BAO: Tell us a little about you?
Ellis: My name is Ellis Mbeku, very genial but also a very private person. Overtime, I have become so many things in my quest for fulfillment – A creative/ interactive designer, an advertising/ marketing professional and presently a conceptual photographer. I love chasing my passions as they are the best motivations anyone can have. My passion also excite me because they enable me excel and be the best I can.
BAO: What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
Ellis: Growing up as a boy, I enjoyed drawing every time I had the slightest opportunity. Art has always been a part of my life to a point that everyone in school could tell what I was going to become. No small wonder I decided to study graphic design as a career. After many years as graphic designer, I wanted more. There was this strong desire to broaden my landscape; this plunged me into advertising and also exposed me to photography.
While as an Art Director, I often travelled overseas for photo shoots on behalf of our clients and the agency. The experience from these shoot invigorated my passion as well as crystallized an idea that took 6 years to bring to fruition. I knew my next steps after advertising was inevitably photography. I am not just a photographer but one with a fusion of acquired skills and experience.
BAO: How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
Ellis: Thankfully, I raised my capital from my savings. I can’t give an exact figure but I had to commit a lot into setting up my studio as photography equipment are not cheap at all. I started with 3 full frame cameras and a couple of high end lenses – the most expensive equipment then was my Nikon D810. I also had to sell my SUV to enable me meet some other obligations to my studio.
BAO: What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
Ellis: Photography as a business comes with its own peculiar challenges and discouragements, especially if one is just starting out. I believe the greatest challenge the industry face today is a lack of appreciation for the profession which in turn translate to poor remuneration for photography services.
BAO: How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Ellis: Consequently. I also publish an online magazine called the “FRUIT TREE”. The Fruit Tree Magazine is a conduit to project hope and channel strength through inspiration.
It was from a realization that as a people, our well-being matters and that there’s potency in shared individual experiences, especially when they are positive and transformative.
As a magazine, we may not be able to change our economy or the prevailing situations that surround us as a nation or continent. But we can endeavor to make a difference by inspiring and motivating people and sustaining their hope, refueling their passion and encouraging the strength to persevere. We do this by using true to life narrations, illustrated by people who have positively changed their situations and made a success of their lives.
BAO: Which photographers influenced you the most, and how did he/she influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Ellis: I owe all I have achieved to these photographers:
I have been greatly blessed by my friend Mike Robinson, a product commercial photographer based in South Africa. He subliminally nurtured my thoughts as he opened my mind to possibilities and how to create Art using light. His friendship, advice and encouragement have been invaluable.
A Big thank you to the legendry SANDRO MILLER: who took the time to respond promptly to my mails as well as advice and critic my work despite his status and great achievements.
Also to the outstanding Rob Grimm, a Chicago based commercial photographer. His masterpiece gave me enlightenment and helped me appreciate the opportunities photography can create.
BAO: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
Ellis: I would advise that they spend more time in researching the business. Have a good insight of the terrain, the consumers and the viability of the business would be a great gain at the long run.