“Strange is Important,” Johnny Cupcakes Founder Tells UMass Boston Students
October 04, 2012
Johnny Cupcakes may not be a bakery, but founder Johnny Earle knows how to cook up some buzz.
Earle spoke to College of Management students at the University of Massachusetts Boston recently about how he created an international brand from the bottom up, starting when he was a 19-year-old living in sleepy Hull, Massachusetts.
Johnny Cupcakes is known for its cheeky T-shirts, but Earle says his stores don’t just peddle clothing – they offer an experience. Earle organizes events for Johnny Cupcakes fans, and invites followers on Twitter to meet him for burgers – on him. At his retail shops, the experience means buying merchandise from “ovens.” He’s working on a design that will have the shirts pop out of rolling pins.
“When you buy a shirt online, they come in cool special tissue paper. It costs more money and time to do, but you have to spend money to make money,” said Earle, now 30.
Earle says giving customers a little something extra – something unexpected – gets them talking about the brand he’s been working to build for the last 10 years.
“If someone orders something from our website, I’ll put a pack of batteries in their order. I’ll put a candy bar. I’ll put a $20 bill. I’ll put a doll’s head. I’ll put a free T-shirt. Sometimes we’ll expedite shipping. Sometimes I’ll put a bag of sand in someone’s order. Someone opens up their package, some batteries fall out. I guarantee when that person goes to Best Buy for the rest of their life and walks past the batteries, there’s a good chance they’ll share the story of how some really weird person named Johnny Cupcakes put a pack of batteries in their T-shirt order,” Earle said.
So what do students need to make their ideas succeed? “Strange is important,” Earle reminded the crowd. He said students starting a business should take steps to make sure they stand out, such as getting unusual business cards, perhaps made of wood or, fitting with his bakery theme, scratch-and-sniff cards.
“If you don’t reinvent yourself, you’re going to be lost in the mix,” Earle said.
Hal Dinh, a junior majoring in information systems, said Earle’s talk resonated with him.
“He really stressed doing what you really love and staying happy. Also, taking risks is really important,” Dinh said.
To hear more of Earle’s tips to the students, and hear him talk about how he was an entrepreneur in junior high and high school, watch the video above.
About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex urban issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s eight colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.
Posted by Sean | Friday, October 5 2012 at 7:11 pm
He completely left out the fact that he was in a band that he used to market his brand all over the country during their tours. Along with that, the main purchasers and supporters of his brand were initially his friends/acquaintances as well as the fact they were predominantly involved in the American hardcore, punk, and metal scene(s).
Posted by SumiSkyz | Saturday, November 10 2012 at 9:02 pm
Actually in this article he doesn’t mention it, however on his site he does. I think that was brilliant. It was the perfect opportunity to have fun and get a buzz going. Handclap, Johnny. And I love the fact he always mentions he was drug and alcohol free. As soon as I read his blog I read it to my son. My son would take out trash, sell candy or toys for a profit to friends by 8 years old. I’m hoping Johnny Cupcakes’s story shows him the sky’s the limit.