biz ladiesinterviewsLife & Business

Biz Ladies Profile: Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

by Stephanie

Joy Cho from Oh Joy! Photo by Bonnie Tsang

Today’s Biz Ladies Profile features Joy Cho of Oh Joy! Joy began her popular blog, Oh Joy!, as a means of chronicling her design inspiration, never thinking that it would become one of the most popular online destinations for fashion, design and everyday pleasantries. Since 2005, Joy has been sharing beautiful bits and pieces of her life and projects, on and offline, and today she offers us a deeper glimpse into her career journey. Thanks, Joy, for sharing with us today! — Stephanie

Read the full profile after the jump . . .

Joy Cho living room Image above: Joy’s wallpaper design in her living room. Photo by Bonnie Tsang

Why did you decide to start your own business?

It was really a happy accident. In 2005, I left my job in New York to move to Philadelphia (for my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband). I had planned to get a new job (as a graphic or textile designer) in Philly. I interviewed for jobs, but nothing was quite right, so I decided to freelance in the meantime to make ends meet until some better job options opened up. At the same time, I started my blog as a hobby to document my design inspirations and my personal life (I had just gotten engaged and had just moved to a new city). Within the next six months, as more people read my blog, I began getting more clients through my blog. Within a year, I realized I could turn my freelancing into a full-time design studio with the help of my blog as my primary marketing tool.

When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?

I based my business on my past experiences and what I knew I was good at. But I also tried to steer away from the things I didn’t enjoy about my past jobs. For example, from my past two jobs I had lots of experience with designing for clients in the fashion industry, but I knew I didn’t enjoy designing ads or websites. I liked designing logos, packaging and textile designs for products. So I targeted smaller boutique fashion companies and showed only the things I liked best in my online portfolio, and those were the types of clients I attracted.

Joy Cho of Oh Joy! Photo by Bonnie Tsang

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?

Dream big. I remember I was talking to my brother-in-law and telling him that I could never make over a certain amount of money doing what I do. His response was, “Who says you can’t? You can absolutely make a good living doing what you love, you just have to believe it.” He was right — as soon as I set that goal for myself (in this case it was a goal of what I wanted my income to be), I reached that goal the following year. So every year, I set for myself a goal that sometimes seems ridiculous, but somehow I manage to make it come true.

Ruby Cho of Oh Joy! Image above: Baby Ruby Cho. Photo by Bonnie Tsang

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The unknowingness of it all. You don’t know if you’ll succeed. You don’t know if people will buy your product or want your service or read your blog. But, like they say, you never know if you don’t try, right? I don’t think that unknowingness every really goes away when you’re self-employed, but when you’re successful and things do go well with your business, the fact that you’ve created your own business doing what you love is the best feeling.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

Continue to keep striving to be better. While you can give yourself a pat on the back every so often when things are going well, always strive to keep making your product, service or whatever you offer to people better.

Blog Inc by Joy Cho Image above: Blog Inc. by Joy Cho. Photo by Oh Joy!

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?

There was a time when my husband and I were totally broke. He was in med school, and I was just starting my business, so I had to do whatever I could (and take whatever projects I could) to pay the bills. I do believe that in the beginning, not every project is a dream one, and sometimes you have to do some things because it’s going to pay the rent. But I also learned that if the project was something I didn’t believe in at all, there was no money that was worth feeling so-so about your work, because you don’t do the best job when you’re not feeling it. My lack of heart in the project showed, the client wasn’t happy and I ended up being fired from the job.

Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

I can’t really say there has been one thing I can claim has been the best. For me, overall, it’s the relationships and friendships I’ve made through my business. You meet a lot of people virtually when you’re a blogger, but when some of those connections turn into real-life friendships, that, to me, is amazing. To be able to have met and now have in my life other self-employed women who understand what I do and have similar types of unconventional jobs is really so helpful.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

You have to be a go-getter. While you don’t want to be annoying to people, you can’t wait for things to come to you, and you have to be proactive in seeking the opportunities you want or the goals you want to accomplish. So many of the clients or partnerships or projects I got came from me going to them and telling them how we could work together.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. While the best thing about self-employment is the flexibility it brings (You can take two weeks off to go to Paris if you want! Or take a three-hour lunch break!), you’ll also work the hardest you’ve ever worked. You’ll find you actually work more than if you worked for someone else at a 9 to 5 job.

