Johnny Cupcakes delivers secrets to success, happiness

By Tom Spencer
On March 21, 2014

When Johnny Earle first printed a few T-shirts with his nickname, Johnny Cupcakes, printed on them, he didn't realize he was printing money. He had been a serial entrepreneur his whole life, and when people kept asking him where they could get a Johnny Cupcakes T-shirt, he recognized an opportunity.

"You have the potential to follow your dreams and create something for yourself," he said. "That's why I have this brand and that's why I'm here today." 

Earle now goes by Johnny Cupcakes professionally, "pronounced koop-khak-is," he said. "It's Portuguese." 

He runs a bakery-themed clothing business, a multi-million dollar enterprise with stores in Boston, Los Angeles and London. 

Cupcakes gave a lecture about entrepreneurship to UNH students on Wednesday, March 19, in the MUB Strafford Room. A crowd of about 60 people waited for his arrival while hip hop beats dropped from overhead speakers. There were glossy picture booklets with the business' story and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs on every seat. 

"I trick hungry people for a living," Cupcakes said. He was referring to the many customers who believe they are entering a bakery when they visit his stores. The clothing is displayed in ovens and refrigerators, and the air smells like frosting. 

Many customers, though disappointed at first, will wind up purchasing some clothing. 

"A food-themed clothing brand is weird, but weird is good. It gets people talking," Cupcakes said.

According to Cupcakes, one of the keys to a successful business is creating a unique experience. All of his products have custom packaging, including boxes shaped like cake mix, rolling pins, dynamite sticks and frosting cans. 

Each clothing item is an experience as well, as only a limited amount of each shirt will ever be produced. Once a shirt is sold out, it is usually gone forever. 

"I decided to give my brand longevity," Cupcakes said. 

The results have been lines of up to 400 people for store events, and a worldwide community of Johnny Cupcakes fans, some of who have gone so far as to tattoo themselves with the store logo. 

However, the road to success has not been easy. The business began with Cupcakes selling T-shirts from a beat-up suitcase out of the back of a battered Toyota Camry. Cupcakes has worked with lifelong friends who wound up stealing from him. He has turned down great opportunities from major corporations in favor of retaining his brand's integrity. 

The lecture also included a raffle, magic tricks and tongue twister competitions for prizes. There was a surprise under every guest's seat: store buttons, candy and business cards.

The crowd received the show enthusiastically, and many purchased Johnny Cupcakes merchandise from the table at the back of the room after the show. There was a long line to meet Cupcakes himself and to take pictures with him. 

The show was inspiring to both people who had entrepreneurial inspirations and those who did not. 

"He was awesome ... very chill," Joe Rogers, a UNH junior and member of MUSO, the organization that brought Cupcakes to speak, said. "Very good to work with, other [speakers] have been stressful." 

The talk inspired graduate student and MUSO member Tony Hamoui to move forward with his musical project, a band called Hamstank and the Special Sauce.

"I don't know about you, but it inspired me," Hamoui said. "Strange is good, that was his mantra."

Johnny Cupcake's major, take-away message was, "Real success is being happy doing what you love." He asked the crowd to take a picture of the slide with that phrase and share it through social media. 


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