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Things You Can Learn From Johnny Cupcakes

Leadership & Inspiration

Joshua Davidson wrote this article


If it wasn’t for Johnny Cupcakes, I don’t believe I would had ever became an entrepreneur, nor started Chop Dawg. I was fortunate enough to have discovered this brand back during my early teenage years, when I was going through the most impressionable stage of my life. Learning about the story of a young man who dropped out of college, created a t-shirt as a joke, and ended up starting a multi-million dollar company left an impact on me.

One of the things about Johnny Cupcakes though, is that though they are not necessarily a startup anymore, many of the things that they do can still easily be relatable to the companies that we work with (and read our blog) every single day. Here are a few of the things that we have personally learned from Johnny Cupcakes and that we use to our advantage here at Chop Dawg.

1) Tell a story

You’ll quickly learn about Johnny Cupcakes that they have one of the strongest followings you’ll ever see for a small brand. I’m not talking about a small group on Facebook that’ll talk about a particular brand. I’m talking about a fan-base as loyal as the fans that root for the Philadelphia Eagles (Fly Eagles Fly!). This is a following that’ll support the brand wherever it goes, whatever they sell. The customers always want what is best for Johnny Earle and company. Why is that? I truly believe it comes down to one important fundamental. Johnny Cupcakes knows how to tell a good story.

Johnny Cupcakes isn’t afraid to share their humble origins. After-all, this is a company that started out of the back of a 1989 Toyota Camry selling basically homemade t-shirts. It is authentic. People can relate to that. Mix that in with a brand, that not only communicates just through the aesthetics, the weirdness, the oddity, the humor, the quality that goes into such a company — but as well, the human beings behind the brand. When you learn about Johnny Earle, the founder of Johnny Cupcakes, you’ll learn about someone who truly wears his passion on his sleeve (all pun intended), someone who gives a damn about his customer base and above-all, someone who cares about telling a good story that people will enjoy and give them a feeling that I like to consider a mix of nostalgia meets childhood like wonder.

Johnny Cupcakes teaches you that if you build a product and a brand that people will like, mixing that in with a true, down-to-earth personality that people can truly relate to, not only can you build an incredible foundation for a company to grow off of, but you also build a lifetime relationship with your consumer that is a bond as strong as that to those you care about the most.

2) Care about your customers

This may sound self-explanatory but it’s an amazing fundamental that many businesses do not seem to grasp. You can tell from even a distance that Johnny Cupcakes cares about their customers more than anything else. That every ounce of sweat, blood and tears goes into making their customers happy. It is almost like watching your favorite band perform as hard as they can on stage because they know that is why their audience is there — to see them give it their all.

They’re masters of this part of their craft. You’ll see Johnny Cupcakes always giving back. Putting together retro movie nights. Giving out free cupcakes. Celebrating store anniversaries with their customers. Incorporating their customers into their own social media, telling their stories. Blogging about the people they meet who support their brand. This works two ways. For the consumer, it comes back to that level of storytelling that can’t be matched as discussed above. For the business itself, it comes down to always remembering why you do what you do, why it is worth it, and how it all matters.

3) The details is what makes your brand

This is, in my opinion, what sets Johnny Cupcakes apart from others as a truly special company. They’re not afraid to get weird for the greater good of the details that goes into their story-telling.

Let’s look at their special edition Halloween shirts. They come in nostalgic styled cupcake mix boxes, in a series called Cupcake Mix. One such example is the box labeled Something in the Cupcake Mix which shows a skeleton, dressed as a Frankenstein, trick-or-treating, while a ghost is coming out of its bag trying to force feed it a cupcake. The details are uncanny. Everything from the illustration, to the presentation, to the colors has been painfully thought about in order to curate that particular image.

It goes into their packaging. Johnny Cupcakes has discovered that if you care about even something that most businesses disregard as packing, people will talk about it, hold on to it, show it off through social media. Just do a quick Google Search on Johnny Cupcake packaging and you’ll see what I mean. Everything has a sense of purpose. Playing on the bakery style of setup that a food brand should have. Having fun with the old school, nostalgic feel of the brand. Placing little Easter eggs, jokes, humor — all things that makes purchasing a product more than just the product itself, but an enjoyable experience. After all, all their products are indexed, freshly baked.

