I had the pleasure of interviewing Ophelia Chong is community activist, graphic designer and photographer. She is a partner at The Bevel Group and the founder of Stock Pot Images and Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE). She is driven to help shape the new conversation of Cannabis and is guided by one mission: to advocate for the legalization of cannabis and offer truthful reflections of the faces and communities that embrace cannabis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a first generation Chinese Canadian, raised in Toronto by immigrant parents. My father retired from civil engineering about the same time my mother sold off her interests in China. They both worked hard to give myself and my sister a life in their adopted country.
When people ask me why I entered the cannabis industry, I tell them it was a personal decision to overcome my own prejudices and stereotyping of the cannabis community. I founded StockPot Images, the only cannabis and psilocybin stock photo agency in the world, to dispel the stereotyping of the community.
What helped me was the careers I have had, from photographer to creative director to teacher: each career laid more foundation for the next. Now with The Bevel Group, I am taking all of my careers and using each one to build the only vertical cannabis marketing agency in the world.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
After one meeting with a client, we decided to meet up after visiting their farm at a restaurant.
We agreed on one and got into our cars. After 30 minutes (which should’ve been 10 minutes), we figured out that we all went to different places: we were so tired and blurry that we just headed to where we thought we agreed on. We ended up eating at a 7/11 in the parking lot like high school kids.
Another time I was at High Times at one of their events, and I saw a bunch of teens hovering over a dab bar. I shouted out, “JOHNNY, GET YOUR ASS IN THE TAHOE NOW!” The kids looked at me and tried to figure out whose mom I was. After that I did it two more times, just to scare the living daylights out of underage teens at a cannabis event.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We stand out because we are vertical, a branding agency that goes from seed to sale.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My mother was an immigrant with a nursing assistant degree, she brought us up on $5 a week. When I was about 8 years old, I was on the bus with my mother, holding to me very tightly a garbage bag of new clothes. My mother would scout out places we could get clothes close to free, and she would take me to choose what I wanted. The place we were coming from was a large warehouse piled up with clothes. I stood there in awe. I was getting new clothes! I was given a garbage bag, and my mother pushed me to a pile where I got to pick out what I wanted. On the way home I had the biggest smile on because I had “something of my own”. We didn’t have money, but I was the happiest kid that day with my mom on that bus.
My mother went on to become the first developer in China and built the first foreign hotel in Beijing, with only a high school education. I am eternally grateful for the life I have, and I am thankful for my parents that have supported me to this place now.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Clients that range from retail to ancillary.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Every day. I worked and brought the first cannabis cultivation Veteran internship program in the states, 12 weeks paid, and from there they went into the industry with cultivation on their resumes.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Madame Bovary by Flaubert. A story about a woman that wanted her own life and independence but failed because the time period would not accept a woman with her own ideas and feelings. It affected me because it is the history of women and our treatment that makes me work harder every day.
You likely have heard of the famous cliche that in a gold rush the one selling the shovels makes much more than the one who finds gold. This is the modern day “green rush”. Can you recommend to our readers 5 technologies or services that can potentially be lucrative “shovels” for the cannabis industry?
Distribution trucks and security
Information packaging for B2B
Education within colleges, workshops for students
Hemp products, fiber, bricks, fuel
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career?
1. Be kind.
2. Listen. Hear what the client wants and help them bring out their true voice.
3. Respond. Respond to all your VMs, texts, and emails. Make everyone feel important.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Push from behind and stay in your lane. If you can’t handle it, delegate; if you don’t know, get someone to teach you.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Senator Warren, it would be an honor to meet her because of her work, honor, ideals and her honesty.
Steven King, of course I may not be his “biggest” fan (that belongs to the lady with the ax), but I am an admirer of his books and how he spins whole worlds out of two simple common emotions, fear and love.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!