The Johnny Cupcakes lecture could not have come at a better time. The theme for the lecture was the notion that “Real success is being happy doing what you love.” I took that to heart. So much so that two days later, I decided that I would quit my day job. Nonsense? Truth. But I am getting a a bit ahead of myself.
The Johnny Cupcakes event was set to kick off at 7pm at the latest Honolulu art hub, Loft In Space. I’ve never been there so I was excited not just to see Johnny Cupcakes, but also to see what the vibe was like at the Loft. I lie. I was 99% excited to see Johnny Cupcakes and maybe 1% excited to see what the vibe was like at the Loft. Nonetheless, I showed up at the Loft In Space about 2 hours before the event. My good friend, Joel, tagged along. It was only fitting since he is the one that takes all of those photos that you see of me in T-Shirts on this website [thanks, Joel]. He also digs Johnny Cucpakes.
You could tell that Johnny Cupcakes is a relatively novel brand in Hawaii since there was practically no line when I arrived. In fact, when a line did start to form about 45 minutes before 7pm, I was at the head of the line. Yep, a T-Shirt blogger at the front of the line to listen to a T-Shirt entrepreneur talk about his brand. Fitting, don’t you think?
Of course, they let all of us sort of marinate outside of the Loft for a bit before letting us in. Thankfully, the line grew. It grew pretty long. I guess that’s an effect of something that we locals here call “Hawaiian Time.” Everything seems to move a tad bit slower here. Which isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. I was just stoked to see so many likeminded Johnny Cupcakes fans in line here in Hawaii. I was stoked and pumped.
Eventually they did let us into the Loft In Space. The old warehouse behind the Fresh Cafe turned art gallery/lounge is not that big. The place was tightly packed with fans hungry for Cupcakes. When Johnny did come up and take the stage, there was a thunderous applause. It was exciting. The suitcase tour that had eluded our tiny state in the past was finally here. Wow.
Johnny, whose real last name is Earle, started off his talk by mentioning some of his early business ideas. He did everything from selling lemonade to holding garage sales (when no one was home) to selling itching powder at school. Each of these examples were filled with anecdotes taken from Johnny’s youth – many of which were hilarious. He was definitely born to be an entrepreneur.
Eventually, Johnny talked about how Johnny Cupcakes was born. How he hustled in the beginning by selling his tees out of his old car and even meeting strangers at the mall to save on shipping costs. He talked about how he lived with his parents for the first few years of Johnny Cupcakes and eventually took over their house with boxes of Johnny Cupcakes stock. From there, he talked about how the brand took off and how he was eventually able to take some risks and rent retail space in his hometown, just a few blocks from his childhood home.
When things really took off for Johnny Cupcakes, Johnny the man was able to stay grounded. He talked about how he did not succumb to buying fancy cars or lavish gifts. Instead, he would put his money back into his business. Eventually, he did buy his own home and turned the basement into an old school arcade. That was his gift to himself. No jets, no fancy cars, no opulent mansions, but instead a room full of vintage arcades. That’s awesome and respectable.
The rest of the talk was spent on how you can do things to reinvent your brand. He talked about the importance of being original and doing things that no one else is doing. He talked about the importance of not becoming a fad that will fade quickly. He talked about attention to detail. He talked about the importance of packaging and why it’s important to carry around unique business cards. And of course, he talked about how he has been able to leverage the concept of limited edition items to his advantage.
To sum things up, the Johnny Cupcakes x Hawaii lecture was awesome. It was everything that I expected and more. I didn’t expect him to take the time to meet with everyone that attended, but he did. Seriously, after the lecture another line formed so that people could meet and chat with Johnny. I probably spent 20 minutes or so chatting with Mr. Cupcakes. He’s a cool dude! There was a lot of information shared by Johnny, a lot of which I will be using and taking advantage of. It was great.
But what’s this about me quitting my day job? You see, I used to do two things. I worked as a neuroscience research specialist (this was my post-doc, something that PhD’s usually automatically do after they spend years working on their PhD’s) and also as a University lecturer. I found out quickly that I loved teaching at the University. I love being a professor. The research part, not so much. It might have been the environment that I was in, but whatever the case, I was not happy at my post-doc. I teach Psychology 100: Introduction to Psychology early in the morning, 8:30am to be exact. When I’m done at 9:30am I’m super stoked about my lecture and interacting with my students. After teaching, I would then go to the lab and do the research stuff for my Post-Doc. I found that at the end of the day I hated everything. I went from loving what I did in the morning to hating the world in the evening. Not good. The Johnny Cupcakes lecture helped me to realize that I was not happy doing what I was doing. I figured that I needed to focus on teaching and becoming a better professor. I needed to focus on getting a full load of courses to teach next semester and the one after that. I needed to focus on finding a regular lecture gig. And so I did. I quit my post-doc – the biggest risk that I’ve ever taken in my life, all because of Johnny Cupcakes. Oh, yeah, and quitting gives me more time to make this blog shine. Fuck yes. Let the hustle begin.
Do More of What Makes You Happy.
To read more about this event, please see Johnny’s official recap of this event.