4) Providing real value is free advertising

Value doesn’t have to be something that makes you more intelligent. Value can also come in the sense of providing humor or happiness to someone that is in need of it. Sometimes it comes in just being there, even a reminder, to the better times, enjoyment, where you want to go. Johnny Cupcakes is a master when it comes to this, which translates into free advertising through word of mouth.

Think about the packaging reference above. You make someone’s day with not just receiving a new t-shirt in the mail, but a type of packaging that truly makes you say wow and gives you a laugh. You take a picture of it and share it with your friends, to your social media following. All of the sudden, you have become a marketing channel for the Johnny Cupcakes brand. They didn’t pay you a dollar, hell — you paid them for the product, right? Yet you did what Johnny Cupcakes has made their specialty, something that companies such as Disney have done before them — created an incredible experience by providing you value that strokes a cord with you that not many other products nor brands could do, to the point that you had to share that positive experience with others.

5) Love what you do

This is what it all comes down too. All the items above are a direct correlation to that of Mr. Johnny Earle himself, the founder of Johnny Cupcakes. Johnny has a pretty popular quote (it is even on some of his t-shirts) that goes along the lines of ‘Do More of What Makes You Happy’.

All of this, coupled with the authenticity of his brand, the story telling that goes behind their advertising, the loyal fan-base that supports all the things Johnny Cupcakes is all about, the details that go into making a brand special — it all circles around loving what you do. This is what Johnny Earle loves to do. This is his DNA that has been implemented into his business that he has in return, transformed into a multimillion dollar company. If you don’t love what you do, you won’t put in the extra effort, the extra detail, and the extra care you need to go that extra mile. It is why not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.

6) Sharing a bond

This brings me to my last point. As I mentioned in the beginning, I give Johnny Cupcakes much credit to why I became an entrepreneur. I discovered their wonderful brand in my most impressionable years when I just became a teenager. Who knows what I would have become if I didn’t discover one of those classic t-shirts with a cupcake and crossbones. One memory; however, one that I truly hold special to me, stands out above all.

It had been just about one month into running Chop Dawg, nearing the end of summer. We just secured our first handful of clients and I was working on my desk in my childhood bedroom at the time when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but had just enough time to Google the area code to notice it was from the Boston area. I picked up. It was Johnny Earle himself. I wasn’t expecting a call from him, nor have I ever talked to the man before this conversation on the phone.

Johnny spent almost an hour, talking to me one-on-one about the art of entrepreneurship, the things I needed to focus on if I wanted to be successful at what I do, and overall just some tips on life and the path I was about to take. It was like being welcomed into a small fraternity that was invite only. He ended the call telling me that if I ever needed anything or had any questions, I could always email him personally.

I remember getting off the call and just looking at my phone, having a clear sense of direction that I didn’t truly knew I had in me prior to that conversation. It left an impression that hasn’t left me to this day. Even when times get tough, I use that memory to personally motivate me and our progress here at Chop Dawg. The time Johnny spent talking to me made me realize, that he is the type of person I wanted to be. Someone that can help others. Motivate individuals. Inspire to build great things. Create a company that can truly make a difference in the lives of those I may never even have the chance to me.

Johnny Cupcakes provided us with a clear playbook on how to build a company that was truly worthwhile. Using some of these items referenced above, it doesn’t matter what kind of industry, how big or small your company is, or what you’re trying to do — it will help you get one step closer while being happy doing it. Above all, it will help you do more of what makes you happy.

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There are over 4 comments. on this article. Join in on the discussion!
  • Mary Ann Rodrigues said:

    Overall a great article. Point number 4 really hit home !

    Thank you !

    • Joshua Davidson said:

      Happy that you liked the article Mary. Please let me know how you manage to use number four in the wild 🙂

  • Great points. Very important for building a lasting brand.

  • Kali said:

    Really nicely written article. Very cool that Johnny reached out. Seems like a truly genuine person.

Join in on the discussion! Leave a comment and get involved.

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