senior Lead of Indigenous Entrepreneurship of Shopify, Holly Atjecoutay, Director of Indigenous Entrepreneur Starup Program at Futurpreneur, George Casmir, General Manager at CFDC of CIFN, and Mansur Mirani, Vice President Vancouver Tech Hub at Mastercard.
The winning business, Kruger Mountain Gear, is a local outdoors brand that is making a name for itself through their unique elk call tool, patented as ‘Okanagan Elk Battle Tubes’ & ‘Arrow Lakes Elk Battle Tubes.’ As part of the pitch, Charles spoke passionately about his strides in local elk conservation as well as traditional hunting practices he uses in hunting knowledge sharing.
“This Pow Wow Pitch was a super experience,” said First-Place Winner Charles Kruger, Founder of Kruger Mountain Gear. “I came back to try it again (for a second attempt) and it gave me a chance to grow and sharpen my skills and speak from my heart. Pow Wow Pitch makes people feel comfortable and welcome. It was a great experience.”
Since his first attempt in 2022, Charles impressed the Judges with his progress, namely purchasing a patent on his elk call Battle Tubes. Charles pitched to raise funds to better market, grow his team, and begin pitching to retail shops like Cabella’s.
The Second-Place $2,500 Prize Winner was Janelle Alladina, Founder of Indiginize Creation, a fashion and retail business that specializes in custom, one-of-a-kind hats that tell stories with themes from traditional art. “My Pow Wow Pitch experience has been amazing,” said Janelle. “To help inspire our Indigenous people to realize their worth, reach for their dreams, and to work hard for their business has been amazing. We are worthy and we are still here.” Janelle plans to use her second-place winnings to start a website and to buy new materials to add more mediums to her medicine hats.
The Third-Place $1,000 winner was Vincent Starr, Founder of VStarr Boxing, who runs boxing and martial arts strength building programs to help foster character and spirit through focused fitness. “Pow Wow Pitch has been so much fun,” said Vincent. “Everyone has been so welcoming and the mentors have helped so much with their experience. It has been so great to see so many entrepreneurs working for our future generations.” Vincent was announced as a Pow Wow Pitch Semi-Finalist at the end of July in the Health & Wellness category.
The Youth Prize of $500 went to 19-year-old, activist and entrepreneur, Cambria Wichmann for her idea to create a space to foster healing and growth for at-risk youth in urban communities. Her pitch focused on the need for an early-intervention space to help Indigenous communities facing drug or gang violence to reconnect with culture. “My Pow Wow Pitch experience was really amazing,” said Cambria. “I think this is really important, especially for the youth to see that we can succeed too.”
The Fan Favourite Prize of $500 went to Ed Jensen, Founder of Tk’emlúps Traditions and weapons specialist, who is sharing his art and craft with his community. Ed shared pitched to raise funds to take on an apprentice to transfer his knowledge. “My pitch experience was a whirlwind,” said Ed. “I registered moments before pitching! Putting my dreams and visions together was overwhelming but the mentorship was great. My mentor really helped me put my thoughts and ideas together and I really appreciated that. This was a really great incentive to work harder for next year!”
“Congratulations to Charles Kruger on his Golden Ticket win to advance to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Charles won Fan Favourite last year and it was so amazing to see how much his business has grown and pitch has improved in just one year! We are so proud of the work he is doing and can’t wait to see him shine in the Finals.”
I’m so honoured to be a co-host of Pow Wow Pitch this year,” said Suzette Amaya, media and entertainment entrepreneur. “It’s so exciting here at Kamloops to see all the Indigenous entrepreneurs who not only have heart, determination, and amazing creativity, but are giving back to the community. I think that is what makes this year so special.”
“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, Senior Lead for Indigenous Entrepreneurship 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 in 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 Tara on advancing to the next round.”
Charles will now advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals to pitch for the Grand Prize of $25,000, which broadcasts online on October 19, 2023. Visit www.powwowpitch.org for more information.