New reality show aims to ‘feed the spirit’ of Indigenous business

Though she didn’t win, Edmonton-based entrepreneur Mallory Yawnghwe said of her time on the APTN reality show bear hideout was a life changing experience.

“It’s pretty incredible to see how space has been made for us as Indigenous entrepreneurs to really show what we’re doing for our community,” Yawnghwe said in an interview with CBC radioactive.

The show aired last Sunday. In each episode, three different companies pitch their products or services to the “bears” or five different established Indigenous professionals for a chance at funding from a $180,000 pool and mentoring opportunities from the bears.

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“I think something like this was long overdue,” Yawnghwe said.

The show was the brainchild of attorney and entrepreneur Geena Jackson of the Frog Clan of the Shíshálh Nation in BC

Four people are standing and smiling
Bears’ Lair has four main judges and one guest judge for each episode. The core judges are (left to right): Tabatha Bull, Anishinaabe of Nipissing First Nation in Ontario, Robert Louie, former Chief of the Westbank First Nation of BC, Geena Jackson of the Frog Clan of the Shíshálh Nation of BC, and Dave Tuccaro of Mikisew Cree First Nation at Fort Chipewyan, Alta. (Marissa Baker/APTN)

The show’s website describes its desire to be a platform “to promote the spirit of indigenous economies across the country.”

HEAR | Indigenous entrepreneurs Mallory Yawnghwe and Matt Lapointe speak to CBC’s Radio Active about their experiences on an Indigenous-run business reality TV show.

radioactive9:20The New Business Competition Show puts local entrepreneurs in the spotlight

We meet two contestants from the very first episode of Bears Lair.

Yawnghwe, a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, operates a subscription box service Indigenous Box Inc. It aims to help people discover other Indigenous businesses by offering a variety of different products for subscribers to choose from.

Yawnghwe and two other companies were featured in the first episode of the series.

The winner was Métis business owner Matt Lapointe, who operates Alberta K9 from Gull Lake, Alta. 40 kilometers north of Red Deer. Lapointe used his experience as a retired officer with the RCMP and Blood Tribe Police Service to start a program to breed, raise and train dogs for detection services.

The team took home $10,000 and say they’ve already had more calls from people wanting their services since the episode aired.

“I saw the need for our community search dogs to help them stop our people dying,” Lapointe said of trying to empower Indigenous communities to prevent drug poisoning deaths through drug detection.

A man and woman wear black uniforms and hold the leashes of two dogs.
Alberta K9’s Matt Lapointe and Kelsey Boettcher went to Bears’ Lair to present their show. (Shoot the Breeze / APTN)

Lapointe also said he wouldn’t believe it if anyone told a younger version of himself that he worked around the world training sniffer dogs.

But now he hopes the show will become a catalyst for others to pursue their dreams.

“If only the show can inspire one new Indigenous entrepreneur, then it was absolutely worth it for all of us,” said Lapointe.

Métis entrepreneur Jason Lizotte came onto the show to spread the word about his product.

Lizotte is a welder by trade and decided to build a portable, automated, solar powered hand washing station after realizing it was difficult to find a place to wash his hands after refueling his truck while on the job .

The Grande Prairie entrepreneur recognized that the need was beyond his situation. He created the hand washing station to help people stay hygienic during the pandemic.

“It’s very kid-friendly, disabled-friendly, with the pandemic … nobody wants to touch anything anymore,” Lizotte said during an interview with CBC Edmonton AM.

HEAR | The Métis entrepreneur speaks to CBC’s Edmonton AM about why being on Bears’ Lair was important

5:33Grande Prairie Stories

We explore stories from the peace region. An entrepreneur is making waves after creating a solar-powered hand washing station. Jason Lizotte is a Métis from Grande Prairie and the CEO and Founder of Nipiy Industries. His invention caught the attention of an Indigenous reality TV show.

The product has been in development since 2019 when Lizotte started tinkering to create the hand washing station in his garage.

The stations have been sold to a variety of communities, tourism sites and fairs. It was also used during festivals.

Lizotte said one of the best parts of the show is the community support.

A woman and a man smile.
Jason Lizotte and Erin Laxton introduced their company, Nipiy Industries, which makes solar powered hand washing stations. (Marissa Baker/APTN)

“It’s very uplifting for the indigenous entrepreneurs out there to be featured on a TV show like this.”

Lizotte said he looks forward to people across Canada discovering Indigenous talent. He is scheduled to appear in an episode that will air on October 2nd.

bear hideout got the green light for a second season.

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