Interviews

Published on May 9th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz

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Oh Joy! Founder Joy Cho On Life As A Top Designer, Working With Softsoap & Upcoming Projects

Launched in 2005 as a graphic design studio, Oh Joy! is now a lifestyle brand AND design studio with a focus on design, fashion, food and joyful moments from everyday life. In turn, Oh Joy! creates a wide range of licensed products including home decor, kids, pet and furniture collections. Its high-profile collaborators have included Target, Johnson & Johnson, Petco, Band-Aids, Clorox, and Softsoap.

Oh Joy! founder and creative director Joy Cho has not only consulted for hundreds of top businesses around the world, but she is an also in-demand author. Beyond writing three published books, Cho has been a keynote speaker and/or presenter for Alt Summit, IDS West, In Good Company, HGTV, Pinterest HQ, Target HQ, and the Watermark Conference For Women. She has the most followed account on Pinterest — 13 million followers and counting — and has been named one of Time’s “30 Most Influential People On The Internet” on more than one occasion.

I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Joy Cho herself on behalf of The Hype not only about her past, present and future as a designer, but also her recent collaboration with Softsoap. More on all things related to Joy Cho and the Oh Joy! team can be found online at www.ohjoy.com.

You initially launched in 2005 as a graphic design studio and ultimately expanded into a lifestyle brand beyond being a design studio. Was the plan always to be a lifestyle brand?

Joy Cho: (laughs) No! I started Oh Joy! truly as a design studio. This was in the early days of social media so I had no idea what Oh Joy! would evolve into. I had hopes of expanding and designing my own lifestyle brand for stores like Target, but social media really took Oh Joy! to a new level that I didn’t know could have existed — since most of it didn’t exist back when I started.

What was the first retail-sold product that your company worked on?

Joy Cho: We had our own stationery line back in 2007 to 2009 that I manufactured myself. It was a labor of love and we had it picked up in stores like Anthropologie, Kate’s Paperie, and Paper Source. That was very rewarding for me because I had previously always designed for other brands, but that was the first time something came out under my brand name and in stores I really loved. We didn’t keep the stationery line because that type of manufacturing wasn’t the most cost effective, and afterwards, I decided to focus mainly on licensing as our way to be able to design lots of products in a variety of categories.

When did the name “Oh Joy!” become something you wanted to identity with? I ask that because not everyone loves a good pun.

Joy Cho: When I started a blog in 2005 — at the same time I started my design company — my good friend Beth was the one who encouraged me to start one. She had one and had a section dedicated to our friendship that she called “Oh Joy!” So when I was trying to come up with a name, she suggested that one. I used it because it was easy, and I also didn’t realize my company would grow as much as it has. While I may have chosen a different name if I had eventually known what it would grow to be, it has worked for us… It’s easy to say and remember and people are always naturally saying that phrase. (laughs)

Oh Joy! has done some very noteworthy collaborations over the years. What is it that you look for most in a potential collaborator?

Joy Cho: When looking to collaborate with brands, I look for those who will let my creative voice and vision shine. Whether it’s a product and design collaboration or a social media and brand collaboration, I want to make sure everything we do feels like a natural fit with products and brands I already use or would naturally use and can speak to at whatever stage I am in my life.

And speaking of partnerships, how did the opportunity work with Softsoap come about?

Joy Cho: Often, I pitch to brands to work with them, but Softsoap came to us in this case. I’ve used Softsoap since I was a kid — who remembers that clear bottle with the fish swimming on it?! — so it was a very natural fit to work with them to talk about bringing moments of joy (something I do daily with our content) into the hand washing experience. The Décor Collection from Softsoap is perfect to add a touch of happiness to the sink in your kitchen or bathroom, and the five different fragrances allow for individuals to easily personalize their space. Oh Joy! is all about how we can inspire people to bring joy to small moments every day, so this partnership was a perfect fit.

It’s sort of hard to define you in that you design, you consult, you write books, and you do public speaking engagements. How do you like to be thought of?

Joy Cho: It’s true…. I wear a LOT of hats, but I think that’s the beauty of being a creative person these days. Social media has also allowed anyone with a voice to have the opportunity to use it. What you do with it is up to you!
Officially, I call myself “the Founder and Creative Director of Oh Joy!, a design and lifestyle brand.” But my job ranges to so many things including all those things you mentioned and more!

When did you first start doing public speaking as a keynote speaker? Was that something you had always wanted to do?

Joy Cho: I think I did my first official keynote in 2013 when I was asked to speak at a conference in London. I began public speaking and teaching other business owners much earlier though where I led numerous workshops on entrepreneurship on a range of topics starting in 2010. I also began consulting for other small businesses around that time and wrote my first two books about business.

What is coming up for you and Oh Joy! in the coming months? Do you have any projects outside of your firm that you can talk about?

Joy Cho: We have a lot more fun products launching this year including backpacks, shoes, and more. I’m also building a house — somehow in my spare time! — so I’ve been sharing that journey on my social channels as well. Stay tuned!

As a music-centric publication, I must ask: What was the last concert you attended for fun?

Joy Cho: When I was a kid, I had very strict Asian parents, so I wasn’t allowed to go out to concerts back then. So now in my adulthood, I’ve been making up for lost times and I now go to handful every year. The last one I went to was Beyonce and Jay-Z at the end of 2018.

Finally, Joy, any last words for the kids?

Joy Cho: When I was just starting my business, I was really nervous about whether I would succeed and all the unknowns of whether I’d reach my goals with the business. My brother-in-law was staying with us at the time, and one thing he told me that has always stuck was: “Who says you can’t?” I try and tell myself that whenever self-doubt creeps in because often we are the ones in the way of our own goals and dreams. And if we remember we are in control of them, it’s much easier to focus on owning what you do and just doing it!

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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident (and Long Island native) with over 15 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his favorite band Superdrag. In the years following, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer.Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Format Magazine, Businessweek, The Improper, the L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. He is a member of the SATW and the IFWTWA organizations as a food and travel writer.Darren is also the host the recently-launched "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" podcast, as co-produced with PureGrainAudio.



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