Keeping up with Entrepreneurship: Q&A with Wendley Pierre

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.
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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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Empowering Tomorrow: How do we Support Youth Entrepreneurship?

Empower Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs

This Giving Tuesday, help us empower Ottawa’s future. Donate today to help support youth entrepreneurship programs.

Throughout this month, Youth Ottawa has been dedicated to showcasing the transformative influence of youth entrepreneurship in action. We have taken a dive into the problems and challenges faced by aspiring young entrepreneurs and have told the story of thriving young business leaders in Ottawa working for the community.  We have seen that entrepreneurship has a powerful role in driving economic growth, fostering innovative solutions, and positively impacting the empowerment of young individuals. For the past 25 years, we have been committed to supporting the youth in our city, providing opportunities for them to learn and grow through hands-on experience and experiential learning.

Empowering Tomorrow

How do we Support Youth Entrepreneurship?


This Giving Tuesday, you are invited to explore the programs we deliver to support our future entrepreneurs. These initiatives are designed to equip youth with the knowledge and experience necessary to enhance their leadership, confidence, and entrepreneurial skills. Join us by supporting our programs and empower youth to achieve success. Keep reading to jump into our organization’s vision to support young entrepreneurs in creating a better tomorrow.

Guiding the next generation: The power of mentorship in youth entrepreneurship.

Mentorship is an important part of helping young entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Successful individuals often have a network of experience they can look to for advice and guidance. Youth have great ideas but often lack the infrastructure to mobilize their dreams into reality. Mentorship offers youth hands-on involvement, helps navigate challenges faced by entrepreneurs, and transfers experiential-based knowledge and essential skills needed to build a strong foundation for success. It is an essential element in fostering growth and building connections.

 At Youth Ottawa, we stand behind the value of mentorship, and tailor our entrepreneur focused programs to deliver business development training and provide access to seasoned entrepreneurs. Additionally, by enhancing networking opportunities youth can communicate, connect, and collaborate with individuals sharing the same passions, interests, and goals.  By fostering connections, we empower youth to engage and collaborate with like-minded individuals, amplifying their potential for growth and success.

Our Programs Help Build Entrepreneurs

We are excited for the future of our ambitious young business community but understand that dreams and great ideas need support. To respond to this growing need, we developed two engaging programs, the Summer Amplified Fellowship, and the Social Enterprise Program. These two programs are designed with leadership and entrepreneurship in mind.

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What is the Summer
Amplified Fellowship?

In 2019, the passion of youth entrepreneurs inspired us to launch the Summer Amplified Fellowship. This program is designed to amplify the entrepreneurial projects of youth by offering business development training, mentorship, and networking. We hire youth to work for themselves for 8 weeks during the summer. They have the opportunity to grow their ideas into sustainable enterprises and develop their entrepreneurial experience. The program covers several topics of business development such as Human- Centered Design, Business Design Thinking, Empathy Mapping, Building Customer Personas, funding paths, grant writing, partnership acquisition, networking and public speaking, impact Reporting, Branding, Marketing and Sales. Youth can support one another and learn together uniquely. 

About the Social
Enterprise Program

The Social Enterprise Program (SEP) allows students to explore career interests through social enterprise development. By activating a combination of innovation, collaboration and global awareness and drawing on their pre-existing academic skills students are asked to innovate and solve challenges presented by community organizations. Employing diverse and experienced young social entrepreneurs from Youth Ottawa’s Amplified Fellowship, the SEP adopts a “for-youth-by-youth” model where students are mentored by role models who already have experience with social enterprise development. The program bridges the gap between the classroom and community outreach  and allows students to explore socially minded business practices and the positive impacts they can achieve.

Program Impact

Many success stories have made their way through our programs and we could not be more excited to continue growing to include more youth! Most recently, Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo, a Fellow from our 2022 Summer Amplified Cohort, launched The Novas Group, a consulting firm focused on brand development. As an accomplished business leader, he recently took home The Youth Immigrant Entrepreneur Award 2023 from TiE Ottawa.

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo accepting his TiE Award.

This month, Hot Shoe Productions, a youth-led film production company that began with the support of Youth Ottawa in 2018, won Best Performance in Social Entrepreneurship at the Best Ottawa Business Awards hosted by the Ottawa Business Journal. 

The Hot Shoe Productions Team at the Best Ottawa Business Awards.

These young change-makers have already come so far, and it’s only the beginning! Providing opportunities that support entrepreneurship makes a difference in our community, it can give youth the boost they need to spearhead great successes in the future.  This Giving Tuesday, help us support youth with their entrepreneurial goals, so they can continue to build a better tomorrow.  

