MEET OUR MENTORS: Jo ChunYan, Jo ChunYan Design Studio

"I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to build a business that is truly mine, on my terms.”

After perusing Jo ChunYan’s masterful branding and design work, you’d be forgiven for assuming she has been a graphic designer her entire life. But, true to Jo’s entrepreneurial form, her journey as a professional creative has been a less-than-conventional - and very brave - one.

“I was always really interested in creativity and art,” Jo reflects.

“I was sensitive to visual things as a child; that was just a natural way for me to move about and communicate with the world. A way to transfer emotions and energy in a visual sense. It felt like a natural fit for most of my life.”

But as a teenager and young adult, Jo’s career was on a very different trajectory.

“A lot of my life I was going down the engineering route. Being a designer, working on my own and running my own business was quite different from what my family expected of me - and quite different from what anyone in my family was doing.

“After working for six years in an engineering and logistics role, I finally decided to take a gap year. I moved to Japan, and had some spare time. I decided to use it to see what I could do by creating something that was my own.”

Jo didn’t have huge expectations. The self-professed ‘aspiring ambivert’ just wanted to be designing and working with enough clients to help fund her life in Japan. It was a ‘modest, humble goal’ at that stage. But then something unexpected happened.

“I fell in love with building a business, and it started to do very well. I discovered a real passion for tweaking different parts of my business, and making it as effective as possible. I think that’s the engineering side of me. I loved this idea of being able to create a business in my own way; seeing what worked and didn’t work, and building gradually from there.”

And build, Jo did. Six years on, Jo ChunYan is an industry-recognised conscious brand designer, business owner, award-winning coach and an author. Her creation Jo ChunYan Design Studio builds visionary brands for conscious businesses, including the likes of Alchemy Codes, The Joy System and the Self Care Vortex. Her team has expanded to include a senior designer, junior designer, content writer and virtual assistant.
“I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to build a business that is truly mine, on my terms. It’s a long game, but I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Jo’s success is well-earned. The leap toward starting your own business is a big and bold one, but the challenges don’t stop there.

“One of the biggest challenges for me was around holding boundaries in working for myself as someone who is quite sensitive. It definitely helps as a designer, but can also go the other way when you’re putting too much into projects and not separating what needs to be done. I’ve had to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations in a gentle but conscious way - that’s a wonderful challenge, not a negative one.

“The other is the money mindset, which is a big challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It’s a belief we can only make a certain amount, that there’s a cap or a ceiling. We can have big goals, but getting there is really tough because it means you have to be comfortable making and receiving that amount; and knowing it is possible.”

Jo is a huge advocate for asking for help, having gone through the Digital Solutions - Australian Small Business Advisory Services program as a mentee herself.

“I got so much out of it. It was so helpful to have extra support that was specific to a topic I needed help on. To be able to sit down with someone one-on-one and work out what steps to take is so incredibly helpful. I cannot imagine getting to where I am in my business without mentoring.
“Now, one of my essentials is having a coach or a mentor. It is essential to reinvest in this kind of development. Every time you get to the next level, it helps you grow; and helps you become really clear on what you want or don’t want.”

So strong is Jo’s belief in the benefits of working with a mentor, she became one herself. Jo has been a mentor through the Digital Solutions - Australian Small Business Advisory Services program since 2020.

“There are so many different things I love about it. I love being able to connect with people on that one-on-one level. Seeing how people get energised or re-energised throughout their session is magical. Meeting these amazing people in the community, and witnessing the transformation and what they are able to achieve - is so rewarding.”

What’s one piece of advice Jo would give to budding business owners?

“Just remember that it’s a long journey. Even if we make changes, things take time to happen. The ground needs to be super fertile for a lush business to grow. Building that timeline in, and being patient with progress is really key. It’s a long-term project, but it’s incredibly worthwhile.”
Find Jo ChunYan and many other mentors on our website. Eligible Victorian small businesses can access 3 hours of professional business mentoring, as well as workshops, webinars and online courses through the Digital Solutions program. Register to find out more here.
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