PHOTO: Pow Wow Pitch Founder Sunshine Tenasco announcing Melanie Paul, Président of Akua Nature as the Quebec Winner

Mélanie Paul, Akua Nature wins Québec Semi-Final

September 21, 2021

Four Québec Indigenous entrepreneurs advance to the Finals

This evening, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBCShopify and Facebook, announced Mélanie Paul, Président of Akua Nature, as the Québec Winner. 

Mélanie has won $500 and has advanced to the Finals along with Grace Mary Edwards, Founder of Gitbu Logistics Inc; Raphaëlle Langevin, Founder of Matsheshu Créations; and Kelly McBride, Founder of Weesanin, 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

This evening, twenty-three Indigenous entrepreneurs from Québec pitched to a panel of judges, including RBC Directrice de comptes Katia Duchesneau; Shopify Senior Lead, Community & Underrepresented Entrepreneurs Christine Silva; Shopify Head of Merchant Education Sebastien Gregoire; Mitacs Directeur, Développement des Affaires Benoit Roberge-Vallières; 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 Regional Winner of the evening was Mélanie Paul, Innu Owner of Akua Nature, which develops and manufactures cosmetic and health products using medicinal properties of traditional First Nations pharmacopeia, with a concern for sustainable development. 

“At Akua Nature, we share Pow Wow Pitch’s mission to celebrate and promote First Nations knowledge, culture and know-how,” said Mélanie Paul. “Winning the competition would support us to grow our customer base for our discovery box seasonal subscription to scale up our business and impact. The discovery boxes showcase Indigenous culture, medicines, plants, rituals and traditions throughout the seasons.”

The finalists

Also moving onto the Final is Grace Mary Edwards, Listuguj Founder of Gitbu Logistics Inc. Gitbu is a transportation logistics company that offers personal and professional deliveries and pickups with tracing and 24/7 on-call support.

“Transport is a male-dominated industry, and so I applied for Pow Wow Pitch to gain exposure and support to grow Gitbu,” said Grace Mary Edwards. “The funding would support me to purchase equipment, hire a full-time bookkeeper, and set in motion a strategy to scale.”

Raphaëlle Langevin is the Mashteuiatsh Founder of Matsheshu Créations, a fashion and accessory business that showcases Pekuakamiulnuatsh and First Nations culture through hand-made products like ribbons skirts, beaded earrings and t-shirts.

“Through the Pow Wow Pitch, I have learned so much and discovered so many inspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Raphaëlle Langevin. “I am raising funds to hire my first full-time employee and increase my inventory to sell our creations in museum gift shops across Canada.”

The final Québec entrepreneur advancing to the Finals is Kelly McBride, Founder of Weesanin from the Timiskaming First Nation. Weesanin Homestyle Cooking provides budget-friendly and healthly fast food options with a dash of Algonquin culture.

“I applied for Pow Wow Pitch to raise funds to establish a storefront for my business,” said Kelly McBride. “My goal is to create a healthy and nourishing space for my community to come together around nourishing food while providing employment opportunities for those in recovery.”

“Congratulations to Mélanie, Grace, Raphaëlle and Kelly 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 Québec Semi-Finals.

Mélanie, Grace, Raphaëlle and Kelly 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 Mélanie, Grace, Raphaëlle and Kelly pitch for the big prizes, airing on October 20. Click here to register now.