How the Most-Followed Account on Pinterest Built a Thriving Career in Design

Second Life Joy Cho Interview

Photo:

Courtesy of Oh Joy!

Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to stay tuned.

Joy Cho was a self-proclaimed “crafty kid.” While her immigrant parents were hard at work building a Thai restaurant in Philly from the ground up (what would eventually become a chain of four restaurants), she found ways of keeping herself busy with a myriad of creative pursuits and, by the age of 11, her first business. After a year attending classes with her mother at the Philadelphia calligrapher society, Cho began dropping business cards in the mailboxes of her neighbors, expecting a call for her unique services. When the phone lines remained idle, Cho took a different approach and offered to pen the belt ceremony certificates at her karate school, demonstrating the value of her services to a new clientele. “That’s when I learned about marketing,” Cho recounts on that latest episode of Second Life. She was in business.

Joy went on to study graphic design at Syracuse University and put her degree to use at a boutique ad agency in New York, working primarily on fashion accounts. After a few years though, she found herself pining to design physical, tangible things, and landed a job at Cynthia Rowley, where she helped design the brand’s Swell collection at Target. Eventually, Cho left NY and moved back to Philly where her career as a freelancer began.

Photo:

Courtesy of @bonnietsang for @ohjoy

As her early lessons in marketing had taught her, Cho knew she needed to be proactive about acquiring prospective clients, and thus, the Oh Joy! blog began, initially serving as a promotional tool showcasing her work as a graphic and product designer. “People cannot always visualize what you can do for them. Sometimes they need to see it, especially if you’re in a creative field,” she says, and see it they did. Cho’s signature style soon amassed a devoted following that looked to her for creative insight and inspiration. Staying attuned and flexible to the changing media landscape, Cho expertly navigated new social platforms emerging at the time, and when they felt right for her brand, she went all in. The most fitting example? She was one of the first Pinterest users. Now, with 13M followers, she’s the most popular account in the world.

Photo:

Courtesy of @lilyglass for @ohjoy

Since Oh Joy!'s launch in 2005, Cho has leveraged her creative influence to land some truly dreamy product collaborations with huge brands like Anthropologie, Calpak, Petco, and Target, through which she’s brought to life everything from wallpaper to luggage to pet accessories. Somehow amid it all, she’s also managed to write three books on the topics of blogging, freelancing, and creative inspiration, and this year, she is adding a children’s book to the mix.

Tune in to this week's episode of Second Life to hear how Cho has built her creative hub and lifestyle brand and her wise words for creatives looking to monetize their talents. To shop some of her signature products and books, keep scrolling.  

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