I made a trip to London to see a lecture by Johnny Cupcakes, creator of the supercool bakery-themed t-shirt brand. After hearing about his lecture series in the USA I was excited when a UK date was announced, which sold out the 300-seat Old Cinema in Regent Street.
I got there pretty early, armed with hot chocolate in anticipation of a long wait in the snow, and managed to get a place near the front of the queue. I knew I was in the right place because so many people were wearing their Johnny Cupcakes t-shirts and hats – I on the other hand was proudly wearing Cakes with Faces pain au chocolat!
The venue was part of a university, so the audience was made up of business students, JC fans and small business owners, many of whom I’m sure have t-shirt brands like me! It was great to bump into Kam from Kam Creates, my neighbour at Hyper Japan last November.
The lecture was really inspiring and left me with loads of ideas for Cakes with Faces! It was part autobiographical, as Johnny talked about how he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, selling sweets in the playground, lemonade stands, and holding yard sales when his family was out, selling his sister’s My Little Ponies without her knowing (this reminded me of how I made a lot of collectors happy a few years ago when I sold my childhood collection of 300+ ponies, including all the houses!).
One of the main points of the lecture was about how important it is to be original and recognise what’s different about what you’re doing compared to everyone else. Different, original and strange make people talk (as well as making the world interesting!). Instead of spending lots on advertising, Johnny used his budget to make his products special and to build an experience that people would talk about and tell their friends – thereby creating word of mouth advertising that’s stronger than any other kind. The aim was to make someone buying a t-shirt feel like it’s their birthday!
A part that caught my imagination was when Johnny talked about opening his store in LA, going vastly over budget and taking months getting the store exactly how he wanted it, to create that memorable experience. They employed the people who make sets and items for Disneyland to create a wall of oven doors that open and close randomly with moving dials, shooting steam out! They made the doors to the staff area look like a giant oven and even made the shop smell like vanilla frosting. I’m a big fan of theming, which is why I love the Disney parks so much, so this really appeals to me. If you’re ever in London, the Johnny Cupcakes store near Carnaby Street is well worth a visit – it’s also bakery themed, with retro styling and themed posters about the brand philosophy.
It was a really inspiring story – I think everyone left feeling motivated and excited. I learnt a lot about running your own business and the importance of doing something different, being positive and having fun. I’d recommend the lecture series to anyone if you have a chance to attend. I wish I could have stayed for the meet and greet afterwards, but I had to run to catch the last train home – it was totally worth it though, and I had loads to think about on the way back (arriving back at Coventry station at 1:30am, ouch!).