Ramona Emerson, Sharon Marshall, and Ashley Michel win 2023 Alumni Choice

September 20, 2023

Three Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Turtle Island each win $1,000 and advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals.

On September 19th, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify and Mastercard, announced three Alumni Choice Prize Winners:

  • Ramona Emerson, the Diné Co-Founder of Reel Indian Pictures from Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA).
  • Sharon Marshall, the Cree and Métis Founder of Digital DEVA from Lantzville, British Columbia.
  • Ashley Michel, the Secwepemc Founder of 4 Generations Creations from Kamloops, British Columbia. 

The Pow Wow Pitch Alumni Prize is presented in partnership with Mastercard to foster a culture of giving back, mentorship, community support and empowerment across the Indigenous entrepreneur community. Pow Wow Pitch Alumni select up to three Semi-Finalists who they believe have the potential to win Pow Wow Pitch to advance to the Finals. Each entrepreneur has won $1,000 and is advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow their businesses.

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 who pitched to win 25,000 and advance to the Finals. 

Spotlight on Ramona Emerson

“This is our first time pitching for Pow Wow Pitch,” said Ramona Emerson, Co-Founder of Reel Indian Pictures. “With these winnings, we would offer paid internships to young filmmakers in our local community to teach the ins and outs of documentary filmmaking and prepare them for a career in the film industry.”

Reel Indian Pictures is an Indigenous-owned and operated film and video production company with over 20 years of experience in the industry. With a focus on community engagement, Reel Indian Pictures works extensively with local grassroots organizations in New Mexico to raise awareness about social issues, and also contributes to educational initiatives by teaching filmmaking to Indigenous youth. 

To watch Ramona’s winning pitch, click here.

Spotlight on Sharon Marshall

“I pitched at the Kamloopa Pow Wow Pitch this Summer, and while I didn’t win, I was grateful for the experience,” said Sharon Marshall, Founder and CEO of Digital DEVA. “I chose to pitch this year because I wanted to hone my pitch for investors. Plus $25,000 would enable me to sponsor a cohort of Indigenous women into my program. Every cohort I can train provides the social proof I need to show the world that DEVA is viable and has the ability to impact so many women, their families, and their communities. ”

Digital DEVA is a full-service staffing agency providing temporary recruitment, as well as digital literacy and administrative training for Indigenous women. Founded by Sharon Marshall, Digital DEVA teaches and prepares Indigenous women seeking employment through self confidence, financial independence and skills training. Through Sharon’s programming, she has been able to support all graduates in gaining employment. 

To watch Sharon’s winning pitch, click here.

Spotlight on Ashley Michel

“I chose to pitch again this year because I want a better future for my daughter and the generations to come,” said Ashley Michel, Founder and CEO of 4 Generations Creations. “No obstacle is too big to overcome if you believe in yourself. I want the youth to see all of us succeed and realize that they could do that one day too.”

Ashley Michel is the artist and owner behind 4 Generations Creations, a market for authentic Indigenous fabrics, materials, and art. 4 Generations Creations aims to create designs that educate others about Indigenous issues & resiliency through apparel and art. Ashley has created a platform through a social media following to further share her message. Ashley shared in her pitch that she wishes to purchase her own direct to garner machine to bring her production in-house and in turn, open opportunities to hire a team from her community.

To watch Ashley’s winning pitch, click here

“Congratulations to Ramona, Sharon, and Ashley on moving forward to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Recognition from Pow Wow Pitch Alumni is a huge accomplishment– to be recognized by your community for the good work you are doing, so much so that they invest in you and your dreams! We are all so proud of the impact your businesses are making and you have the community giving lift to your wings. Congratulations!”

“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 honour, 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 Ramona, Sharon, and Ashley on advancing to the next round.”

Ramona, Sharon and Ashley 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/register to register to join.