Indigenous entrepreneur from Land O Lakes, ON 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 Sarah Sproule, the Chippewas of Georgina Island Founder of Wayeshkad from Land O Lakes, Ontario, as the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Tourism Winner. Sarah has won $1,000 and is advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow her 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 the five Tourism 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 at RBC; Kyle Brennan Shàwinipinesì, Senior Lead Indigenous Entrepreneurship at Shopify; Stephen Nairn, Chief Investment Officer at Raven Indigenous Capital Partners; and, Teresa Ryder, Director of Partnerships at ITAC.
“This is the first time I have pitched for Pow Wow Pitch,” said Sarah Sproule. “I decided to pitch because I thought I had a very unique tourism idea and opportunity focused on maintaining our culture and traditional practices.”
Wayeshkad is a trapline tourism business in Land O Lakes, Ontario that provides guided bear hunts and trapline tours. Wayeshkad also sells handmade leather, fur and cotton products using the traditional hunting and trapping styles of the Ojibwe people.
Sarah pitched to win funds that would allow her to expand her services offered at Wayeshkad by being able to extend her touring season into the winter months. Sarah plans to cabins to provide guests with overnight and immersive experiences. Sarah shares, “The Grand Prize money would be used to bring power and water into my camp and would go towards fees of incorporating the business.”
Alongside selecting a winner, the judges selected Tasha Robitaille, Founder of La Belle Cabane, a healing spa centered around traditional practices as the Runner Up, and provided an Honourable Mention to Tyler French, Founder of CELEBRATION: Event Family and Museum, an event coordinating business rooted in the spirit of gathering.
“Congratulations to Sarah and her advancement to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “Wayeshkad is leading by example of how to incorporate tradition and the tourism industry. We look forward to spotlighting and sharing Wayeshkad with the Pow Wow Pitch community and growing together.”
“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 Sarah on advancing to the next round.”
Sarah 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.