This week, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) launched a new show that champions Indigenous aspiring business owners.
In the style of Dragons' Den and Shark Tank, Bears' Lair sees a panel of Indigenous business moguls listen to 18 pitches from Canadian entrepreneurs with up to $180,000 on the line.
There are four 'Bears,' several guest judges, and contestant coaches working with the entrepreneurs to help them develop their pitches and hone their public speaking skills before they're put on the spot. The show also continues to help contestants after their respective episodes, offering ongoing mentorship and resources which include webinars, online courses, and technological tools.
The business ideas range from custom-designed cakes to personal care products, technology, and solutions to health and safety challenges.
Three of the 18 businesses are from B.C. with two being from Vancouver.
Ryan Omeasoo is a Vancouver-based personal trainer and founder of FighterFIT ATHLETIX, a digital fitness and healthcare program that specializes in martial arts workouts. The holistic health app offers quality-of-life check-ins, custom meal plans, and comprehensive at-home training. Omeasoo will be competing alongside Lynn-Marie and Melissa-Rae Angus, founders of Sisters Sage, a Vancouver-based handmade soap and lotion brand that uses traditional teachings, culture, and medicine to inform its ingredients.
June Anthony-Reeves, a Secwepemc and Neskonlith First Nation Community Member from Chase, B.C. will also be competing on the show. She also owns a botanical body care business called Up the Hill at Loakin that uses ancestral Indigenous knowledge.
The four Bears are Geena Jackson, the show's creator and a member of the shíshálh (Sechelt) First Nation in B.C., Robert Louie the former chief of Westbank First Nation in B.C., Ontario Engineer and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) Tabatha Bull, and Dave Tuccaro the founder of the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA).
“Our vision is that every individual who watches the show is inspired into ReconciliACTION," says Jackson in a media release. “Within a business context, ReconciliACTION means that every leadership decision – from buying to hiring, training to mentoring, and marketing to investing – creates opportunities to build mutually-beneficial relationships and to elevate Indigenous businesses, communities, knowledge and values.” Her hope is that viewers will "make compassionate decisions and then take meaningful actions that move our nation towards Reconciliation."
Bears’ Lair is the first-ever business TV series showcasing the diversity, resilience and strengths of Indigenous entrepreneurs. The show airs Sunday evenings on APTN.