Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

A Stock Photo Company for Ganja

Ophelia Chong wants to alter the image of marijuana with her company StockPot Images.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What brought you into the cannabis industry?

I began my career as a photographer for Raygun Magazine, the penultimate design and music magazine of the 90’s. From there I was recruited to be the creative director for Strand Releasing and I went on to launch over 30 films across the U.S. that were featured at Sundance, TIFF, and Outfest. I was also the creative director for Slamdance for a decade. 

Ophelia Chong

I genuinely believe that we all have six careers in our lifetime, each one sets the foundation for the next. Entertainment and image making created my pathway for a career in cannabis. And it was not a natural curiosity or interest in the plant that brought me here, it was my own prejudice.

My sister was medicating with cannabis at the time, and I remember looking at her one day and thinking, She’s a stoner!?” My heart broke with the realization that I was actually stereotyping her. As a person of color, I was appalled at my behavior. So I began to do some digging into what it was all about. 

Four months later, I launched StockPot Images, LLC. I was on a mission to educate people through imagery, like myself, who had long-standing misperceptions of the plant, its properties, and the industry as a whole based on the propaganda forwarded by anti-drug groups and the government our entire lives.

Related: 9 Business Ideas for People Looking to Cash in on the Marijuana Boom

What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?

Once I launched StockPot Images, the biggest challenge came from within the industry. For decades the industry operated undercover. With the advent of social media there was an opening for online promotion of cannabis, which required images. 

As the industry was in its regulated infancy, outside of the collection we created and housed, there were no cannabis-centric imagery banks to pull from. And as flattering as it was to be the main source of the imagery that became the face of the industry throughout these social media and online campaigns, our images, and intellectual property were being taken and used without any sort of licensing rights or payment.

With no education on intellectual property, and an industry essentially operating with no rules, we were at a loss and disadvantaged. It became a game of “whack-a-mole” with cease and desist letters.

So what did you do?

After six months of conducting research and seeking the proper routes and options for protection, I partnered with Image Protect. This partnership provided us with embedded metadata in each image to track and trace each image. Since then we have had little to no copyright issues.

Another feature on my site to protect our IP is based on a partnership with SmartFrame. This technology protects our images from “drag and drop” and screen caps. When attempted, the screen will go grey and a message about copyright laws then appears.

The industry as a whole is undergoing a crash course on intellectual property throughout every area. However, numerous lawsuits exist by major corporations for “similar” or outright infringement on logo and packaging designs. (Tincture Belle, Hershey, Mars, RC Cola, General Foods). As we evolve as an industry, IP law will as well.

Related: Adult-Use Cannabis Is Legal but Very, Very Regulated.

What have you learned from this experience?

It is my nature to be open and caring. I have learned those to be two of the most important traits one can have in this industry. I have also learned to be an advocate for what is right and for those who need a hand up. But I have learned to do so in a way that adds value without damaging anything I am involved in. As an entrepreneur and a business owner, I have responsibilities.

If I could share something with entrepreneurs everywhere, it would be the lesson to always be aware of the value in your personal image and that your behavior reflects not only on you but on your brand. For me, my reputation, behavior, and work reflect on StockPot Images, the Bevel Group and on all my contributors and partners in business.

Be your best, even when you are tired, stressed, angry, or exhausted. If you are aware that you are not feeling or performing at your best, take a step back, go somewhere, sit and breathe. Your actions will be noticed if not, and you will be called out for them and remembered for them. Be careful how you manage your surroundings as an entrepreneur, you have a responsibility to everyone involved with what you have created.

Related: 4 Steps to Build Your New Business Empire

What trait do you rely on most when making business decisions and why is this useful for you?

I trust my instinct, whether it turns out to be right or not, I trust myself. I have come this far with over six different successful careers behind me to know that my gut is my guide.