25 September 2017 Last updated at 03:25 GMT

Tommy Mendes

picture tommy mendesHow long did you have that business for? What size did it grow to? What did you sell? What were the biggest challenges with having a business that size? Do you love fashion? Who inspires you?

I worked as 12-year-old in my family business, a family shoe store called Plaza Bootery. At a very young age, I was exposed to business and cash - as teenager, that made a great impact on me. I was groomed to take over the family business but left it to pursue my own venture, opening my first shop next to the family business. It was called Plaza Too and sold only women's shoes and accessories.

Why women's fashion? Firstly, selling a pair of kid's shoes for $20 versus selling a handbag for $150 was easy math for me. The fashion part grew on me as the business evolved.

Being at such a young age and not having a true business plan and proper funding made things harder, but was also more beneficial because I was always working from an “its all or nothing” point of view - failure was not a word I took to kindly.

What inspired you to start photography? Have you always had a camera in your hand? What was the first camera you bought. What do you use now? What do you shoot? What is the best thing about being a photographer? Where from here?

Too Plaza was a homerun. Selling women's shoes and accessories on an affluent suburban main street was a instant hit, because your typical high street only had drug stores, local variety stores and so on. We were selling brands like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch - seeing brands like that at a local street level was highly unusual at the time. Mind you, there was no internet or ecommerce around then.

The business grew to make about $23m illion in gross sales in 2008, but was closed in 2010 for many reasons, mostly personal ones. Both my parents got sick and needed our attention, plus I wanted to do something on my own as well. At age 21, most people don't really know what you want to do in their lives.

You are a smart investor in property - has that helped through your startup phase as a photographer?

As an entrepreneur, my hands were in everything, but I was most passionate about the creative side of our business and wanted to get more seriously involved in every aspect of that.

After leaving Plaza Too, I knew I didn’t want to work at alI for at least a year. I also felt very, very accomplished with what I achieved and decided to start a new venture instead of taking a logical step. So I took a road less travelled, which has been quite uniquely different to anything I ever have done. Starting this new path has had many challenges and tested my resolve - it has not been easy by any means. I have often been knocked, kicked, and rejected like never before but that is where the personal growth and professional challenge for me.

When it came to photography, I always had a camera and took photos personally, but didn't have the foundation. Because of that, I decided to go back to school at ICP and knew what I wanted to do from there: trying to tell my story through the lens.

I have always been a Canon guy, though I own a Leica, and shoot with Hassleblad for work and also shoot with a 4X5 film camera.

By day, I work as a fashion photographer with a lot of modeling agencies and work backstage at many fashion shows as well. By night, I work on long term art projects and am working on some photo books as well.

The best thing for me as a photographer/artist is the chance to tell my story in a unique way through a lens. I also truly enjoy capturing special, rare moments - it especially bring joy to me if It makes you smile.

What photographer do you admire most? What is your favourite subject? What style of photography do you tend to lean towards?

My favourite photographers have always been Martin Parr, Guy Bourdin and Paolo Roversi. Women and shoes are my favourite subjects to photograph, along with American life, like Art Basel in Miami and the Maine Lobster festival. I did a cross country road trip this past fall and documented fashion boutiques and the clerks in them. One of my future trips includes a visit to Tennessee to document Dollywood...

If you are interested in Tommy Mendes' views and insights, follow him on Twitter @tommymphotos, LinkedIn or visit his website at http://tommendes.com/

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