Kona Slays, Love Koko, wins Startup Semi-Final

September 6, 2023

Indigenous entrepreneur from Montreal, QC wins $1,000 and advances to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals.

On September 5th, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard, announced Kona Slays, the Rapid Lake  Founder of Love Koko from Montreal, Québec, as the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Startup Winner. Kona Slays has won $1,000 and is advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow their business.

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 seven Startup Semi-Finalists had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and businesses in one minute for their chance to win.

Judges included Chad Garlow, Senior Manager Indigenous Peoples Development Program of RBC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Build Native Program Manager at Shopify; Stephen Nairn, Chief Investment Officer at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners; Teresa Ryder, Director of Partnerships at ITAC.

“This is my first time pitching for Pow Wow Pitch and it is so cool to be selected and to continue this journey,” said Kona Slays, Founder of Love, Koko.

Love, Koko is an Indigenous owned and operated fashion brand, specializing in streetwear designs that cultivates a new style of urban Indigenous flare. Love, Koko is combining tradition with modernity to create beautiful, handmade designs that are culturally appropriate and accessible to all. Founder, Kona Slays, has dreams to transform Indigenous clothing and design. “I created Love, Koko so that Indigenous peoples can take pride in their culture and express it through fashion.”

Koko shared in her pitch that she will use any funds to be able to grow her current following on social media, purchase new and more material, grow her team, and launch a website. Koko also has goals to inspire Indigenous youth to pursue their dreams and share their passions. “I’m aiming to reach out to Indigenous-owned fabric businesses and to grow across Indigenous country.”

In addition to selecting a Winner, the judges would also like to congratulate the Startup Semi-Final Runner Up, Kim Koyczan, Founder of Nature Spirit Soaps. The judges commented on Kim’s passionate presentation and thoughtful business.

The judges also provided Honourable Mentions to Cherise Bruno, Founder of Beloved Beadwork, for her commitment to involving Indigenous youth and strong vision for growth through collaboration, and to Alex Soop, Founder of Sooprimo Publishing, for pursuing his passion and taking the next step in his journey.

“Congratulations to Kona Slays on their advance to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Love Koko is an exciting and fresh business that will really resonate with the youth and next generation. We are looking forward to seeing Kona’s startup take off and make waves in the fashion industry. She is one to watch and an icon in the making” 

“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 Kona Slays on advancing to the next round.”

To watch Kona Slays’s winning pitch, click here. To watch the Startup Semi-Final, click here.

Kona 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.