Andrew Kimmel ’08 | Stories of Syria
Joy Cho ’01 Joy Cho ’01

This profile originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Syracuse University Magazine.

When Joy Cho '01 returned to her hometown of Philadelphia from New York City in 2005, she found herself temporarily between jobs in her chosen field as a graphic designer. So she began doing two things that, delightfully, set her career in exciting new directions: offering design services as a freelancer and writing a blog about all the things she loves about design. “I’m a really driven person and I go after what I want, so I expected to find the next perfect job,” says Cho, a College of Visual and Performing Arts communications design major whose ad agency work in New York introduced her to the worlds of fashion and textile design. “But in the meantime, I needed to pay rent and make ends meet. So I started freelancing, and at the same time I started my blog as a personal hobby. It began to grow into something I used as an inspirational tool and as a way to share design work I was doing and to share about other designers whose work inspired me.”

As the blog gained popularity with a loyal readership and also expanded into a helpful marketing device, her freelance work evolved into a full-time design studio. Ten years later—now married, the mom of two little girls, and living on the West Coast—Cho is happily situated at the heart of her own monumentally successful business, Oh Joy!. The multifaceted Los Angeles-based company creates how-to lifestyle videos, books, and a daily blog, all with a cheerful focus on food, fashion, home decor, and merry moments from everyday life, as well as signature licensed product lines for Target, The Land of Nod, Band-Aid, and more. “I had no plans, ever, to start my own business, so this was all a happy accident for me,” says Cho, who, somewhat miraculously, does it all with a team of only four people, including herself. “It wasn’t easy, but it worked out. And I never looked back.”   

With an expansive online presence that encompasses Pinterest (where she has a record 13 million followers), YouTube (where she presents DIY design tutorials), Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, Cho was featured in Time magazine last March as one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet. Her status as an accomplished entrepreneur who is also a young mother often invites opportunities to serve as a mentor and offer friendly advice to other busy moms—something she enjoys. “But for me, the creative aspect of my work is always going to be my favorite,” she says. “I love designing products and thinking about what we can make, coming up with new color palettes and patterns, and, in our editorial content, with ideas to inspire people.”

When asked the secret of her success, Cho says it essentially comes down to a willingness to work hard. That philosophy has served her well, even since her time as an SU student. “I have fond memories of late nights working in the studio and dragging my portfolio across two feet of snow to go to class,” she says. “Our program worked us hard and I felt challenged, which helped me develop a work ethic and prepared me for my first jobs in New York, which then prepared me for having my own company. There is so much I’ve learned, both in my personal life and my professional life. But being a go-getter is definitely one of the main things that’s helped. You are responsible for your own life, so you have to go after what you want.”

--Amy Speach