Our Hope for the Future: How can you support?

Each contribution you make this Giving Tuesday will go directly to the cost of operatating our SEP (Social Enterprise Program) in the community and expanding the program for March Break next year. We will also use the funds raised to expand our Summer Amplified Fellowship program to increase the amount of youth who can access the program. Last summer the program saw two youth participate and continue to build their social enterprises with the help of Youth Ottawa. We would like to add more participants this summer and build back to our pre-Covid numbers. 

Let’s take a peek at how your support can bring these programs to life:

1.In the Classroom: An Incubator for Social Enterprise

Our journey starts in the classroom, where the seed of social entrepreneurship is planted. For just $2,000 per classroom, we can introduce students to the world of business with a social conscience. 

2.Community- Based Learning: Nurturing Dreams in Shared Spaces

Beyond the school walls, our community-based program brings entrepreneurship into local neighbourhoods. It takes $1,500 to set this stage, plus an additional $250 for each youth who joins.

3.Summer Amplified Fellowship: A Journey of Self-Discovery

During the SAF program, young entrepreneurs are not just learning, they’re earning. At $6,800 per participant, this program is an investment in their future. For 8 weeks, youth work for themselves, turning their ideas into reality.  

The Impact of Your Support - Donate Today!

Youth entrepreneurs are a powerful force ready to create a better future filled with economic prosperity, innovation, bright ideas, and socially conscious business ventures. Our exploration of the entrepreneurial pathway for youth shows us that positive change is never easy.  It is our responsibility to guide the builders of tomorrow to help them become the visionary leaders we know they can be. The youth of our city have the drive, potential, creativity, and work ethic needed for success. Support our programs this Giving Tuesday and help us provide opportunities, so that young entrepreneurs can achieve their success stories. Let’s continue to empower, educate, and elevate these young minds together. 

Youth Voices, Civic Choices: Explore the Impactful Initiatives of the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee

Youth Voices, Civic Choices

Explore the Impactful Initiatives of the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee

The Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee (OYEC) is a dynamic group of passionate young individuals and community leaders who have joined hands with the City of Ottawa to effect positive change for the youth population. Their efforts are dedicated to shaping official decisions and enhancing outreach initiatives that will make Ottawa an even better place for youth. OYEC has recently introduced some new initiatives, we’ve highlighted them below!


The Middle Ground Project: A Seat at the Table

Central to OYEC’s mission is the Middle Ground Project, a platform designed to amplify the voices of young individuals on issues they are deeply passionate about. The project serves as a roundtable discussion, bringing together youth, individuals directly impacted by the topic under consideration, and individuals with diverse knowledge relevant to the subject. In OYEC’s first ever roundtable, the committee delved into the pressing issue of food insecurity and featured thought-provoking dialogue from guests Fatimah Karim and Mathilde Doucet, who brought their unique insights to the discussion. Additionally, OYEC representative Rehani contributed the committee’s perspective. 


Consultations with the City of Ottawa: Collaborative Decision-Making

In addition to the middle ground project roundtable discussions, the committee has actively conducted consultation sessions with various branches of the City of Ottawa, facilitating a direct line of communication between youth and decision-makers. Notable consultations have been carried out with the Anti-Racism, Women & Gender Equity Branch, and the Climate Change Branch.

During these consultations, key figures like Pei-Ju Wang involved with the city’s Anti-Racism strategy and Sharzad Gharabaghi & Emma Langham from the Climate Crisis department have shared valuable insights. Pei-Ju Wang highlighted the city’s Anti-racism strategy plan, while Gharabaghi and Langham led discussions on the climate resilience strategy plan. These consultations serve as a bridge, fostering understanding and collaboration between youth and city departments, resulting in informed decision-making that better addresses the concerns of young residents.

Sub-Committees in Action: Addressing Crucial Issues

OYEC’s sub-committees are tirelessly working on initiatives that directly impact the youth of Ottawa:

  • The Mental Health Subcommittee is partnering with United Way and Ottawa Public Health to organize a crucial conversation on “Youth Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Addiction.” Their initiatives include listening tables, focus groups, and engagement with organizations like the Rural Mental Health Collective and YNRA YAC.
  • The Human Rights Subcommittee collaborates on the Middle Ground Media Project alongside other sub-committees.
  • The Climate Crisis Subcommittee focuses on information dissemination through social media, the green roof project, and continued city consultations.
  • The Affordability Subcommittee is closely involved in the Middle Ground Project, highlighting youth perspectives on affordability challenges.

