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Johnny Cupcakes - Shirt Success

Updated on June 19, 2013

Johnny Cupcakes - Success Story

I was driving home last night, stuck in traffic, bored. So I turned on the radio and there was an interview with Johnny Cupcakes playing. I had never actually heard of him before then. But as I listened I realised that yes he sells T-shirts, but what he was really speaking about was the happiness he has in his life and his journey to success. I was very interested in his message. Everyone loves a success story right?

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Johnny Cupcakes - motivated at a young age

I listened to Johnny speaking about his childhood. He spoke about his parents with two jobs struggling to get the things they wanted for their family. He said that as soon as he was old enough to think about it, he made up his mind that his family would have everything they needed.

He became an entrepreneur at a young age. Johnny sold lemonade and all sorts of odds and ends as a kid and a young man. He said that when his classmates and school friends were selling drugs, he was selling sweets, which worked out well, as they often had the munchies and would buy sweets from him!

Johnny said he did not go to school to learn about business success, instead he learned from taking risks, he learned form his mistakes. “Luck has nothing to do with it. Stop making excuses and start making stuff.

Johnny Cupcakes Coffin Tour Miami

Johnny Cupcakes - selling experiences

Johnny spoke about how he started to sell the Cupcakes T-shirts once he saw that they caught peoples attention. In 2001, he sold his T-shirts from the boot of his 1989 Camry until he got big enough to open a store.

His focus on creative marketing led him to use the bakery theme to huge success. Creativity is key.

Johnny said that his stores all look and, importantly, smell like bakeries. People go in there thinking they will get a cupcake and see clothing.

He said that the packaging is all important. His clothing is packed in cake packs, that also smell like cakes. He also throws things into the packages to make for a different buying experience. Sometimes batteries, sometimes snickers bars, a $20 bill, all sorts of random things. Success for Johnny Cupcakes is about creating an experience, not a discounted product. Johnny said, “Good packaging never gets thrown away. It acts as a miniature billboard.”

Johnny Cupcakes Newbury Store


Getting Serious About Success

Johnny spoke about how he realised that he had to get serious about his business and his ideas. He said he stopped doing a lot of the things that most young men do - gaming, hanging out and drinking and generally wasting time, instead focusing on his ideas.

Johnny developed a passion for his business, a passion to explore his business creativity. He described working until 2 or 3 am because he was so engrossed in what he was doing. he said that when you love doing something, you will want to work hard. Johnny said “I believe real happiness is doing what you love.

Johnny Cupcakes - on employing his friends

One of the really interesting parts of the interview was where Johnny spoke about his experiences trying to make the lives of his friends better, by 'taking them on board'.

The interviewer asked Johnny Cupcakes if he was a control freak, like so many successful business people. Johnny said no, instead he has chosen to place a lot of trust in his employees and friends and see what comes of it.

He added that this has resulted in him being burned on occasion, so he is now careful about who to trust.

Johnny described a time when one of his friends, whom he really trusted, stole from him. He though the friend was jealous or envious of his success. Johnny said that money changes people and so we should all be careful when think about helping our friends out. But this does not seem to have turned him into a control freak or micro-manager, he still trusts people.

Johnny Cupcakes London 2 Year Anniversary

Cupcakes Logo



  • Johnny Cupcakes was named as #1 Young Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek
  • He was placed at #237 in the fastest growing 500 independent businesses by Inc. Magazine
  • Boston Globe listed Johnny Cupcakes as one of the 30 most innovative businesses in Massachusetts
  • Thousands of fans around the world have the Johnny Cupcakes logo tattooed on their bodies.
  • The business has been featured on NPR, MTV, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Web Marketing for Dummies, New York Times, MSNBC, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Wired Magazine, WWD, NYLON, Computer Arts and Los Angeles Times.

Johnny Cupcakes Quotes:

  • I believe real happiness is doing what you love.”
  • Luck has nothing to do with it. Stop making excuses and start making stuff.
  • “Good packaging never gets thrown away. It acts as a miniature billboard.”
  • “I never took any classes. I just took risks—and learned from my mistakes.”

So What Do You Think?

Johnny Earle is hugely successful in his business and he seems happy too.

His story is so appealing because he started from nothing, got big and remains as an independent business. Unlike so many other successful entrepreneurs he refuses to sell out to a more global businesses (Facebook, Instagram, RM Williams).

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Johnny is that has succeeded by sticking to his values and ethics.

But what do you think? Is working hard and being creative the only way to be successful and happy? Is going to university and getting an MBA a better option? Does it really just depend on the individual? Or should we all be brave enough to get creative and act on our ideas, even if we fail?


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