Entrepreneur Johnny Earle to present at LU lecture series
Entrepreneur Johnny Earle, better known by his brand name Johnny Cupcakes, will appear at the Lamar University Academic Lecture Series, Wednesday, in the University Theatre at 12:30 p.m. The College of Business is hosting the event free of charge, and Johnny will be selling limited LU inspired T-shirts after the event.
Earle gained his entrepreneurial spirit from watching his parents commute to and from work, inspiring him to start his own business to have more free time to spend with his loved ones instead of being stuck in traffic. Earle founded 16 different businesses before the age of 16, from lemonade stands to performing magic.
After graduating high school, Earle formed a hardcore metal ban with his friends, On Broken Wings, and his friends inspired his future business.
“My friends used to give me nicknames because anything goes with Johnny, like “Johnny Come-Lately,” when I was late for work,” Earle said. “But “Johnny Cupcakes” is the one that stuck.”
As a joke, Earle decided to make a T-shirt with the now famous insignia of a cupcake and crossbones, and began wearing the shirt in public where it garnered attention from passers-by.
“I started selling the T-shirts out of my trunk, and when I went on tour with my band, people all over the country would purchase them,” Earle said. “Guys thought they were funny and girls thought they were cute.”
Eventually, Earle said, he could not keep up with the amount of orders he was receiving.
“Slowly, but steadily a cult following was brewing so much that my entire house became filled with orders to be shipped internationally,” he said. “My whole family became involved, my mom and sister helped fulfill orders while my dad created a storage space in the attic. After hiring friends to help out, the only logical thing to do next was to open a retail store.
Johnny Cupcakes is branded as the “world’s first T-shirt bakery,” because from the outside, it looks normal. But when people go inside, instead of being able to order pastries, they can order T-shirts.
“I wanted the store to be an unforgettable experience,” he said. “My dad and I transformed my first store location into an old fashioned bakery where I displayed T-shirts in vintage, industrial refrigerators and on baking racks. I even made it smell like frosting. The aesthetic was so convincing that people actually thought they were in a bakery.”
Pursuing the T-shirt industry as a career was risky Earle said. He credits his success to his roots and loyal customers.
“A food themed clothing brand was weird to many people, but weird is good,” Earle said. “Weird gets people talking. The design caused curiosity and conversation amongst strangers and they bought into it.”
As his inside joke became a multi-million dollar business, the company garnered widespread media attention from publications such as Forbes, NPR, BusinessWeek, INC Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and more. The brand has also caught the attention of celebrities like Nas, John Stamos and Spike Lee.
“I’ve always taken my advertising budget and put it into building unique experiences through our products, packaging, events and retail environments,” Earle said. “By doing this, people end up doing the advertising for us through word of mouth.”
In his talk, Earle will give tips on how to start a business, how to find the creative spirit to drive people to new ideas, and how to create brand loyalty between consumers and the brand itself.
“More than anything, I want people to know that they are capable of starting a business from nothing,” he said. “Just do what makes you happy.”
For more information, contact the College Business at 880-7804 or on the web at lamar.edu/business/index.
Story by Olivia Malick, UP staff writer