Pow Wow Pitch Welcomes Inaugural Board of Directors

February 14, 2024

February 14, 2024 | Pow Wow Pitch, a non-profit organization supporting and celebrating Indigenous entrepreneurs, announces the appointment of its inaugural Board of Directors. The formation of this esteemed board marks a significant milestone in Pow Wow Pitch’s journey to support and fund early-stage Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island.

Indigenous entrepreneur Sunshine Tenasco, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, first conceptualized Pow Wow Pitch after successfully pitching and raising capital from CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Drawing inspiration from her experiences, Sunshine introduced an Indigenous business pitch competition as part of a powwow at the Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in 2015.

Since its inception, Pow Wow Pitch has grown exponentially, impacting communities across Canada and the United States with the support and engagement of hundreds of volunteers and aligned partners, including presenting partners RBC, Shopify, and Mastercard.

In 2021, when Pow Wow Pitch became a non-profit organization to continue its commitment to advancing Indigenous entrepreneurship in a lasting and sustainable way, it installed a small custodial board Chaired by Founder Sunshine Tenasco and an establishment Advisory Council. Since then, the organization has scaled its partnerships, programming, and impact, and readied itself to hire its first employees. At the beginning of this year, Naomi Sarazin was appointed as the first Executive Director of the organization, and it was her priority to install its inaugural Board of Directors. 

Joining the Board of Directors are esteemed professionals and entrepreneurial leaders who bring a wealth of expertise and a deep commitment to good governance and advancing Indigenous entrepreneurship. 

Karen Green, Lawyer, Policy Consultant and Governance Expert: Karen Green, a Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory lawyer, is a leading advocate for Indigenous rights, particularly for First Nations women and children. With a distinguished career at the Department of Justice, she held key positions, notably as Executive Director of the Federal Centre for Conflict Management. Karen’s influence extends to national levels; she served as CEO of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and authored the women’s chapter of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report. Now a self-employed lawyer and policy consultant, she continues her impactful work. Karen’s extensive community service includes roles as President of the Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Program and of Kenhteke Midwives. As well as holding other  board positions in various organizations, reflecting her unwavering commitment to Indigenous issues.

“As I embark on this journey as a member of the Board of Directors of Pow Wow Pitch, I am enthused by its potential as a transformative tool for advancing social and economic equity among Indigenous communities through entrepreneurship,” said Karen. “With my extensive background in advocating for Indigenous rights and fostering inclusive policies, I aim to contribute a focus on good governance, organizational longevity, and sustainable and scalable strategies. I firmly believe that Pow Wow Pitch has immense potential to effect meaningful change and am eager to leverage my expertise to ensure its continued impact and success in fostering entrepreneurship and empowerment across Indigenous communities.”

Jessica Zhang-Chapman, CPA, CIA: Jessica, Professor in Accounting at Algonquin College and Founder of Tangram Consulting, brings 15 years of accounting, audit, tax and financial management expertise to the Pow Wow Pitch Board. With a CPA and CIA designation, she ensures financial stewardship and compliance. During her career with Welch LLP, Jessica served over 2,000 clients of varying sizes and industries. A sought-after speaker, she delivers webinars on Board governance and tax topics. Jessica is actively involved in community leadership. She serves on boards including the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and Women’s Economic Council. Recognized with Welch LLP HIO’s 2023 Employer Excellence Award, she champions diversity and inclusion in business.

“I am honoured to join the Board of Pow Wow Pitch,” said Jessica. “I deeply appreciate the openness of the Board for including me as a first-generation immigrant with non-Indigenous identity. I strive to be the conduit for connecting the organization with the diverse business community that I am part of. As a seasoned CPA specializing in nonprofits, I will contribute to building a robust financial system that meets regulatory compliance and prepares the organization for future growth. My commitment is to be a trusted CPA for the Board, the management, and Indigenous entrepreneurs.”

Matthew Nahdee, Co-Owner, Chatham-Kent Barnstormers: Matthew Nahdee, a Walpole Island First Nation member, former Professor at Fanshawe College and serial entrepreneur, is dedicated to advancing Indigenous initiatives. With a passion for startups and community development, he played a pivotal role in establishing Pow Wow Pitch’s Alumni Program. As a Board Director, Matthew aims to expand opportunities for Pow Wow Pitch Alumni. His involvement with impactful organizations like the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre and the Walpole Island/Bkejwanong Trust demonstrates his commitment to Indigenous empowerment. 

“I am proud to be on the inaugural Board of Directors of Pow Wow Pitch, joining a high-functioning team of Indigenous people and committed allies,” said Matthew Nahdee. “Through social ventures, we can fulfill our Seven Generations philosophy, making life for our people more complete and the world more sustainable. I will bring my passion for social ventures to the organization as we work to advance Indigenous entrepreneurship in our own way.”

Michaelee Lazore, Founder and CEO of Sequoia Soaps: Michaelee Lazore, a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka tribe from Akwesáhsne and the Northern Paiute from Nevada, brings to the Board of Pow Wow Pitch, a distinguished 20-year entrepreneurial career. Michaelee’s Sequoia brand has become a hallmark of Indigenous entrepreneurship, reflecting her commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing. As a Pow Wow Pitch Pitcher and Winner turned Judge, Mentor and Alumni, who started in her kitchen and scaled to global success, Michaelee will bring invaluable lived insights to the Pow Wow Pitch Board.

“As a former contestant and someone who has benefitted from Pow Wow Pitch opportunities, I have experienced just about everything our participants will go through,” said Michaelee. “My own personal business goals somewhat mirror Pow Wow Pitch’s in that desire to uplift and assist other Indigenous entrepreneurs and help them succeed. I want to give back to the organization that has given so much to me and my business.”

Each new Board Director will sit for a minimum term of 2 years, with early priorities to establish a 5-year strategy and outlook for the organization. 

“I am honoured these four deeply knowledgeable individuals have agreed to join me on Pow Wow Pitch’s inaugural Board of Directors,” shared Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “They are qualified leaders, each bringing their diverse expertise to provide strategic guidance and good governance as we advance our mission of empowering Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island together. Welcoming Karen, Jessica, Matthew, and Michaelee to the Board of Directors marks a significant milestone for Pow Wow Pitch. I am filled with gratitude and enthusiasm as we launch into this next growth phase with their leadership.”

About Pow Wow Pitch

Pow Wow Pitch is an entrepreneurship program for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, which provides a safe, supportive, collaborative, empowering and culturally supportive environment that addresses the unique challenges of Indigenous entrepreneurs and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs. Pow Wow Pitch enhances, develops and accelerates the growth for current and aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs in a sustainable way through programs and resources. Community leadership through volunteerism is promoted as a reflection of respect and reciprocity as the foundation of the Pow Wow Pitch. For more information, visit powwowpitch.org.