PHOTO: Group picture of Natoaganeg Pow Wow Pitch top 10, winners, mentors, judges and Pow Wow Pitch Founder, Sunshine Tenasco.

Curtis Bartibogue, Turtle Island Aqua Inc. wins 2023 Natoaganeg Pow Wow Pitch

July 18, 2023

Esgenoopetitj First Nation business wins $5,000 and advances to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals

On Saturday, July 15th, 2023, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify,and Mastercard with local presenting partner Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) in collaboration with Women in Business New Brunswick (WBNB), announced Curtis Bartibogue, Owner of Turtle Island Aqua Inc., from Esgenoopetitj First Nation as the 2023 Natoaganeg Pow Wow Pitch Winner. The Indigenous-owned business has won $5,000 and is advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000.

On Saturday, twenty-one Indigenous entrepreneurs pitched their businesses live at the Natoaganeg Traditional Powwow in Eel Ground First Nation, New Brunswick, for their chance to win cash prizes and advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals. 

Host Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch, emceed the action-packed program, where Indigenous entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and businesses in one minute for their chance to win prizes and support to make their dreams a reality. 

Following a first-round open pitch, judges Jeff MacTavish, Director of Economic Development for the City of Miramichi, Sequin Bear, Owner of Party Bear Rentals, Laura Englehart, Economic Development Manager of JEDI, Natasha Martin-Michell, Development Officer for Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs at WBNB, and Tiffany Gallivan, Managing Director of Valiant. Modern Media., shortlisted the ‘Top 10’ entrepreneurs to advance to round two. 

The Top 10 entrepreneurs were paired with mentors from Party Bear Rentals, JEDI, WBNB, and Valiant. Modern Media. to help them polish their presentations before they pitched one last time to judges Jenna White, Founder and Owner of Jenna’s Nut-Free Dessertery Inc, Jolene Johnson, Founder and CEO of Wabanaki Maple, Sydney Paul, Economic Development Officer of Natoaganeg First Nation, and Stanley Barnaby, CEO of JEDI

First-Place Winner, Curtis Bartibogue, Owner of Turtle Island Aqua Inc. was created by Roche Sappier from Tobique First Nation. Turtle Island Aqua Inc. is an award-winning water company with water that is locally sourced from a protected area in New Brunswick and was created through inspiration from Roche’s traditional knowledge of nature and water. Turtle Island Aqua Inc. participated in Pow Wow Pitch to raise funds to improve packaging. According to Curtis Bartibogue, “Our long-term goal is to help Indigenous communities that have no access to pure and healthy drinking water.”

The Second-Place $2,500 Prize Winner was Jessica Johnson, Founder of True Grit Carpentry, a residential carpentry service that pitched to raise funds to purchase necessary tools to provide new services. “It has been great to be part of Pow Wow Pitch to network and learn from everyone,” said Jessica. “Winning today was a bonus and I’m definitely taking home more than the prize!”

The Third-Place $1,000 winner was Shayna Boudreau, Owner of Skoden Hair Ties, a hair tie brand famous on the powwow trail. Shayna pitched to raise funds to invest in growing her digital marketing and sales. Shayna shares her advice for other Indigenous entrepreneurs to inspire them and their journeys, “Never give up because you really never know how far you’re going to get if you don’t try.”

The Youth Prize $500 winner was Moise Russo, the vision behind RC Racing Customization, a hobby-turned-idea to create customized hydro-dipping for RC race cars. Moise shared that he wanted to start a club for him and his friends to spend their time getting creative, having fun and learning together.

The Fan Favourite Prize $500 winners were Shaunessey McKay and Mariah Sark, Co-Founders of Sweet Sage Yoga Studio, a yoga studio that promotes accessibility and wellness. “I think this was a beautiful opportunity,” said Shaunessey. “It got us in front of people, and gave us experience with networking.” Mariah also shared her experience, “We wanted to get out of our comfort zones and pitch our business idea. Pow Wow Pitch gave new skills to move forward and we are excited to use our prize to get stuff done.”

“Congratulations to Curtis Bartibogue on its Golden Ticket win to advance to the 2023 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of Pow Wow Pitch. “They came here today with a solid vision and a great product that has an amazing message and potential to grow. We look forward to showcasing them at the Grand Finale in October.”

“I think it’s a great initiative to bring to New Brunswick,” said Stanley Barnaby, CEO of JEDI. “It really allows us to come into the community to promote entrepreneurship and Indigenous businesses.”

“Working with the Pow Wow Pitch team has been such an exciting and rewarding experience,” said Laura Englehart, Economic Development Manager at JEDI. “We have been wanting to bring Pow Wow Pitch to New Brunswick for some time and are so thrilled to see that it was a hit within the community! Thank you to Pow Wow Pitch for working with us to bring this opportunity to our entrepreneurs and  making this initiative a reality!”

“I am so proud of our community,” said Natasha Martin-Mitchell, Development Officer for Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs of WBNB. “It was an amazing experience getting to judge and we are so thankful to Pow Wow Pitch for bringing this amazing opportunity to New Brunswick.”

“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, Senior Lead for Indigenous Entrepreneurship 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 Tara on advancing to the next round.”

All those who pitched at the Natoaganeg Pow Wow Pitch will receive a free .CA domain name courtesy of CIRA, a 60-day free Shopify trial, and will join the Pow Wow Pitch community for ongoing support.

Curtis will now advance to the Pow Wow Pitch Finals to pitch for the Grand Prize of $25,000, which broadcasts online on October 19, 2023. Visit for more information.