Jacques T. Watso and Tina Archuleta win Food & Drink Semi-Final

September 13, 2023

Indigenous entrepreneurs from Odanak, Québec, and Jemez Pueblo, Arizona, each win $1,000 and advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals.

On September 12, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard, announced two winners of the 2023 Food & Drink Semi-Final:

  • Food & Drink Products Winner: Jacques T. Watso, the Abenaki Founder of Sagamité Watso from Odanak, Québec.
  • Food & Drink Services Winner: Tina Archuleta, the Jamez Nation Founder of ITALITY PLANT BASED FOODS from Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico (USA).

Each entrepreneur has won $1,000 and is advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow their businesses.

More than 2,000 Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Canada and the United States applied to Pow Wow Pitch this year for their chance to win cash prizes and advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals. From the 2,000 applicants, 130 were selected as Semi-Finalists and provided with training and mentorship to prepare for their semi-final pitch to the Judges.

Last night, Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch, emceed the action-packed program, where the fourteen Indigenous entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their businesses in one minute for their chance to win. 

Judges included Tracy Brooks, Relationship Manager, Commercial Financial Services at RBC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Build Native Program Manager at Shopify; Kyah Schumacher, Senior Managing Consultant at Mastercard; Jolene Johnson, Founder & CEO of Wabanaki Maple; and Pam Devonshire, Business Development Manager ecommerce and Parcels at Canada Post.

Food & Drink Products Spotlight:

“The main reason I am pitching for the second time is because Pow Wow Pitch is a contest like no other,” said Jacques T. Watso, founder of Sagamité Watso. “It is uplifting and inspiring. I just love to be a part of this great experience. Also, my traditional soup mixes are delicious and deserve to be known worldwide!”

Sagamité Watso produces the traditional Abenaki soup of Odanak in a revolutionary soup mix that ties together the ‘feeling of a traditional experience’ with ‘the ease of cooking.’ Founder, Jacques T. Watso, prides himself on his delicious soup mix and the ability to share his cultural food on a larger scale. Jacques shared his business motto during his pitch that his soup is “delicious, nutritious, and Indigenous!” Jacques pitched for a filling machine that will allow him to lower cost and manufacturing time so that he can scale to major grocers across Canada.

To watch Jacques T. Watso’s winning pitch, click here.

Cindy Convery, Founder of PureWild Co. was honoured as the Runner Up for the Food & Drink Products Semi-Final. In addition, the judges also provided an Honourable Mention to Michael John, Founder of Navajo Mike’s.

Food & Drink Services Spotlight:

“Pow Wow Pitch is a great organization and an awesome platform for Indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Tina Archuleta, Founder of ITALITY PLANT BASED FOODS. “I am working to take my business internationally and I decided to pitch to see how I’d compare with other Indigenous businesses across Turtle Ilsand. Plus, I would benefit from capital for my business to bring my products into Puebloan communities across my region.”

ITALITY PLANT BASED FOODS is the first-ever Indigenous and women-owned vegan restaurant and food service in the United States. Founder, Tina Archuleta takes great pride in being able to provide healthy, traditional foods to not only her community, but to all communities that span New Mexico. Tina shared in her pitch that she wishes to service the entire state of New Mexico with the help of a food truck to help her cover the rural areas of the state. 

To watch Tina Archuleta’s winning pitch, click here.

Christina Smith, Founder of Takeout In The Boonies was also honoured as the Runner Up of the Food & Drink Services Semi-Final.

“Congratulations to Jacques and Tina on their advancement to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “It is so important to see Indigenous food products taking up space on store shelves and Indigenous-owned restaurants everywhere. These incredible entrepreneurs are taking up space and bringing incredible food to the world. We look forward to following and championing their success.”

“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 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 Rachael Hunt on advancing to the next round.”

To watch the Food & Drink Semi-Final, click here.

Jacques and Tina will now advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals to pitch for the Grand Prize of $25,000, which broadcasts online on October 19th. Visit www.powwowpitch.org for more information.