Johnny "Cupcakes" Earle came to Ball State to speak in the Excellence in Leadership series on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Pruis Hall. Earle grew up with a learning disability and started a t-shirt business with the shirts he originally designed for his metal band. Ball State EIL Speaker Series // Photo Courtesy
Johnny "Cupcakes" Earle spreads positivity, creativity during talk on campus
“I look at everything through cupcake vision.”
This describes Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle’s view on business, family, life and everything in between.
His positivity and creativity were evident during his talk with Ball State students in Pruis Hall Oct. 3 as a part of the Excellence in Leadership Speaker Series.
You can check out Johnny Cupcake’s online store or follow him at @JohnnyCupcakes on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube
He shared his personal story and also gave advice on how to “do more of what makes you happy,” one of his favorite mottos.
Earle is the owner of Johnny Cupcakes, “the world’s first T-shirt bakery,” as he describes it.
The company is centered around limited-edition T-shirts that feature unique designs, ranging from the company’s signature cupcake-and-crossbones logo to collaborations with big names like the Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Hello Kitty.
The business, however, isn’t just about T-shirts. He told students in his talk that he aims to sell memories through merchandise. Because of this, he has one of the most fiercely loyal fan bases in the clothing industry.
“The attention to details has really built this loyal fan base, and then keeping it personal. When we do pop-up shops and travel, I’m there. I want to meet everybody that’s supporting the brand,” he said.
Memories come in different forms for all of his customers. For some, it is visiting his bakery themed T-shirt shop in Boston that is so authentic, it smells like cupcakes. For others, it is waiting for hours, sometimes days, in line at a pop-up, or temporary, shop for a limited-edition T-shirt.
Earle always tries to make the T-shirt launches fun and interactive to create an experience.
“All of a sudden, no one cares that they’re waiting in line to pay money. They’re part of this experience and part of this community,” he said.
Despite the rapid growth of his company, there’s one thing that Earle will always make time for: family. When he talks about them, it is evident that they are the most important part of his life.
Many of his family members work with him at Johnny Cupcakes, and his parents were a main source of inspiration.
“As a kid, my mom would pretend that we had to go on errands with her, and then about half an hour in I would see a Ferris wheel in the distance and my mom would surprise me and take me to these carnivals. I get that element of surprise from my parents,” Earle said.
Earle encouraged students to embrace creativity no matter what profession they were going into and to never be afraid to stand out from the crowd, even if an idea seemed risky.
“I have challenges every day, but did I ever stop? No. Sometimes you can’t control what happens, but you can control how you react,” he said.
He also told students to act now and use the time they have to explore their interests and passions. Earle, who has never had a drop of alcohol in his life, feels that he was able to save so much time and money by avoiding partying in college and focusing instead on his business.
“My dad drank a bunch when he was younger, and I was so afraid that if I tried it, I would be addicted like my dad was. My dad has been sober for more than a decade now, but for forever it has never made sense to me,” he said.
Students appreciated the message Earle shared and let feeling inspired.
“It’s so cool how he started a business out of the back of his car, and the way he uses unconventional ways of advertising,” said Brenna Shull, a freshman elementary education major.
The message Jansen Parker, a senior general studies major, took away from the talk was simple.
“Be creative and unique," Parker said.
The Johnny Cupcakes brand is based not just on creativity, but on positivity, joy-spreading and surprise. This culture stems from Earle himself and his personal mission.
“I try to make strangers laugh every day, and I always carry around a few magic tricks,” Earle said. “I feel like that’s my purpose on this earth, to try and spread the positivity.”