Keeping up with Youth Entrepreneurship

Q & A With Wendley Pierre

Remember Wendley? He’s the senior photographer at Hot Shoe Productions, who with a team of talented young business leaders continues to grow a remarkable youth-led social enterprise. 2023 was a busy year for him!  He has taken on new professional experiences, developed creative projects, inspired in classrooms, and celebrated Hot Shoe Productions taking home a Best Ottawa Business Award this past November.

We recently chatted with Wendley as he took us behind the lens of his experience and offered insights into his life as a young entrepreneur.

Q1. Could you introduce yourself and describe your role at Hot Shoe Productions?

My name is Wendley. I am the Lead Photographer at Hot Shoe Productions. I’ve worked with Hot Shoe for about 2 years now. I take photos of clients and events, and I also direct specific client projects, facilitate filmmaking programs in classrooms, and manage Hot Shoe’s social media.

Q2. How did you discover your passion for photography?

 High school gave me the foundation to develop my passion for photography. I took a grade 11 photography class at Immaculata High School. I started out with an ipad in the classroom, practiced, and relayed photos to the teacher. I eventually developed an understanding of subject placement, an awareness of stopping and looking around and figuring out what is interesting about what I’m seeing, because being a photographer is about so much more than just being behind a camera. I discovered my love for street photography and photographers who inspired me, like Steven Shore, and eventually I defined my own style. 

Q3. What inspired you to get involved with Hot Shoe Productions and Entrepreneurship in the first place?

I was working for a fast food restaurant before getting involved with Hot Shoe. The opportunities for me I felt only went to a certain point..I could become the supervisor, manager, but it was a job to me and not my passion. I had been looking for some freelance opportunities in photography for awhile, and I was introduced to Ben Bergeron, the creative director at Hot Shoe through Jesse Card, at a creators hub event Youth Ottawa was hosting.  

Q4. What are some recent projects you have completed? What are you currently working on?

I  have focused on video directing with a few of my more recent projects. I directed a promotional debut video for a consulting firm called The Novas Group. It’s a brand development firm led by young creatives here in Ottawa. It was fun to shoot! I think we were successful at capturing them as a business, by bringing in elements of corporate strategy videos while also maintaining a youthful vibe. 

I debuted as a director with a video project for Unsinkable, an organization that focuses on youth mental health.

 I am really excited about a course curriculum I am developing with a grant from the Social Planning Council of Ottawa. It’s a photography fundamentals mentorship program specific to youth that I will be facilitating with other members of the Hot Shoe team. 

I am also in the middle of a project working to help connect the larger community to local artists and creatives. I think there is so much talent in Ottawa, great things people are working on, and they need to be shared.

Q5. Can you describe a memorable moment where you witnessed the positive effects of entrepreneurship through your work at Hot Shoe Productions?

Entrepreneurship shows how the things you do can have a big impact. I think of the things we’ve done for the community. I feel like the Youth Active Media program with Hot Shoe has a lasting impact on kids and they are going to remember it. I remember in one class, we were doing script writing and a kid was very distracted because he didn’t resonate with it, so I pulled out a camera and taught him ways to use it. I remember he was very excited and so I challenged him to shoot a short film on his phone and have it done the next day. The next day he came back and completed the challenge. I realized that he had used a lot of the techniques he learned  and he remembered all of it. It makes you happy to see growth and success inspired by something you did. 

Teaching the Youth Active Media Program at Frederick Banting Alternative High School.
Wendley pictured with colleague Vanna Noun from Hot Shoe & Mr. Olson from Hillcrest High school

Q6. What is your favorite thing about working at Hot Shoe Productions?

The people. Creatives are the best people to be around. Being surrounded by my peers, Vanna, Colin, and Ben who are strong advocates for creating opportunities for youth to get into the industry. My relationships at Hot Shoe have inspired me to mentor other young people. I remember wishing we could open up a photography school and teach kids photography. And now we are doing it. I reflect on it as a full circle moment. 

Q7. What skills or knowledge have you gained through your experience at Hot Shoe Productions that you believe are valuable as an entrepreneur?

Everyday at Hot Shoe teaches me about business, I’ve developed many skills, even though I do not have a background in business. I’ve also developed a lot of networking skills and learned how to be more formal in my correspondence with clients, especially through email thanks to Ben.

Hot Shoe Productions accepting the award for Best Performance in Social Entrepreneurship at the BEST OTTAWA BUSINESS AWARDS

Q8. If you could offer one piece of advice to young people interested in entrepreneurship, what would it be?

Be patient with yourself. There are so many learning curves but success comes, and while you’re waiting for it it’s important to reflect on where you came from, and how far you’ve come.

Q9. What is one of your greatest achievements to date?

Being able to connect with the people in my city and learning about what they do, why they do it, and why they care so much for it, why is there an attachment, inspiration or purpose? It has been inspiring to see people come together creatively and be able to find their community, and their people. I think the best way people connect is by helping each other, and it’s been great to see that and be a part of it in the creative community.

Q10. What is one of your biggest lessons learned from your entrepreneurial journey so far?

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