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February 8th 2024
Fourteen years after she started her two-person skincare venture, Michaelee Lazore thought it might be time to return to her career as an engineer. Then she won Pow Wow Pitch.
Lazore pitched a rebrand of her business Sequoia Soaps to the competition’s judges in 2016. When she won, they offered her $5,000 in funding and helped redesign her product packaging for wholesale clients. Since then, Lazore’s business has blossomed. It employs 10 people on-reserve in Kahnawake, Que., and continues to sell handmade soaps and skincare products full-time.
Lazore is one of hundreds of Indigenous entrepreneurs who have competed in Pow Wow Pitch. Since 2015, the competition has visited powwows across Canada to connect winners with funding, mentorship and visibility. Now, Pow Wow Pitch hosts an entrepreneurial podcast, a marketplace for vendors and pitch competitions across North America.
“[Pow Wow Pitch] was a turning point in my business,” Lazore said. “After the rebrand, it was like the products were selling themselves. Sales increased by a lot and our wholesalers were ordering more frequently.”
The competition’s founder, Sunshine Tenasco, is an entrepreneur from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, about a two-hour drive north of Ottawa. In 2010, she went on Dragons’ Den and won investment in her handmade moccasins for babies. She immediately wanted to bring the experience to her nation.