PHOTO: Pow Wow Pitch Founder Sunshine Tenasco announcing Austin Charles, Founder of Shocktalk as the USA Semi-Final Winner

Austin Charles, ShockTalk wins USA Semi-Final

September 27, 2021

Three Indigenous entrepreneurs from the USA advance to the Finals

On Saturday evening, Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs, presented in partnership with RBCShopify and Facebook, announced Austin Charles Serio, Co-Founder & CEO of ShockTalk from the Chicoran Shakori Tribe as the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch USA Winner.

Austin has won 500 CAD and has advanced to the Finals along with Danielle Pieratos, Co-Founder of Harvest Nation, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Minnesota and Tara Tekahentakhwa Tarbell, Founder of Niawen Skincare, Akwesasne Mohawk, New York. The three entrepreneurs are advancing to the Finals for a chance to win $25,000 to grow their businesses.

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

On Saturday, Indigenous entrepreneurs from the USA pitched to a panel of judges, including RBC Vice President of Real Estate and Construction Services Carla Woodward; Shopify Senior Lead of Community and Underrepresented Entrepreneurs Brandon Davenport; NACCA National Program Manager Kevin Rose, Square Small Business and Community Advocate Martin Guerrero; and, Pow Wow Pitch Alumni and Owner of Sequoia Soaps Michaelee Lazore.

Pow Wow Pitch’s Founder Sunshine Tenasco announced the judges’ selection of the entrepreneurs advancing to the Finals and the USA Winner. 

Austin Charles Serio, Co-Founder & CEO of ShockTalk and the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch USA Winner. ShockTalk provides Native American and Alaska Native peoples with culturally appropriate patient-provider relationships through a telemental health platform.

“I applied to Pow Wow Pitch to join a community championing Indigenous values of respect and reciprocity,” said Austin Charles. “ShockTalk is about linking Indigenous communities to good medicine through strong relationships. Bringing good medicine into the world requires tending to all relations with respect and reciprocity, which is not necessarily compatible with the Silicon Valley approach to move fast and break things.” Austin intends to use prize funds to support piloting the platform across various Indigenous communities to improve its performance and involve communities in its development.

Also moving onto the Finals is Danielle Pieratos, Co-Founder of Harvest Nation, an indoor aeroponic farm bringing equity to and localizing food systems through CSA farm box shares for families.

“Prize funds would go toward prototyping an automated grow light track that will reduce energy needs and the number of lights by half,” said Dani Pieratos. “This will reduce our startup costs by $250,000 as we launch our first farm in North Western Minnesota to serve our reservation community and supply neighbouring towns with fresh, healthy heirloom produce.”

The final USA entrepreneur advancing to the Finals is Tara Tekahentakhwa Tarbell, Founder of Niawen Skincare, a hand-harvested and handcrafted culturally medicinal skincare brand underpinned by Niawen self-ceremony and cleansing rituals.

“I applied for Pow Wow Pitch because I knew I would kick myself for not applying,” said Tara Tarbell. “I am an introvert and had to overcome my fear of pitching in front of others. But, I had to try because feeling the fear and doing it anyway is what Niawen Skincare was built on. Prize funds would go elevate our website, scale digital marketing efforts, and develop an empowering sisterhood work environment of Native women.”

“Congratulations to Austin, Dani and Tara 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 USA Semi-Finals.

Austin, Tara, and Dani are advancing to the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Final 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. 

Everyone can also register for free to watch the Pow Wow Pitch Finals to watch the youth pitch for the big prizes, airing on October 20. Click here to register now.