ophelia chong, 56
los angeles

Ophelia Chong has a very specific idea of where she wants to be when she’s 70. “I want to be on a cliff in a great house, overlooking the ocean,” she says. Which is why she started her can’t-miss business idea at 56. 

Seizing upon the growing momentum around the legalization of marijuana across the United States, the former photographer started a stock photo agency dedicated to licensing photographs of cannabis and cannabis consumers. Since founding Stock Pot a year ago, she’s expanded her roster of photographers to more than 100 and will soon have 10,000 images available for media companies and others to download and license. 

“My first photographers were my students,” says Chong, who also teaches at the Art Center College of Design. “I knew who was smoking weed and I told them, ‘I’m starting a stock agency and do you want to shoot?’ and they were like, ‘Wow!’ ”

The genesis of any great business begins with the readiness for risk. And Chong, whose appetite for it has only increased with age, was ready. 

“If I didn’t move last year on Stock Pot, someone else would’ve had that idea eventually somewhere,” she says. “I take more risks now. Bring it on… what can you do to me that will set me back? So I just keep it moving forward.”

The Toronto native was part of the freaks and geeks crowd in high school, the kids who listened to the Sex Pistols and The Clash and dyed their hair pink. She figures that was excellent training for where she’s at now: a confident, self-assured woman who never suffered a major midlife crisis because of a need to reinvent. “We’re happier, because we really wanted to be who we are, regardless of how people thought of us,” she says. 

Southern California’s outdoor life works perfectly for her and her three dogs, and the city’s diversity means Ophelia has plenty of “bubbles” of characters surrounding her.  “As you get older you have to have a lot of bubbles,” she says. “You need to stay engaged and keep the brain going and if you’re feeding it the same food every day, it becomes white noise. You have to become social, and find a group outside of your own. It’s healthy, just like your exercise.”