Building Momentum: OYEC Recruitment is Active

The Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee stands for youth-driven change in the heart of the city. OYEC welcomes young change makers to participate in initiatives like the Middle Ground Project, and to get involved in direct consultations with city departments. OYEC empowers young voices, enhances collaboration, and shapes policies that resonate with the needs and aspirations of Ottawa’s youth. As projects continue to make an impact, the committee exemplifies the importance of active youth engagement in building a better, more inclusive future. This year’s OYEC committee gathered to chat about why they joined and what initiatives they would like to tackle.  If you are interested in learning more about OYEC or become involved as a member, you can learn more here. 

Meet the 2023 Summer Amplified Cohort

Meet the 2023 Summer Amplified Cohort!

At Youth Ottawa, we firmly believe in the power of youth to shape the present and the future. Their innovative ideas have the potential to ignite positive change, not only in their own lives but also within their communities. Each year, we provide support to young entrepreneurs, helping them take their businesses to new heights. Through our Summer Amplified Fellowship, we empower these fellows to transform their social innovation frameworks into sustainable social enterprises.

We’re excited to introduce you to Ben and Sallysha, two inspiring fellows from our 2023 cohort and to shed light on their remarkable projects. Both fellows exemplify the incredible potential of youth in entrepreneurship. With their projects focused on co-designing public spaces and amplifying young changemakers, they demonstrate a commitment to community engagement, sustainability, and making a meaningful impact.

Ben Wright

"Welcome: Co-designing Public Spaces"

Ben’s activation project, called “Welcome,” focuses on co-designing public spaces. His goal is to engage civically-minded youth groups in Ward 13, providing them with facilitation and design tools to create their own spaces. Unlike traditional approaches, Ben’s project empowers community members to design and prototype their ideal spaces. By incorporating human-centered and community-driven design principles, he ensures that the final outcomes truly reflect the community’s desires and effectively meet their needs. The project’s results will be digitally published, allowing others to engage with and apply them in their own communities. Ben is passionate about amplifying the voices of youth in civic conversations, and through the Youth Ottawa Amplified Fellowship, he aims to make a sustainable and lasting social impact.

Sallysha Vital

"The People of Tomorrow (TPOT)"

Sallysha’s project, “The People of Tomorrow (TPOT),” is a creative platform that highlights and encourages the efforts of young changemakers in various fields, including education, social justice, art, science, and innovation. TPOT aims to amplify the voices of young individuals who are making positive impacts in their communities. In this summer fellowship, Sallysha seeks to enhance her leadership skills, inspiring the community through innovative and creative means. She aspires to deepen her understanding of making a significant impact on people and social issues, while also fostering connections with peers, experts, and mentors within Youth Ottawa. By leveraging these abilities, Sallysha envisions a brighter future for TPOT and the communities it serves.

What's next?

If you would like to support our Summer Amplified Fellowship and continue seeing the amazing work of youth like Ben and Sallysha, please consider donating today! Your donations go directly towards our operations at Youth Ottawa, including businesses such as these.

Amplifying Youth Potential in Entrepreneurship

Amplifying Youth Potential in Entrepreneurship

At Youth Ottawa, we believe that youth are not only our future but our current reality. Their innovative ideas not only have the power to spark change within their own lives but also have the power to make our communities stronger. 

Youth often are most observant of the social issues that require solving in our communities. That is why their ideas are revolutionary. 

That is also why we have been running the Summer Amplified Fellowship since 2019. The program amplifies the entrepreneurial ideas of youth through a three-step process: business development training, mentorship, and networking. 

Every year, we support young entrepreneurs to boost their businesses to the next level. By hiring them to work for themselves throughout the summer, fellows can transform their social innovation frameworks into long-term and sustainable social enterprises.

After a brief pause in the fellowship due to the pandemic, we welcomed Drayton and Nathan as our summer amplified fellows in 2022. Now is a great chance to meet them and see what they’ve been up to since!

The 2022 Summer Amplified Fellowship cohort

Image of Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo

20today20tomorrow

Drayton’s business, 20today20tomorrow, envisions a vibrant community of youth who are active in their communities. By bringing together a group of young innovators, 20today20tomorrow works to identify and address social issues with creative solutions. For example, their Inspire the Next initiative provides youth with a platform to share their experiences and ideas through a podcast and a live show format. Today, the organization is working on continuing its Inspire the Next shows. Who knows what will come tomorrow?

Image of Nathan Monpremier

Nathan Monpremier

HopeisFamous

HopeIsFamous is a clothing brand that empowers young athletes. Using high-quality materials and a durable design, HopeIsFamous ensures athletes feel and perform at their best. Nathan and his team have recently expanded their clothing line into the world of customizable sportswear for local sports teams and other organizations and have continued their work in community outreach to promote healthy lifestyles.

