NXNE 2013: Johnny Cupcakes – Not Your Typical Dessert
Johnny Earle has had a very interesting life. Since he was a kid, he enjoyed trying various business ventures. Like all kids, he started with a lemonade stand, which then eventually transformed into a yard sale. Later on, Johnny took it a step further and moved on to selling Whoopee Cushions; then he started to sell candy, acutal candy, while all his other friends were selling other not-so-legal substances. Most kids would have probably stopped with their various business ventures after a couple of years, but Johnny just had an eye for selling products that would sell.
In 2001, out of the back of his car, Johnny started to create cool satirical t-shirts where cupcakes would replace iconic symbols. He called this company Johnny Cupcakes, after a nickname he had been given earlier on in life. These t-shirts became really popular really quickly; fast forward twelve years, and he has stores in the US and in the UK where limited edition t-shirts sell out within the first twenty-four hours of release.
This incredible story shows what chasing after happiness can bring you: more happiness and ultimate success in what you do by impacting others’ lives positively. This is an entrepreneur’s dream. To be able to go through life, trying different businesses, and finding one that not only works for you, but for all your customers.
Johnny’s very entertaining talk at this year’s NXNE festival summed up a lot of what I learned in four years of business school and more. As an entrepreneur with an eye for business, Johnny really understands his customers, and he strives daily to put smiles on their faces by giving them the ultimate experience through purchasing his products. His talk goes on to discuss all the important points of business, but below are the five things all aspiring entrepreneurs should take away and learn from so that their businesses are able to get off the ground and receive the same amount of reception for their product and service as Johnny has for Johnny Cupcakes.
- Eye contact, handshake, and breath are important: A triple threat that will either threaten to bring great success or threaten to scare away any potential business partners, customers, or loyalists. It is crucial to be able to look someone in the eye and create a connection with them. More importantly, to show that you notice them and are not afraid to show them your confidence. Handshakes work in a similar fashion. A firm handshake shows that you are serious and are invested in establishing a relationship with that person, while a limp handshake is just not pleasant at all. Finally, when you speak with someone, you would not want your breath to be the reason why they cannot stand your presence long enough to care about your product.
- Network, network, and build relationships: A general rule of business, every one you meet in life will help you out in some way. They may be your future spouse, your future business partner, a loyal customer, or someone who hates your product but from whom you can learn from. You just do not know who you will meet. Johnny spent a lot of time talking about making connections and building relationships because if he wasn’t that outgoing little boy who convinced his friends to buy Whoopee Cushions for $5.99, he would not be where he is today. Johnny is an entrepreneur who truly loves his customers and want to give them the ultimate experience when they buy a Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt.
- Good packaging does not get thrown away. A great marketing lesson. Johnny wants his customers to feel as if they are opening their birthday gift when they receive his products. He puts a lot of thought and effort into designing the physical packaging so that effect is achieve. I believe it goes further than that. The physical and thoughtful design is great, but what is better is the emotional connection that the customer feels when they open that package makes Johnny so successful. Every product from the design of the store (with fridges and fakes stoves so it actually looks like a cupcake store) to the fact that t-shirts carried out in the store in cardboard cake boxes, makes buying Johnny Cupcakes an experience. Something that customers will never forget and will want more of.
- Real success is being happy doing what you love: Yes, it’s been heard time and time again. But really, if your pursued anything else, would you have as much fun doing it as Johnny? If you do not love what you do, it is not the thing for you. It does not mean you need to know your passion right away, it just means, actively seeking for it. And if you think you have found it, don’t let it stay static.
- Luck has nothing to do with it: It takes time, effort and ultimate commitment to be successful. Things don’t happen overnight and neither does being lazy. For Johnny, “luck” is not an excuse that anyone should use for “unsucess” of themselves and success of others. It is through hard work and perseverance that Johnny found himself a successful entrepreneur.
Johnny is truly a great speaker and someone who keeps it real. The passion for his work just rolls off of him and this humble man makes his work fun and is an inspiration to all entrepreneurs.