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 was in the running for the big prize.
Tasha Power is co-founder and CMO of the family-run Kanatan Health Solutions--based in Saddle Lake Cree Nation. In the fledgling company's second year reaching the final stages of the competition, Power says it's been 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 Pow Wow Pitch offered she and her family.
"A win would've helped us scale up to get more product out the door," said Power. "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--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."
Power says next on the horizon is a retail space in Edmonton, already open to customers by appointment. See kanatanhealthsolutions.ca for more.
Pow Wow Pitch founder, Sunshine Tenasco, says she was inspired by Power and the team at Kanatan Health Solutions, an example of the cream-of-the-crop Indigenous entrepreneurs that wowed the judges at this year's pitch event.
"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."
This year's winners included Indigenous entrepreneurs from Saskatchewan, B.C. Nunavut and Ontario. The $25,000 grand prize winner was Harlan Wade Kingfisher, founder of Smudge The Blades. See powwowpitch.org for details on all winners and finalists.