TORONTO – An Indigenous entrepreneur from the unceded territory of Wiikwemkoong who is the President and CEO of Staff Shop Incorporated has been selected as one of four people from Ontario who qualified for the Pow Wow Pitch final , the largest pitch competition in North America for emerging Indigenous entrepreneurs.
On September 22, Jennifer Menard-Shand joined Steven Vanloffeld, CEO of eSupply Canada Ltd., Tiana Byrnes, owner of Twin Equipment and Tool Rentals, and Keri Gray, owner of Shades of Gray Indigenous Pet Treats (the latter was also named the Ontario winner in the semi-final competition and received a prize of $ 500), who qualified for the final and have a chance to win $ 25,000 to take their business to the next level .
“Yeah, we’re going to the final,” Ms. Menard-Shand told The Expositor late last week. “We were chosen from the four finalists from Ontario who advanced to the final. ”
This summer, 1,642 Indigenous entrepreneurs from across Turtle Island (Canada, United States and Mexico) submitted one-minute video presentations of their businesses to gain funds and support.
In August, Pow Wow Pitch announced the semi-finalists and paired them with mentors to refine their business presentations for presentation to the judges.
On September 22, 24 Indigenous entrepreneurs from Ontario appeared before a panel of judges, including Tamer Gabbour, Senior Director of RBC; Managing Director of Shopify, Canada, Ian Black; Spencer Callaghan, senior director of branding and communications for CIRA; Hazel Harrison, Invest Ottawa Starter Plus Company Mentor, and Luke Misczyk, Canada Post Parcel and E-Commerce Manager.
Jennifer Menard-Shand is the CEO of Wiikwemkoong of Staff Shop Inc. Staff Shop supports Canadian, American and Caribbean clients with recruiting solutions for hospitality, light industry, retail, office, IT , finance, events, security and executive search; payroll services; event management and planning services; commercial resources; an affiliate supplies store and services.
“We asked the Pow Wow Pitch to raise funds to support our mobile app project to help us grow on Turtle Island,” Ms. Menard-Shand said. “Winning would provide additional validation to those who join and hire us. We want to shine for entrepreneurs and Indigenous communities and be an example of CS Lewis’ quote: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the end”.
Ms. Menard-Shand told The Expositor, “I’m originally from Sudbury, but my native Ojibway family roots come from Wiikwemkoong. Manitoulin Island is where my mother and grandmother come from, and I spend time on beautiful Manitoulin Island in the summer. I have a property in South Bay.
Staff Shop Inc. is based in Toronto and serves customers in all regions of Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
“I grew up learning in the hospitality industry,” said Ms. Menard-Shand. “When my former boss moved in 2018, he introduced me to this full-service resource company. “
“We started in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and now have customers in all 10 (Canadian) provinces, the United States and the Caribbean,” said Ms. Menard-Shand.
“Various Congratulations to Keri, Tiana, Jennifer and Steven for making it to the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch Finals,” said Sunshine Tenasco, Founder of the Pow Wow Pitch. “Your resilience, your creativity and your commitment to celebrate and share our diverse Indigenous culture while having an impact is a testament to how our unique business style can and will create a better future for all of us. ”
“The Pow Wow Pitch is a great showcase for Indigenous innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Dale Sturges, National Director of Indigenous Financial Services at RBC. “Indigenous entrepreneurs play a vital role in creating innovative solutions, sustainable communities and economic prosperity. It is an honor for RBC to be a part of the Pow Wow Pitch this year as we play our part in highlighting Indigenous innovations and sharing their inspiring entrepreneurial stories with Canadians at large. We are so proud of all of our entrants, finalists and winners, and we will continue to support their growth and success in the future.
Ms. Tenasco started the Pow Wow Pitch seven years ago to create a community of Indigenous entrepreneurs as part of the Ottawa Midsummer Pow Wow.
“I started Pow Wow Pitch because I believe entrepreneurship is the path to self-sufficiency,” Ms. Tenasco said. “Being on Dragon’s Den has changed my life. When Dragons Brett Wilson and Arlene Dickinson invested and believed in me, it gave me the courage to continue my entrepreneurial journey. Hope Pow Wow Pitch helps give this gift to someone else.
Ms. Tenasco announced the judges’ selection of the contractors qualifying for the final and the regional winner. The Pow Wow Pitch final will take place on October 20. Entrepreneurs will compete to win one of the following prizes: $ 3,000 for the Alumni’s Choice Award, $ 10,000 for second place, $ 5,000 for third and $ 25,000 for first place.
Ms. Menard-Shand told The Expositor, “$ 25,000 would help us expand across North America through our mobile app project, making it easier for the world to work with us while increasing the value. Staff Shop 50% or more. More importantly, a victory for Staff Shop would be a victory for other Indigenous entrepreneurs and their communities who are inspired to join or hire us.