PHOTO: Pow Wow Pitch Founder Sunshine Tenasco announcing Keri Gray, Owner of Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats as Ontario Winner

Keri Gray, Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats wins Ontario Semi-Final

September 23, 2021

Four Ontario Indigenous entrepreneurs advance to the Finals

Last night, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBCShopify and Facebook, announced Keri Gray, Owner of Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats, as the Ontario Winner. 

Keri has won $500 and has advanced to the Finals along with Tiana Byrnes, Owner of Twin Equipment & Tool Rentals; Jennifer Ménard-Shand, CEO of Staff Shop Inc.; and, Steven Vanloffeld, CEO of eSupply Canada Ltd., for a chance to win $25,000 to take their businesses to the next level. 

This Summer, 1,642 Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Turtle Island (Canada, the United States and Mexico) submitted one-minute video pitches of their businesses to win funds and support. 

In August, Pow Wow Pitch announced the Semi-Finalists and paired them with mentors to refine their business pitches in preparation for their presentation to the judges

The judges

Last night, twenty-four Indigenous entrepreneurs from Ontario pitched to a panel of judges, including RBC Senior Manager Tamer Gabbour; Shopify Managing Director, Canada Ian Black; CIRA Senior Brand & Communications Manager Spencer Callaghan; Invest Ottawa Starter Plus Company Mentor Hazel Harrison; and, Canada Post Director of Parcels and eCommerce Luke Misczyk. 

Pow Wow Pitch’s Founder Sunshine Tenasco announced the judges’ selection of the entrepreneurs advancing to the Finals and the regional winner. 

The winner

The Ontario Winner of the evening was Keri Gray, Owner of Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats from Algonquins of Pikwakangan First Nation. Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats specializes in premium quality, all-natural, healthy, and made-in-Canada pet treats.

“This is my second year pitching in the Pow Wow Pitch Competition,” said Keri Gray. “I have gained so much from being part of this community, the mentorship I have received, the personal and business growth. Winning the Grand Prize would support me to grow my customer service, marketing and support team and invest in a CRM system to support us to scale.”

The finalists

Also moving onto the Final is Tiana Byrnes, Owner of Twin Equipment & Tool Rentals from Michipicoten First Nation. Tiana owns the heavy equipment rental house, authorized STIHL dealer and a full-service shop located on Hwy 17, North Goulais River.

“I applied for Pow Wow Pitch to help diversify and expand my company to a larger market,” said Tiana Byrnes. “The financial proceeds will allow my company to purchase a POS system and provide opportunities for my community.”

Jennifer Ménard-Shand is the Ojibwe and Wikwemikong CEO of Staff Shop Inc. Staff Shop supports Canadian, USA and Caribbean clients with hospitality, light industrial, retail, clerical, IT, finance, events, security, and executive search staffing solutions; payroll services; management and event planning services; business resources; a supply shop; and affiliate services.

“We applied for Pow Wow Pitch to raise funds to support our Mobile App project to help us to scale across Turtle Island,” said Jennifer Ménard-Shand. “Winning would provide further validation for those who join us and hire us. We want to shine bright for Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities and be an example of the C.S. Lewis Quote, ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the end.’

The final Ontario entrepreneur advancing to the Finals is Steven Vanloffeld, CEO of eSupply Canada Ltd from the Saugeen First Nation. eSupply Canada is an online distributor of office, janitorial, and industrial supplies that serves Indigenous communities and businesses, industry, and governments.

“I applied to Pow Wow Pitch because I am actively seeking investment to help scale my business to 300 franchise locations,” said Steven Vanloffeld. “Through Pow Wow Pitch, I was able to hone my pitch to investors, gain national exposure to build brand awareness and attract new opportunities to expand. Prize funds will contribute to funding my franchise operations manual and franchise agreement necessary to evolve eSupply Canada into a Franchise.

“Congratulations to Keri, Tiana, Jennifer and Steven on advancing to the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Your resilience, creativity and commitment to celebrating and sharing our diverse Indigenous culture while making an impact is a testament to how our unique style of business can and will create a better future for us all.” 

“Pow Wow Pitch is a tremendous showcase of Indigenous innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Dale Sturges, National Director for Indigenous Financial Services at RBC. “Indigenous entrepreneurs play a critical role in creating innovative solutions, sustainable communities, economic prosperity. It’s an honour for RBC to be part of the Pow Wow Pitch this year as we play our part to put a spotlight on Indigenous innovations and share their inspiring entrepreneurial stories with Canadians at large. We’re so proud of all of our participants, finalists and winners, and we will continue to support their growth and success in the future.”

We’re honoured to be a part of the Pow Wow Pitch competition and play a role in supporting these incredibly innovative entrepreneurs as they start and scale their businesses,” said Garrick Tiplady, Vice President and Country Director, Facebook & Instagram Canada. “Congratulations to the semi-finalists and we wish them the best of luck in the next round!” 

Click here to watch the Ontario Semi-Finals.

Keri, Tiana, Jennifer and Steven are advancing to the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Finale set to air on October 20, 2021. The entrepreneurs are pitching to win one of the following prizes: $3,000 for the Alumni Choice Prize, $5,000 for 3rd place, $10,000 for 2nd place, and $25,000 for 1st place. 

Voting remains open for the People’s Choice Award until midnight on September 26. Everyone can vote for their favourite entrepreneur to get an Express Pass to the Grand Finale. There is one vote per person. Vote now

Everyone can also register for free to watch the Pow Wow Pitch Finals to watch Keri, Tiana, Jennifer and Steven pitch for the big prizes, airing on October 20. Click here to register now.