Create & Cultivate 100: Content Creator: Joy Cho

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Joy Cho is the OG blogger. She started her namesake blog, Oh Joy!, in 2005 (the stone ages, when you consider Instagram launched in 2010), with no intention of taking it full-time.

Then social media happened.

The internet boomed, and so did Joy’s career. She became a household name in the blogger space, hiring a full-time team of employees and taking on partnerships with dream brands like Target and Urban Outfitters to design everything from wallpaper to Band-Aids to baby clothes.

Amidst it all, Joy keeps a level head, reminding us to focus on our priorities and know it’s OK to ask for help. This boss blogger is charging full speed ahead in 2019, and we’re so excited to see what she does next.

You were one of the first bloggers in the lifestyle space. How has the industry changed, for both better and worse?

I started my blog in 2005 before social media really exploded into what it is today. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing back then since those of us that started in the OG days were really all doing it for fun. There was no model of what blogging could be or that it could turn into a full-time job. Back then, it was much more scrappy. I remember I would take photos of magazine images I loved and then upload those to my computer to was a PHOTO of a PHOTO! Ha! But there was something so innocent and pure about it that I didn’t have any expectation of what I should be doing so I just did what felt right.

The evolution to what social media has become today is a crazy one. It’s become so much more polished and professional which has made all of the content visually stronger, but it’s also made it feel too perfect in some ways. I think we are evolving back to more personal touches and real moments though. And those of us who do create all of our own content are working to still create the images and stories that we do best, but are also working to bring in parts that remind readers that we go through the same ups and downs of life as well.

You’ve grown your business from a blog to a media and product empire. What advice would you give to other content creators on scaling their business?

You have to look at your strengths and what makes you unique to help you decide where to expand next. For me, expanding into designed products was a natural transition because I had previously worked as a graphic and product designer before I had my own business. I knew what to do so it was easier to pitch myself. If you’re great at writing, a book might be the next step. If people are obsessed with your style and taste, then a shop could be a great way to go. Don’t look at what others are doing to emulate their steps or successes, instead look at others’ successes as fuel for your fire to find what’s next and best for you.

Your parents came to the US with $600 in their pockets and created four businesses from scratch. What has their perseverance taught you about business?

They truly taught me that you can create something from nothing. I originally wanted to create a bedding line when I first started my business, but once I looked into how expensive it would be to manufacture those items, and the lack of funds I had in my bank account to do so, I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. So my company started as a freelance graphic design business because I could earn money right away offering my design services. I didn’t need to spend any money investing in anything new. My parents worked so hard day and night, and I watched that throughout my childhood. At the time, I didn’t understand why or appreciate their hard work, but years later, I have so much respect for all they did and all they sacrificed to build a life for our family.

If you could work with any brand in the world, who would it be?

Oh wow...that’s a good question. One of my bucket list brand goals got checked off when we worked with Target for three years on an exclusive production collection in which time we launched 15 collections with them! I don’t have any specific new brands on my list just yet, but would love to move into working with a car brand, airline, or hotel to bring Oh Joy! within those categories.

What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?

My biggest surprise has been that my career has evolved so much differently than I had expected..and for the better. Because of social media and the ability to use it as a tool for growth, we have ebbed and flowed as things have evolved and I have taken paths I wasn’t necessarily planning and some paths I never even knew existed. I used to plan out my businesses goal with 5 and 10 year plans, but now I love looking just a year or two ahead as it all changes so much so fast that I try to be more flexible and evolve as it feels right.

Can women really “have it all?” Is that a myth?

Yes, they can. But your definition of “having it all” changes over time. I remember when working out 5 days a week was my life. It was what I did in my free time, and I wouldn’t feel like myself if I didn’t exercise. Those were the days before other priorities came into play...having a business with multiple employees, having two kids, building a house, and all the other things that make up my current life. That’s not to say I don’t value exercise (I do!) but something that used to be so important to me now gets a lower priority on my list of things to do because I want to maximize my time with my kids when I am home from work. I want to put them to bed every night, and be there for school drop-off’s. Those are the things that are important to me now. Some day, I’ll get back to my five days a week at the gym ;)

You have to look at your strengths and what makes you unique to help you decide where to expand next.

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What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

Ultimately, it's JOY. Joy from the work that we do everyday to bring happiness to others. Joy that I have in knowing I have taken my company further than I could have one my own. Joy that I have happy employees who are all thriving in their jobs. The JOY in knowing that I did this! I am responsible for all of these paychecks, and incredible is it that I can have a business that can do that? And JOY in knowing that all of these people wherever they end up going or evolving in the future will take what they have learned with me to their future adventures and affect others in their own way.

What are the common challenges you've seen among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

Questioning yourself..questioning your fees, rates, saying yes or no to a job or client. Men rarely question themselves in business. They decide what they want to do, and they stand by it. Women tend to worry about whether they are priced too high or whether people will like what they have to offer or not. I am so guilty of this myself, and I’m always reminding myself in those moments of insecurity, what would a guy do? I want to see women—myself included—feel more confident to stand by the work, the numbers, the money, and the decisions we make!

When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find new roads + switch gears to find success?

Whenever I’m feeling in a slump, I know it’s time to try new things. That doesn’t mean changing my business completely, but what are new ideas, new concepts, new parts of the business I could explore? Even though my work is creative and always different, after a while, everyone needs to change things up to stay inspired and excited.

What does 2019 have in store for Oh Joy?

Ah, so many fun things!

I am getting back into the education side of my business. I used to do a TON of business workshops and consulting before my kids were born, and I’m excited to get back to some of that. I’m launching an online class to teach small business owners how to grow a team. It’s a topic that not a lot of people cover but so many people need direction on especially when they are first getting ready to hire employees.

As for products, we have more pet accessories coming out with Petco. We are launching shoe collections (both for kids and adults!), dinnerware, backpacks, pillows, and more!

On the content side of things, we will continue to create happy content for you daily...some in collaboration with brands and sponsors we love, and some are simply ideas we come up with that we want to share with you.

Finally, I’m currently building a house which will be finishing late summer! I’ve been chronicling the whole thing over at Oh Joy, and it’s been such a fun (sometimes stressful) project that I can’t wait to keep sharing with you!

Photography by Annie McElwain Photography

Photoshoot skincare provided by Dermalogica