Joy Cho is one of the most influential people on the internet. Not only does she have the largest Pinterest following of anyone in the world, but her brand Oh Joy! reaches millions of people every day through her popular website, design work and major retail collaborations with companies like Target and Petco. In addition, this unstoppable force recently launched Oh Joy! Academy to offer resources and mentorship to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, as well as 1:1 business coaching.
As a mother of two little girls, Joy laughingly admits, “I’m very Type-A. Before I had kids, I was convinced I could handle parenting the same way I handled my business… it obviously doesn’t work like that! After each of my daughters, it took my husband and I at least a year to get our bearings on what the new normal was.”
Based on the highlight reel of social media, creative entrepreneurship often looks glamorous by design, but the reality of raising small children and a growing business at the same time is much more complicated.
Through her work, Joy’s daughters are finding plenty of perks as they’ve grown older, “When my kids have school projects, they come to mommy’s office. They go straight back to our craft room and pull out whatever they want. This place is like a wonderland for kids and adults!”
The non-traditional career path is not always wonderful as a mom though. “When my second was born, my team was still very new. I was writing my third book and it was due to the publisher right around my due date—I had this whole plan. But of course, my daughter came two weeks early. I really needed those two weeks to finish the book and establish more systems for my team to operate without me. I wound up having a sort of modified maternity leave, working from home with the baby at the beginning.”
Joy also vividly remembers one of her first work trips without her daughter that will give a lot of fellow traveling moms flashbacks, “I was on a book tour. I was still nursing so I had to pump. I was so good about it, making sure it was stored in the hotel fridge and I got through the book party, which was at West Elm in New York. I was about ready to leave for the airport and I was pulling my suitcase through the store and all I see is breast milk—puddles of it on the floor of this nice store. I was like, ‘OH MY GOD.’ Because I was mortified, but also because I was losing all that milk!”
Joy’s not-always-Pinterest-perfect experiences of motherhood and entrepreneurship have made her a more supportive leader for her all-female team (about half of which are also mothers). Being able to openly ask questions and listen to her team is invaluable, especially during big life transitions like parenthood. Even if there’s nothing you can do but listen and empathize, “If you honor people’s personal lives, they appreciate and respect that.”
At home, Joy and her husband try to keep communication just as open to make working parenthood work for both of them. “We have regular conversations to help assess how we can manage the responsibilities of work and raising children. No two families are alike, so you have to figure out what works for you.”