Local entrepreneur sets sights on Pow Wow Pitch grand prize
Tyler French's ambitious venture could bring clean drinking water and high speed internet to his community
A member of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation is one step closer to winning a national competition aiming to support Indigenous entrepreneurs.
Tyler French is a semifinalist for the annual Pow Wow Pitch, where more than 1,000 vendors, artists and innovators pitch their ideas for a chance to win up to $25,000.
"I just like to show the world that a single male Indigenous entrepreneur is trying to change the world," said French during an interview with Allison Devereux on CBC London Morning.
"And I'm just looking for a little bit of support and help from the local community to just let them know that I'm here and I'm trying."
French's multi-faceted venture is called Celebration Event Facility and Museum, operated on the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation territory.
Listen to Tyler French's interview on CBC London Morning:
His inspiration for the venue came after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed his own wedding plans. Currently in development, the 12-acre property will serve as a scenic, Indigenous-themed, customizable wedding ceremony and reception site.
"Right now, almost over 50 per cent of our weddings booked are capitalizing on the Indigenous themed ceremony, which is where we share culture and heritage, which is smudging and having a blanket ceremony," French said. "Just those teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation through our lives that we want to share with other cultures and heritage across Canada."
French also works part-time as an archeological field monitor for the Chippewas on the Thames. He's planning on adding a museum space to the facility to showcase Indigenous artifacts that would have otherwise been sent to a museum in London.
The museum also features a collection of memorabilia from Indigenous and non-Indigenous athletes.
Aside from combining his passions into one location and sharing them, French said the hub will also serve as an opportunity to provide his community with a reliable source of clean drinking water and high speed Internet, which they currently don't have.
"My vision is just being able to connect with the outside world and allowing our reserve to function normally," he said.
Online voting for the semifinals continues for the Pow Wow Pitch until Sept. 20. The grand finale will take place on Oct. 20.