Seriously Sweet Takeaways From Johnny Cupcakes

CareerFest 2021, an annual event put on by JWU Experiential Education & Career Services, was a little different than the ones in the past because it was entirely virtual. That didn't stop an incredible lineup, which was kicked off by entrepreneur Johnny Cupcakes, who spoke with students about where he started.

Who (or What) is Johnny Cupcakes?

Surprisingly (or not if you’ve heard of the multimillion-dollar brand), Johnny Cupcakes does not sell any cupcakes nor anything edible. For those of you who may not know, Johnny Cupcakes is a T-shirt brand that pokes fun at pop culture trends through their T-shirt designs. The stores are set up like bakeries with freshly made T-Shirts placed in glass display cases. Entering a Johnny Cupcakes store is an experience on its own, even becoming a staple on Boston’s popular Newbury Street where the store is hidden behind a makeshift oven.

The brand has become especially popular throughout the years with famous collaborations from pop culture icons such as Hello Kitty and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Screenshot from Johnny Cupcakes panel. Johnny shows image of a Johnny Cupcakes x Hello Kitty collab shirt.

Career Advice from Johnny

During his speech, Johnny spoke about the key moments in his life that led to his T-shirt business becoming so successful. By sharing moments throughout his career as an entrepreneur, he gave JWU students guidance and hope to help inspire them for future careers. Here are some of the most important takeaways Johnny talked about during this event:

1. Good Ideas Can Come from Unlikely Places.

After sharing some stories about his early life and growing up, Johnny began to talk about what led him to create the brand Johnny Cupcakes. He said that he used to work at Newbury Comics and loved that job. His coworkers were constantly coming up with different nicknames for him at work, some of them being Johnny Appleseed and Johnny ComeLately when he was late for work.

One day somebody called him Johnny Cupcakes which really resonated with him, so he decided to put it on a shirt. When he wore the shirt, many people thought it was funny and asked him where he got it so they could get one. Once he realized the demand for the shirts, he started to make more and began selling them. Now Johnny Cupcakes is bigger than ever and has even gone far beyond shirts more than 2,000 people even have a Johnny Cupcakes logo tattoo!

Screenshot of Johnny at panel showing a photo of himself in a Johnny Cupcakes T-shirt when he was younger

2. Invest in Yourself.

When he first started making T-shirts, Johnny was constantly putting money back into his company. When he sold T-shirts, he would use the money he made to print more T-shirts. Meanwhile, he would also use the money from his paycheck from work to help cover the cost as well. This made it so he could get as many of his shirts out as possible.

He also explained how he planned carefully before diving headfirst into becoming an entrepreneur. He made it a point to not quit his job until he started to make more money with his brand than his paycheck provided. This allowed him to have some stability before going all-in on Johnny Cupcakes.

3. Be Mindful of Holiday Seasons and Special Events.

Every year, there are holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine's Day. There are also sports seasons like baseball, basketball, and football. It may seem obvious to some, but Johnny emphasized that it’s important to try to be mindful of those times so that you can create products for the specific seasons. If you have a baking business, make a holiday-themed cake and put it on your website or your social media so people are aware that you can offer that. Johnny Cupcakes makes all kinds of holiday-themed shirts every year, which gets a lot of fans of the brand excited about collecting the limited-edition designs.

Screenshot of Johnny at panel showing a T-shirt with an illustration of baseball player holding a rolling pin

4. Stand Out.

One of the main contributors to Johnny’s success is how out-of-the-box his ideas are. He attempts to stand out with every aspect of his company so that people are constantly talking about it. One story he mentioned during his panel was an event when Johnny Cupcakes sold breakfast-themed T-Shirts that you could only buy during breakfast hours. He wanted to make the experience of getting the shirt similar to the experience of trying to get breakfast from a fast-food restaurant, just like how most restaurant companies have policies saying you can’t purchase breakfast after 12pm.

He also had breakfast for people who showed up to the event to buy the breakfast T-shirts. This event caused some controversy because many customers were mad that when they came after breakfast time they were unable to purchase their T-shirt, but Johnny didn’t worry too much about the upset customers. He wasn’t concerned because he said, everybody left that day with a story. Even the “upset ones.” He explained that when a person has breakfast, they’re going to think about the time when they went to Johnny Cupcakes to get their breakfast-themed T-shirts and they’re going to share it with others and be indirectly promoting Johnny Cupcakes.

Screenshot of Johnny Cupcakes breakfast special advertisement

Frosting Over My Thoughts

As a student who is interested in creating my own business in the future, I found this panel interesting. I found the advice from this panel extremely helpful and real. Instead of just telling students to network, he talked about how you can connect with others who have similar goals through collaborations. He also tried to relate this advice to various career fields.

Overall, Johnny gave JWU students some good advice for their future careers. He challenged students to be creative in whatever they do because even if they don’t plan on creating a business, he said that creative thinking can be applied to any workforce. Using creative thinking can help you stand apart from others and grant you more opportunities. Johnny’s advice helped to inspire students for the upcoming CareerFest events.

Watch highlights from Johhny Cupcakes' speech now!