Exploring Creative Entrepreneurship

The COLLECTIV | George C. Mitchell, Jr.

The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.

Gordon Parks

I’ve literally known this man my ENTIRE life. When you have that type of history, introductions can ride a fine line between too little and way too much. LOL! This conversation has been a long time coming. We’ve witnessed firsthand and partnered in the unveiling of one another’s entrepreneurial journeys. It is an honor to share his story with all of you as the FIRST 2018 Honoree of The COLLECTIV.

Ladies and Gents — George Mitchell:

When you first started your photography business, what was your initial vision? How close or faraway are you from the initial vision in your business today?

I did my apprenticeship with wedding photographer, Rogers WM Foster, but it was never my intention to become a wedding photographer. However, it began an important learning experience for me. 

The vision today as a Food, Beverage, and Editorial Portrait Photographer is the same as it was then: to increase an understanding of the importance of having images taken to create and document moments — not saved on Facebook or on a hard drive somewhere, but rather hung on walls and preserved in albums The impact is greater when it is touchable.

Some aspects of my business have changed, but the vision I previously mentioned remains the same. I’m now settling into my specialties. I have taken the time to shoot in almost every photographic arena available and taken the lessons learned from one arena and implemented them in the next. This is the learning track a photographer should want to take. Why? It’s strengthened me as a photographer, it’s helped me better understand lighting, composition, and helped me learn to push the thresholds of my equipment in general. It’s also helped me think a lot quicker on my feet when placed in situations where outcomes may call for more with less. I’ve created an individual style while staying current with industry standards and trends yet, upholding the vision.

By day, you work a demanding, corporate job. How do you find the time to shoot and grow your business? Where have you found balance?

Staying up late nights and fighting sleep like a toddler! LOL! The day job truly wears on you and definitely interferes with business growth. But for now, it pays the personal bills. A decision will eventually have to be made. You can’t serve two masters (meaning you can only divide your time for so long before something begins to suffer). I truly enjoy being a Project Manager and a photographer for my day job, but it gets tough. I mean, this interview was submitted late as hell due to the demands of the day job. But you seek level ground and make it work.

It’s not good when it gets away from you, and you have to have a game plan so it doesn’t. I’ve found balance in taking on those jobs that I know work best for my availability and future growth. It ensures that I’m working with clients who can effectively communicate their photographic needs, are amenable to the steps and budget it will take to meet their  vision, and ultimately knowing exactly what they want as a completed project.

Detroit is a city in a re-emergence period, where do you see George Clarence staking its place in the city’s rebirth?

I firmly believe the players in the “re-emergence” of Detroit were included in the initial planning of new business. But I do feel there are opportunities still available to those of us looking to have a small piece of it, and I have begun inserting my business in those opportunities. However, my dreams and plans are much bigger than Detroit. Photography is a global community and I more especially want a stake in that.

In the photography community, what have you found to be the greatest challenge in building a profitable business?

Shifting the mindset about what photography truly is and is not. The profession is being diminished by those who haven’t educated themselves on the fundamental steps of photography. I work to help young photographers understand the business and marketplace. Instilling in them the constant need to utilize the foundation of what we do and to always springboard from it. Teaching them that their worth and their time is far more valuable than a couple of bucks and erroneous “exposure”. When not followed, it jump starts a down driver of wages for all photographers looking to make a living from their passion and diminishes the creative competition in the marketplace and respect for the profession over all.

[M]y dreams and plans are much bigger than Detroit. Photography is a global community and I more especially want a stake in that.

-George C. Mitchell, Jr.

Lastly, what advice would you give to eager creative entrepreneurs in pursuing their passions?

ALL OF THE ABOVE! Educate yourself, value your time, value yourself and your business, continue your education as technology advances and industry demands change; and give back to the market place by contributing true creative competition.

A native of Inkster, Michigan, George Mitchell, Jr. is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Telecommunications and Film. George has organically grown his business and has worked with some the countries most notable brands and entities. In addition to running his own photography businesses, he serves as the contributing photographer to YellowFAN Studios, Sprint’s internal advertising agency. His accomplishments include serving as the Director of Photography for Cold Hard Fash, served as Conference Director and convening a group of talented photographers to design the Camera Artists Summit – the first free photographic conference, and creating PhotoWalk:MI a free Facebook resource for photographers to learn more about the photographic industry and resources for their support.

