Danielle Cutillo – 1851 Staff
Last month, Johnny Cupcakes founder Johnny Earle came to speak in de Witt Hall about entrepreneurship and the business he started in Boston.
Earle divulged his “cupcake shop” is really a t-shirt shop designed to look like a bakery. With locations in Boston, London, and Los Angeles, Earle has come a long way. He always had the entrepreneurship bug, even while dealing with a learning disability. He stayed passionate and believed in himself.
The idea of Johnny Cupcakes started when Earle worked for Newbury Comics. His co-workers would give him nicknames, one being Johnny Cupcake. This inspired him to create a t-shirt and wear it to work. People began to ask him where they could buy his t-shirt, influencing his business idea.
When Earle was younger he asked himself, “Why do people have jobs that don’t make them happy?” His mottos today is “Do more of what makes you happy” and “Real success is being happy doing what you love.”
Johnny Cupcakes now does collaborations with companies such as Nickelodeon and Hello Kitty, parodies, and in-store events. They own the quote “Make cupcakes not war” and come out with new shirts almost every two weeks.
Earle gave students pointers on meeting new people and turning an idea into a business. He talked about the importance of internships, networking, and putting in 110% if you want to succeed. “Work now, play later,” he said and when meeting new people, “Have good eye contact, have a good handshake, and don’t have bad breath,” said Earle.
Earle told students to create something that sets them apart from the rest. “Think of 10 things that make you unique,” he said.
Johnny Cupcakes is famous for their attention to detail. “What makes us different is the detail, the experience, the store, and the packaging,” said Earle.
Each item is creatively packaged in boxes with fun graphics and some look like actual cupcake boxes. Earle once autographed online order packages to stay connected with his customers and to give a quick thank you. “Every time someone supports my brand, I want them to feel like it’s their birthday,” said Earle.
Johnny Cupcakes uses their advertising budget for unique experiences. Once, they rented an ice cream truck and sold t-shirts out of it for the day and gave out ice cream with every purchase. Another clever marketing strategy was a breakfast themed t-shirt, sold only during breakfast hours. Customers who bought the t-shirt were also served breakfast. People camped out for the event and the shirts sold out in two days.
Towards the end of the event, Earle surprised the audience with a small gift bag taped under each seat filled with Johnny Cupcakes stickers and pins. He also held a question and answer session and a raffle where he gave away merchandise.