Suggested For You


  • Oh my! Your married well because that brother-in-law gave you sage advice and YOU were smart to have your ears open to it. Joy, your glasses are adorbs!! Please tell me the style name and brand because I reeeeeally need to get some FUN reading glasses and my face shape is similar to yours. Thank you!! Yvonne :)

  • I have so much respect for Joy and all the ladies of this wonderful blog community who have taken every risk to make their dreams come true. As a young designer just starting my career, I look to them for inspiration every day.

  • I love Joy and her blog. She’s been a huge inspiration to me in making my own blog my business and in seeing how important that is as a mom of a little one as well. And she’s such a sweetheart too. Love her advice about setting goals for yourself – I’m going to start that myself :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Joy is so inspiring in the way that she’s grown her business. She’s always a harbinger of what’s to come for blogs so it would have been great to ask her something forward looking (changes in blogs/business/small business/where she sees her business three years from now etc)- still love the interview and insight though, thanks for having her on!

  • Joy is such a delight and inspiration! With my business, I often get too timid and I expect people will find me. I need to listen to her advice and go get what I want!

  • Great article. Like others who have commented, I love Joy’s blog and her book inspired me to start my own blog.

  • I remember stumbling across Joy’s blog ca. 2008 and love, loving it. It’s wonderful to see how much her business has grown and thrived. Wishing her the best of luck in the future and appreciating the wonderful advice as someone who’s at the precipice of launching their own small business. (Eek!)

  • Thank you Design Sponge for giving us this rare glimpse at how to make your passion your business! I hope to do that same thing with my Blog! My premier blog is for food, but it links to my design and weight loss blog. I am a graphic designer and turned my passion for making delicious nutritious food into my blog. I want to take the same path a Joy Cho and I am glad to see it can work! Thanks to you both! I totally agree what you said about being a go getter, things don’t just come to you you have to ask people or show people what you can offer them! Love the article and I find Design Sponge and Oh Joy to both be inspiring blogs with inspiring ladies behind them!

  • I don’t only loved this interview with Joy, but I also own her book. Read it, marked some parts of it and now my 10 year old daughter is reading it too. Thanks for the inspiration and the lessons both in Design Sponge and Oh Joy!

  • I love this post..Oh Joy is one of my favorite blogs that I check almost daily and getting know more about Joy Cho is interesting..

    Thanks for sharing…

  • OH yes! Her story reminds me of me (at least the beginning–moving to a new city for my boyfriend, freelancing for the first time, blogging about it), and wow, is that inspiring! I’ve always loved Oh Joy! but never knew she started with nothing but a big dream and loving advice. Thank you so much to her for sharing her story and to D*S for the good-vibe inspiration!

  • This is hugely inspiring. As someone who has read the Blog, Inc book and is in the process of developing a blog oriented towards my own passion in art and design this was a great sign for me to move forward. My fiancee and I will be moving from Memphis to Boston for his residency in June. I am in the same predicament of finding a job in the creative field I am in now while at the same time pining for the ability to run my own online business. Love this!

  • A true inspiration! Thanks for the reminder about being a go-getter Joy…sometimes I need a kick in the you know what.

  • I’m glad that I chose to read this article. Very inspirational and I will definitely check out Oh Joy. :-)

  • This post was right on time! As someone that’s new to self-employment (I’m a designer) I can totally relate to your story. I love what you said about being proactive–reaching out to people telling them how you can work together and setting goals for yourself regarding how much you want to make each year. Best of luck to ya!

  • Love you Joy! I’m just reading your book and I’m slowly learning how to do things in this blogging / self employed world, and you are a true inspiration. :)

  • Joy! You and I are kindred spirits. I love what you said about being a go getter (I just wrote a post on this topic on Tuesday) and that the “unknowingness” of being an entrepreneur never goes away. Your success and creativity is SO inspiring! I look forward to getting to know you better. :)

    Warm regards,