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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.