George is a firm believer that as long as you cut corners you will only achieve temporary success. Go the distance and take the road less traveled – it takes longer but the journey is worth the education, strengthening of endurance and experience gained.

Keep up with George

GeorgeClarence.com – Editorial Portrait

GMitchellPhoto.com – Food, Beverage, and Product Beverage

Instagram: @GMitchellPhoto

Twitter: @GMitchellPhoto

FaceBook: @GeorgeMitchellPhoto & @GeorgeClarence

All images of George C. Mitchell, Jr. via Kristyn Greenfield

Creative Direction | George Mitchell, Jr.

Slideshow Images provided by George Mitchell, Jr. via George Clarence Photography & G. Mitchell Photo

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BRAND HUSTLE | Protecting the Vision

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

– Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO of GE

In my years of experience in working with new entrepreneurs, I’ve found that many pitfalls arise at the onset of their vision due to failure in protecting it. Below, I have shared a list of legal must-haves that will get you started in the right direction:

Trademark Protection

If I could shout from atop the highest mountain, the greatest way for entrepreneurs to protect their brand would be to protect their name or logo under trademark law. A name or logo is a source identifier that consumers associate with your brand. By obtaining trademark protection, you are securing the right to use your name through commerce. Although trademarks are not a requirement by law, it is very necessary.

Here’s why: If you fail to protect your mark under trademark law, you are exposing your brand to potential infringers. Someone may take your name and register it for their own brand. Under this scenario, you may challenge that person’s registration but this will cost you more in legal fees. I am here to help you save some coins. Trust me, if you protect your brand at the onset, you are preventing the likelihood of infringement by third parties. Not sure where to begin? Always consult an attorney.

Copyright Protection

The second way to protect your brand is by copyright protection. One of my passions is teaching creative entrepreneurs how to protect their works. I often tell clients that it is necessary to create a quarterly, if not monthly, schedule to submit their works to the copyright office. The U.S. Copyright Office does allow for multiple submissions. This means that if you pay for one application, you can submit multiple entries under that one application. As a creative your content should be protected. Some copyrightable items include, but are not limited to: business plans, curriculum, paintings, books, songs, and software.

“As a creative your content should be protected.”

-Shaunette Stokes, Esq.

Trade Secrets

Do you have a recipe for something you created or customer lists that have helped your business grow? This can be protected under contract law. If by any chance the secrets of your company is leaked, courts will first ask about the measures you took to protect your intellectual assets. If you did the bare minimum of protecting the information shared with your staff or others, then the courts would likely see that you did not take the proper measures to ensure that your intellectual property remained a secret. For instance, if you have a recipe for your favorite product, you should make sure that anyone that has access to that recipe signs a non-disclosure and non-compete agreement. This prevents them from disclosing any secrets they acquired about your company during their employment or business relationship with you.


Lastly, I have found that budding entrepreneurs often like to pitch their ideas to potential investors and potential partners. It is often that they go into these pitch meetings empty handed. Ideally, prior to agreeing to meet with a potential investor, you should have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. This prevents them from disclosing what was said during the meeting. If you wish to take it a step further, you can also add a non-compete clause. This will prevent them from listening to your idea and executing the same exact idea in the same market. Presenting these types of contracts to potential investors or potential partners may pose as a challenge because not many people take too kindly to bound by contract for something they have not financially invested in. However, it is worth using this tactic in negotiations.

Always remember, never delay in getting your vision protected, it is all about being proactive. If you want more information on how to take one of the courses available through my firm on how to protect your vision, please email Info@stokeslegalcounsel.com.

Tampa-based attorney, Shaunette Stokes has substantial experience in contract law, business transactions, intellectual property law and civil litigation. Currently, she works with a diverse group of clients, assisting them in understanding and navigating the law so that they can effectively manage their respective businesses. Attorney Stokes has also assisted individuals in Family and Civil law.

Learn more about the legal services and entrepreneurship courses offered by Stokes Law Group by following them on Instagram here or visiting the firm’s official site by clicking the logo below.

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