Two First Nations entrepreneurs move on to finals of pitch competition

Two First Nations entrepreneurs on the Prairies are one step closer to a $25,000 grand prize, after being selected to the finals of Powwow Pitch, a national competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

Video producer and clothing line owner vie for $25K Powwow Pitch grand prize

A woman in a long black coat stands outside in a treed and partially snow-covered area.
Erica Daniels, who runs Kejic Productions, is a finalist for this year's Powwow Pitch competition. (Shyan Johnson Monkman)

Two First Nations entrepreneurs on the Prairies are one step closer to a $25,000 grand prize, after being selected to the finals of Powwow Pitch, a national competition for Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

"I'm just honoured and excited to be able to share more about what we do at Kejic Productions and hopefully receive a little bit more support to . . . expand our business and provide more of those opportunities to Indigenous young people," said Erica Daniels.

Daniels, from Peguis First Nation, is the executive producer at Kejic Productions, which provides video production, graphic design and web development services in Winnipeg.

She got her start in the world of video production as a youth by taking part in a multimedia program offered at Broadway Neighborhood Centre in 2007. In 2017, she started Kejic Productions when she saw a demand for video productions, and a need for Indigenous people to be in charge of telling Indigenous stories.

"It's really an exciting time," said Daniels. 

"We have to really claim our space . . . within the film industry, within the production industry and make sure that our voices are being heard and that our stories are being told from an Indigenous perspective because we are really the ones who have lived this experience."

Last year Daniels made it to the finals of the Powwow Pitch competition, which is a partnership between RBC, Shopify and Facebook, but didn't win the grand prize.

She said she had to overcome some self-doubt about entering the competition a second time, but is glad she made the decision to continue.

"I really learned not to give up and to continue to keep trying and to continue to take as many opportunities as possible that are available to Indigenous entrepreneurs," said Daniels.

She said if she wins, she would use the $25,000 to expand her production crew, as well as invest in new video equipment and technology.

Smudge the Blades

Harlan Kingfisher is a full-time power engineer who started Smudge the Blades, a clothing line aimed at the Indigenous hockey community, last year as a side hustle.

The father of four is from Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, located about 150 kilometres north of Saskatoon. He now lives in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., with his family. 

He said he applied to the Powwow Pitch competition mainly for the networking opportunities, and said he was surprised to get chosen as one of the finalists.

"I feel so proud that I was jumping, and I was yelling . . .  I feel super proud of my brand and where we've come," said Kingfisher.

Harlan Kingfisher says has been surprised by the success of his company after the first year of operations. (Submitted by Harlan Kingfisher)

If he wins, he said he would use the money to expand his company's digital marketing by getting more opportunities to feature TikTok influencers and athletes.

Kingfisher said he would eventually like to see his apparel on shelves in the big hockey stores across the country.

This is the seventh year of the Powwow Pitch competition, which was started by Sunshine Tenasco.

Tenasco, who is from Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg, about 120 kilometres north of Ottawa, said the competition went national last year and expanded to include all of North America this year.

She said the competition is an entry point for entrepreneurs who are pitching their ideas and that the networking helps people to grow their businesses.

"I think that's pretty awesome how we can help and be a part of everybody's story, even if it's just a tiny little minute. I feel like that's what it's about," said Tenasco.

The grand prize winner will be announced Oct. 20.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1