PHOTO: Killa Atencio, Mi'kmaki Founder of IndigenUs

Know you are worthy

September 4, 2021

Semi-Finalist Spotlight on Killa Atencio, IndigenUs

Meet Killa Atencio, Mi’kmaki Founder of IndigenUs from Nova Scotia. Killa is a Pow Wow Pitch Atlantic Canada Semi-Finalist. We sat down with Killa to learn more about her, her business and her reflections on entrepreneurship. 

PWP: Killa, can you share with us the story behind your business, IndigenUs?

KA: I created IndigenUs as a connector between Indigenous Knowledge Carriers from across Turtle Island to clients and organizers seeking to contract them. 

When pandemic lockdowns pushed events and meetings online, I saw an opportunity to help facilitate Indigenous Knowledge Carriers’ visibility and reach.

We streamline the marketing and outreach process, automate promotion and boost visibility to potential individuals and organizations seeking to connect with Indigenous subject matter experts. 

IndigenUs is in the ‘development stage,’ and I am in the process of raising funds to help to accelerate our launch.

PWP: What has been the most challenging part about being an entrepreneur?

KA: The most challenging part has been the trade-offs of time required to bring my vision to life. 

Working on my business means time away from my family, friends and loved ones. But I know my family and my grandmother are incredibly proud of my hard work and dedication.

PWP: What are you most proud of about your entrepreneurial journey so far?

KA: I am proud that I am taking action on my dreams. 

I have always put others’ wants and needs before my own, leaving no time for my own dreams. Before now, everything has felt so out of reach. 

During the pandemic, I gained the courage to leave an abusive relationship. 

I decided: This was the year I would start putting my dreams first. 

I didn’t allow my fear of rejection to stop me. 

I started shifting my mindset from imposter syndrome to knowing I am worthy. 

Now, when a hurdle arises, I don’t let it discourage or defeat me. Instead, I simply learn from it. 

PWP: Thank you for sharing that. We are so proud of you.

Why did you choose to apply for Pow Wow Pitch?

KA: I applied for Pow Wow Pitch after a session with a mentor who told me, “You have to fail 99 times before you get that one win, so you might as well start”. 

I had always been too afraid of rejection and failure and wanted to wait until everything was perfect, but his advice made me realize that sometimes you need to start, apply, pitch, and fail before you start winning.

Aside from that, I felt that Pow Wow Pitch was a comfortable and safe space where I’d feel supported as a new Founder.

PWP: How has your Pow Wow Pitch experience been so far?

KA: I love being part of a network with the other Semi-Finalists who are Indigenous business owners; Indigenous superstars. It’s inspiring to see and hear from people from so many walks of life who are doing amazing things.

Through the program, I was matched with two mentors, Am Gill from Shopify and Spencer Callaghan from CIRA. From Am, I learned that I could build a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and didn’t have to have all the bells and whistles from the start. And from Spencer, I learned the importance of storytelling to explain your business to potential partners and investors.

As an Indigenous entrepreneur, I hold a vision in my mind of community at all times. Community will always come first in my entrepreneurial journey, before investors, advisors or anyone else. Community is why I am doing what I am doing. With Pow Wow Pitch, my community has grown.

I am so grateful for the outpouring of support from not only my community but from people all over. It has not only helped validate my idea but has validated my dream of being a founder. 

PWP: What advice do you have for Indigenous people thinking of starting up a business?

KA: Don’t wait. Don’t let fear stop you. Go for it. You might or might not be successful. But the only way you fail is by not trying.

If being Indigenous has taught me anything, it’s how to be resilient, and that is one of the biggest lessons of being an entrepreneur.

PWP: Thank you for chatting with us, Killa! Good luck with the Semi-Finals.

You can support Killa to reach the Pow Wow Pitch Finals by voting for her for the People’s Choice Prize. Click here to vote for Killa. You can also watch Killa Pitch at the Atlantic Sem-Finals Live on September 20, 2021, at 6 PM ET / 7 PM AT. Click here to register to watch.