Tseshaht member advances to Pow Wow Pitch semi-finals

Port Alberni, BC

It’s a good thing that Chrissy Fred did not get cold feet once again.

That’s because the Tseshaht First Nation member now has an opportunity to win up to $25,000 to help her relaunch her business.

Fred had first heard of the Pow Wow Pitch, a national competition that awards a total of $200,000 in cash to various Indigenous entrepreneurs, a year ago.

Pow Wow Pitch is a grassroots organization that is co-presented by RBC, Mastercard and Shopify.

Fred contemplated attending an event in Kamloops in 2022 to let others know of her business proposal, which consists of selling donated items in order to purchase snacks for local students at a pair of schools.

“I heard of it last year and I chickened out and didn’t go,” she said. “But this year I went.”

Earlier this month Fred attended the Kamloopa Powwow, which served as a regional qualifier for the Pow Wow Pitch.

About 2,400 Indigenous individuals from across the country took part in this year’s pitch, either by attending various events throughout Canada or by simply submitting an online proposal.

A few days after attending the Kamloops event Fred was notified she was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Not-For-Profit category.

The Pow Wow Pitch also features 16 other categories including Tourism, Fashion, Technology and Youth divisions.

Fred had launched her business called Skookum Deals back in 2017. She would ask people to donate various items to her.

Fred would then have a garage sale at her home and take all of the proceeds to buy snacks for students at the Haahuupayak Elementary School in Tseshaht First Nation and at the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre in Port Alberni.

Fred continued this practice, on and off, for a few years.

“When COVID started I had to stop,” she said. “And I haven’t done it since.”

But Fred is eager to start up her business again. And she’s looking to do it on a much larger scale.

Fred was originally only looking for small items, including clothing, to be donated to her.

“I didn’t have much room to store it,” she said.

But since flipping homes with her mother last year, Fred said she can now accept larger donated items, including pieces of furniture, since she lives in a considerably larger house.

If she wins enough money in the Pow Wow Pitch, Fred is hoping to purchase a 20-foot insulated sea can container, which she can use for storage of donated items.

“Now I have tons of yard space,” she said. “If I win this money, I want to take my business to the next level.”

Fred said officials from both local schools would welcome food donations from Fred.

“I’ve reached out to the principals,” she said. “And they would take anything I can do for them.”

Fred had worked as an educational assistant for the Kindergarten class at Haahuupayak Elementary School from 2010-15.

“I personally saw all the teachers and how many times they were buying stuff out of their own pockets for the students,” said Fred, adding she also chipped in financially sometimes and helped her classroom teacher buy snacks for the students at various times during the year.

Fred, who is now 43, was a student at Haahuupayak herself. She started Kindergarten in 1985 and was at the school until the end of Grade 6.

Fred also has a personal reason for wanting to assist those at the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre.

“I have a lot of nieces and nephews that attend that school,” she said, adding several other family members were also previously students at the learning centre.

Even if she doesn’t win any money from the Pow Wow Pitch, Fred is hoping to soon start up her business again.

She would like to be able to offer students at Haahuupayak some food items including granola bars, bread and some fruit. And for the older students at Eighth Avenue Learning Centre she’s hoping to provide items such as bagels and coffee.

“The reason I really wanted to do this is because the rising cost of food is crazy,” she said. “Some families are struggling to pay their own bills and they can’t buy all the food they want.”

Fred is hoping her snacks provide a little boost for students when they receive them. She’s hoping her business takes off and that she can also start offering snacks to many other students.

“Eventually I would like to expand it to other schools,” she said.

Now that she’s a Pow Wow Pitch semi-finalist, Fred was scheduled to record a video of her business pitch at the Tseshaht First Nation administration office on Monday Aug. 14.

The public will be able to see video pitches of all of the semi-finals in September at the website www.powwowpitch.org

Members of the public will also be able to vote on which entrepreneurs they want to see advance to the finals.

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