What's next?

Interested in becoming a summer amplified fellow? Applications will open on June 5 at 9 a.m. and will close on June 16 at noon. 

Home is Where Love Grows

Two students work on their laptop together at a desk

Let's Spread the Love this Giving Tuesday

Once upon a time...

We challenged grade 10 students from St. Francis Xavier High School to use their voice to address a social issue in one of our Active Citizenship Initiative programs last year. 

The class created a list of issues they wanted to address, and four of the students–Ella, Noah, Raya and Federica–chose domestic abuse as their issue. 

“We would ask our teacher if it was in the curriculum at all, or if teachers were taught how to deal with it when they learned to become a teacher and we just found it was something that just wasn’t talked about enough and that we could make a change there.”

At first, the group said they struggled with finding the right medium for their message. After floating around a few ideas, they finally landed on their children’s book idea, which Frederica’s little sister would illustrate. 

The book, Home is Where Love Grows, follows the story of two friends, Max and Quincy. The friends live in a world where everyone has flowers growing out of the top of their heads, and all is well until Quincy notices Max’s plant wilting more and more each morning. It becomes Quincy’s mission to help make Max feel better. The plot explores the hidden signs of abuse and teaches youth how to help their friends if they notice these signs.

“I think just because something is difficult, or it’s complicated, it shouldn’t be something that doesn’t get told,” their teacher, Heather Bilder said. “We need to find age-appropriate ways that students can engage with it. This group of students were really thoughtful in the imagery they pulled from their knowledge of metaphor to really go beyond just that surface level… and they looked for meaningful ways that their readers could support a friend.”

In the span of two months, their school project blossomed into a social justice initiative, now being published with the help of Youth Ottawa.

In our ACI programs, classes go through a three-step process: 

1. Our facilitators introduce youth to civic issues, allowing them to choose their focus
 
2. Students create an “Action Plan” to guide their next steps in tackling the issue, using civic “tactics” such as lobbying, surveying, and petitioning
 
3. Students execute their action plans, learning while making a positive difference in their communities

In 2021, we introduced ACI students to several call-to-action videos from city councillors, allowing them to choose issues that aren’t addressed enough. Bilder’s class took these challenges on and narrowed their focus to six topics, including domestic abuse. The program was combined with a careers class, allowing them to focus on resume-making to “apply” for positions in their groups. Upon choosing their teams, they began to work on steps two and three.

Chapter 2: From School Project to Real Project

In May, the group of students showcased their work at our Youth Action Showcase, which kicked off Ottawa’s first official Youth Week. The Youth Action Showcase was launched by Youth Ottawa in an effort to bring student projects in front of key decision-makers and thought leaders. 

“You work on a project for a month and you don’t really get much feedback, but we went to City Hall and the amount of positive feedback and the amount of people that went home and said ‘I really love your story,’ just really motivated our group and made us want to keep on doing this,” Noah said.

 

Ella, Noah, Raya, and Federica standing behind their project presentation booth at Youth Action Showcase. The table has a white tablecloth, green vines loosely wrapped around it, and a poster board on the right side.

Since then, we have met with them bi-weekly from June through August in the hopes of bringing their book into Ottawa libraries in schools, while chatting with them about their goals for the project.

Heather Bilder said she was impressed with their lack of hesitancy in communicating such an important topic, even working on the book throughout the summer. 

“I think a lot of people can be critical of younger generations, and I think watching them take on this complicated topic and problem solve and work in collaboration is like, we’re in good hands,” she said.

Over the summer, they worked on creating an acknowledgement page, and it goes as follows*:

*Please note that this is a preview, and the full page can be found in their book.

Chapter 3 - What’s Next?

The team is also seeking support from programs like Market13 that can help them create a free eCommerce website to sell their book online. 

“Our goal is to get it in as many kids’ hands as possible, just so that they can really read it and understand what the message is,” Federica said.

Along the way, we are working with the students to refine their presentation pitch and teaching the group of youth about accessing the right grants and looking for other funding opportunities, all with the goal of both their personal and professional growth.

Raya, Federica, Noah, and Ella stand in front of a white background holding their book up to the camera

The End…or is it?

This is normally where you’d read “The End” in a story, but these students are nowhere near finished! Their story is just beginning, and they will need your help to turn the next page. Our Giving Tuesday campaign started on Nov. 29 and is now closed. We were able to raise over $4,500 to deliver books to several Ottawa schools and continue funding our ACI program! 

 As a thank you for each donation, we are sending packs of seeds to donors. These seeds are a symbol of support highlighted throughout the book, and we can’t wait to see what they grow.