Three Manitoulin Island entrepreneurs reach semi-finals in Pow Wow Pitch

Aric Aguonie of Sheguiandah First Nation, who helps run the family owned and operated Earth Haven Farm in Tweed, Ontario, is one of three Manitoulin Island First Nation entrepreneurs who have been selected as semi-finalists in the Pow Wow Pitch.

MANITOULIN – Three  Manitoulin Island First Nation entrepreneurs who operate businesses are all semi-finalists in the Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

The three entrepreneurs include Jennifer Wabegijig of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory who owns Wild and Glorious, which makes handmade home and fashion products; Jennifer Menard-Shand, also of Wiikwemkoong, the chief executive officer of Staff Shop Inc., a business focused on essential staffing and resources in support of the COVID-19 pandemic; and Aric Aguonie of Sheguiandah First Nation with Earth Haven Farm in Tweed, Ontario. Earth Haven Farm is a family owned and operated subsistence  farm dedicated to a sustainable lifestyle. The three were chosen as one of 146 entrepreneurs selected to reach the semi-finals of the competition from among 1,642 applicants.

Ms. Wabegijig, who lives in southern Georgian Bay where she operates her business, told The Expositor, “this is the first time I’ve taken part in this competition. I’ve been able to reach the semi-finals, among the 1,600 plus selected from Ontario, US, Canada, the Territories etc.” She explained, “it is a promotion competition of your own business, where viewers can view each businesses’ site and choose which they feel should go on to the competition finals.”

“The Pow Wow Pitch started small in Ottawa, at a powwow held there,” Ms. Wabegijig told The Expositor. “Sunshine Tenasco is the woman who started the competition. She felt this type of competition should be held for Indigenous entrepreneurs.” 

Pow Wow Pitch, North America’s premier pitch competition for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs, allows Indigenous entrepreneurs to pitch for the continental spotlight and $50,000 in cash prizes. The competition is presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify and Facebook.

Pow Wow Pitch founder Sunshine Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg entrepreneur, started Pow Wow Pitch seven years ago to build a supportive community of Indigenous entrepreneurs as part of the Ottawa Summer Solstice Pow Wow.

“I started Pow Wow Pitch because I believe entrepreneurship is the path to self-sufficiency,” said Ms.  Tenasco. “Being on Dragon’s Den changed my life. When Dragons Brett Wilson and Arlene Dickenson invested and believed in me, it gave me the courage to continue my entrepreneurship journey. I hope Pow Wow Pitch helps to give that gift to someone else.”

Last year, Pow Wow Pitch moved online due to pandemic cancellations of pow wows, which enabled Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Canada to participate for the first time. With the success of the move to digital, this year’s Pow Wow Pitch is open to any Indigenous entrepreneur across Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Jennifer Menard-Shand (of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory), chief executive officer of Staff Shop Inc, is one of 146 Ontario entrepreneurs has been selected as a semi-finalist in the Pow Wow Pitch.

Between June 21 and July 31, Indigenous entrepreneurs submitted a one-minute video business pitch as their entry into the Pow Wow Pitch Competition. Indigenous (Inuit, Metis or First Nations) people living anywhere on Turtle Island of any age or gender with an idea or business at any stage and in any industry were able to apply.

Pow Wow Pitch selected the top 150 entrepreneurs as regional semi-finalists to receive mentorship, pitch training and a chance to take the continental stage to pitch their business.

The top 25 entrepreneurs from each region-Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia and the Territories, and the United States and Mexico-pitch to a panel of judges for the change to win their regional title and cash prizes and advance onward to the Turtle Island Grand Finale Live broadcast to win $50,000 in cash prizes ranging from $500-$25,000. 

All entrepreneurs who enter the pitch competition will join the Pow Wow Pitch community, get access to a free Indigenous startup program, access more than $1,000 worth of free technology, tools and support, and have the chance to have their products and services featured in the Pow Wow Pitch annual mailer box to 500 customers, and on the Pow Wow Pitch Directory for socially-conscious customers looking to ‘Buy Indigenous.’

Jennifer Wabegijig of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, who owns Wild and Glorious, has been named as a semi-finalist in the Pow Wow Pitch.

“Entrepreneurship is an important tool supporting reconciliation, and it takes all hands on deck to support Indigenous entrepreneurs,” said Ms. Tenasco. “We are proud to continue our relationship with RBC and Shopify, and kick-start our relationship with Facebook, as we build an ecosystem for Indigenous-owned startups and entrepreneurs” To learn more about the 2021 Pow Wow pitch competition and the entrepreneurs, visit 

powwowpitch.org/pitch/

“Meet the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch regional semi-finalists and join us by cheering them on at the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Semi-Finals and voting for your favourite semi-finalist to win the People’s Choice Award,”  a release states. Watch the entrepreneurs pitch to the judges and find out who is moving on to the grand finale. For Ontario, this will take place at 6 pm on September 22.

The deadline to vote for the People’s Choice Award winner, who will receive $500 and a guaranteed spot in the finals, is midnight September 26.

The grand finale champion will be named in October.