10 Personal Tips on How to Succeed From Johnny Cupcakes

Base photo credit to Johnny Cupcakes.


Johnny Earle, the brand master who happens to be the founder and CEO of the global t-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes, came to speak at Babson College this past spring semester of 2013. I was fortunate enough to attend the event and witness one of the best presentations I have ever seen. It was jam packed with Johnny’s own humor, stories, tips and life lessons on how to succeed.

Here are what I found to be his ten most simple, yet insightful tips:

All quotes were taken from Johnny Earle’s presentation:

1| “Always define a broad overarching mission and make decisions that make steps forward into achieving that mission.”

Don’t start entrepreneurial ventures that have no meaningful purpose or mission. Many people make the mistake of choosing a purpose AFTER they build their product or service. To establish long lasting companies with great success and impact, you must begin with a core purpose. This way, whenever you face a tough decision you can always choose the path that will bring you closer to achieving that mission.

For example, take a look at the mission statement posted on the website of the famous shoe company TOMS. Known for their charitable business model of donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold, their purpose and mission is not to sell shoes – it is to help “improve the health, education and well-being of a child.” Every company should have a deeper purpose behind what they do. Make sure you know yours. When someone asks you about your company, that purpose is the first thing that should be proclaimed.

2| “Three Important Things in Business: Eye Contact, Handshake, and Don’t have Shitty Breath”

Steve Jobs Stare

Be strong and confident with your eye contact whenever you are talking to people of business. Not doing so indicates weakness, a lack of manners, a lack of confidence, fear, or all of the above. This will surely put you off to a bad start in any negotiation. Give people the Steve Jobs stare to let them know you mean business.

The same applies to handshakes. If your handshake is not firm, it will only reflect your insecurity and weakness in personality. Fully grasp the other’s person’s hand with all five of your fingers. Leave an impression with your handshake.

Lastly, no matter how great your idea or pitch is, if you have breath that could shrivel a flower, the only thing that will be going through the person’s mind is how to get the hell out of your presence. So be conscious of your breath.

Weak Handshake

A personal tip from me – if you’re unsure about the scent of your breath, just take your index finger and gently scrape the end of your tongue closer to your throat (that’s where the bad-breath-causing bacteria accumulates). Then proceed to smell your finger. If it smells like the rapture, then immediately grab a tic-tac, ask for gum, or Febreeze yourself because your breath is without a doubt a danger to society. I know it sounds weird and gross, but hey– it’s a proven method.

3| “Spend on the experience and product first before advertising.”

Many people are so eager to advertise their product when they could be spending that money improving the experience and product. Word of mouth will always follow a great product or service. If your product is garbage, no amount of advertising and marketing will save it in the long run. Instead of wasting money on advertising to cover up the product’s downsides, spend that money to fix it permanently.

4| “Haters still talk about your brand.”

Haters are fans in denial

Don’t be afraid or lose sleep over haters. In fact, embrace them. They are one of your greatest sources for word of mouth advertising. Remember, “haterism” is simply free promotion. So next time, you should actually thank them for being such a valued promoter.

5| “If you don’t have cash upfront, use Pre-Orders.”

A lot of people think that they need to stock up their inventory and gamble on the demand of their product. This can be costly and can often lead to huge losses. More often people don’t even act on their product ideas because they don’t have start up funds.

A one-stop solution to these nagging woes is to simply sell pre-orders with incentives. This will not only give you cash upfront, but will tell you roughly what your demand will be. Sell first, build later. But make sure that you give special incentives like discounts or exclusive items to entice people to pay in advance.

6| “Sell where relevant.”

Do business where it makes sense. Johnny Cupcakes has a huge presence in the west coast along with their super famous LA store. It’s simple. California = all year round t-shirt weather → sell t-shirts in California.

7| “Make things LIMITED. Exclusivity is important.”

200 of 200

Johnny Cupcakes apparel is unique in that all their designs are only printed an “x” number of times. This “limited” aspect of the shirts make each printed apparel that much more desirable and of course – exclusive. Everyone wants what others can’t have we know that. If you can make your customer feel that he or she is an “insider”, they will surely become loyal to your brand.

Read: “8 Reasons Why Non-Business Majors Should Still Become Entrepreneurs”

8| “Great packaging doesn’t get thrown away.”

Do you still own your Apple packaging? Why is that? The reason is that they have great packaging. Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to spend cash on packaging because they think it is a waste of money. However, Johnny explained that the return on such investment comes in many different ways even though it may be hard to quantify.

Great packaging does wonders for the customer experience. It not only richens the elegance of the product being packaged, but it also makes the customer feel good about the money they’ve spent. In addition, great packaging can serve as a “billboard” and increase word of mouth. If you visit your friend’s room and see a brilliant packaging of a product, you’re probably likely to ask your friend about it. And just like that– word of mouth.

Think about it this way: If your iPhone came in bubble wraps enclosed in a frail cardboard box, how would that make you feel about not only the phone itself but also about Apple as a brand? Cheap packaging will make your costly product seem cheap.

9| “The more you put into your venture, the more you get out of it.”

Enough said.

10| “Do more of what makes you HAPPY!”

Without a doubt this was the most important message he wanted to convey. For Johnny Earle, happiness was everything. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy from what you’re doing then it’s not worth your time and effort. When all is said and done, what’s life if you didn’t live it happily?

Do the type of work that you are proud to have spent your day on. Do the type of work that you can’t wait to wake up and do all over again. Do the type of work that makes you a better, happier person.

Johnny Earle started Johnny Cupcakes out of the trunk of his car when he was only 19. He was placed on the top of the “Best Entrepreneurs 25 and Under” list by BusinessWeek in 2008. His company was ranked #257 on Inc’s list of 500 fastest growing private companies in 2009 with a growth rate of 915% over the previous year. He now spends his free time traveling and sharing his entrepreneurial wisdom by giving lectures at events and institutions. What an absolute entrepreneurial behemoth.

Follow this man on Twitter @JohnnyCupcakes and Instagram @JohnnyCupcakes

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