EDMONTON - It started as a showcase for Indigenous businesses at prairie pow wow events, but Pow Wow Pitch (think Dragon's Den-style pitches to get help developing or marketing products/services) has gone big time. The Canadian organization can thank a necessary shift online, due to the pandemic, for creating an explosion of interest and entries from across North America (about 1,600 this year) and making a win a big deal--a $25,000 big deal. And this year, an Edmonton-area entrepreneur is in the running for the big prize.
Tasha Power, co-founder and CMO of the family-run Kanatan Health Solutions--based in Saddle Lake Cree Nation--is the face behind her company's pitch. In the fledgling company's second year reaching the final stages of the competition, Power says it's the opportunity to grow the online business of Indigenous-themed hand sanitizers and PPE products (non-medical face masks, hand soaps and more) into a retail space that is the big appeal for she and her family.
"A win would help us scale up to get more product out the door," said Power, who's a day away from finding out whether her company is named champ. Viewers and participants will find out together which of 29 finalists takes the $25,000 grand prize, $10,000 second place or $5,000 third place honours when the Pow Wow Pitch finals air on YouTube October 20.
"I'm excited and hopeful--a woman entrepreneur from the prairies would be a great win. But just as important are the opportunities for networking with other Indigenous business owners and mentorship from sponsors" (like Startup Canada, RBC and Export Development Canada (EDC), whose aim includes supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs start global businesses).
Describing Kanatan Health Solutions as a cross between a modern-day apothecary and The Body Shop, Power says the business (which started at the height of the sanitizer shortage in 2020) was initially all about encouraging Indigenous Elders and all Indigenous people to focus on good hand hygiene in order to combat COVID-19 outbreaks in Indigenous communities. The company has since expanded to include Health Canada-approved hand sanitizers, lotions and creams in scents reflecting Indigenous culture: berry patch bundles, wild mint, juniper berry and sweet birch among them.
"We've already shipped across most of Turtle Island (all of North America)--to 49 U.S. states and every province," said Power, whose training in graphic design and sales is aided by sisters with backgrounds in accounting and health care. "Our niche is the Indigenous market, but we want to share our product with everyone. The Miyokasikan line of smudge-scented hand sanitizers is replicated in foaming hand soap too, showcasing our way of life and offering comfort to those who use them."
Win or not, Power says next on the horizon is a retail space in Edmonton, which is already open to customers by appointment. See kanatanhealthsolutions.ca for more.
Pow Wow Pitch founder, Sunshine Tenasco, says she's inspired by Power and the team at Kanatan Health Solutions, an example of the cream-of-the-crop Indigenous entrepreneurs that have wowed the judges at this year's pitch event.
"We just give them a mic, and in mere minutes, these innovators give us a pitch and answer judge's questions. They're all amazing," said Tenasco. "Doing the event online has been wild and crazy so while we want to hit the road again with the pitch next year, we'll keep an online component too. At its core, Pow Wow Pitch is a grassroots community by and for Indigenous entrepreneurs to support our collective impact and success."
Learn about all the finalists and their businesses, and watch the results Oct. 20. Details are at powwowpitch.org.
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