I’m 25 so I’ve already sat through many lectures as a university student, college student and the conferences of music festival. By far the most inspirational has been Johnny Cupcakes‘ talk during Toronto’s NXNE. I could be biased because I am a huge fan of the T-shirts myself and it has become a large part of my own personal branding. However, I’ve seen a lot of my favourite bands, labels and companies speak over the years and few have come close to being so memorable, not to mention hilarious.
I had not planned to go to many panels this year during NXNE. I didn’t even look at the schedule. I thought I would need the sleep or extra time to edit photos. However, I ran into @plafleur and she had saved me this Johnny Cupcakes history booklet she found on the ground. Apparently it was in all the delegate bags (with exception to the media ones). I then looked at the program and discovered THE Johnny Cupcakes was doing a panel. Of course I HAD to go.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve done festival conferences before and most panels just say what everyone else is saying (THE CLOUD IS THE FUTURE etc etc) or gloss over fancy points. Johnny Earle aka Johnny Cupcakes taught us to think outside the box, and showed us examples of how he has integrated this philosophy with his brand.
Johnny began by telling us his history. He told us how at a young age he tried to make money in different ways such as selling his father’s tools at yard sales (he got in trouble of course) and selling candy, lemonade, whoopee cushions and yearbooks. The name Johnny Cupcakes was something random that co-workers at Newbury Comics had given him. He played with the idea and that’s how the shirts were born. He began selling these shirts to friends and it spread by word of mouth.
Johnny Cupcakes now has stores in Boston, LA, London and of course online, where they ship internationally. The stores all look like bakeries and smell like frosting. Everyday somebody walks in mistaking it for a place that sells food. Delivered packages look like presents and often come with trading cards. You’re meant to be treated like it’s your birthday. Johnny had set out to sell more than just cupcakes. He wanted to give people an experience and it’s a huge reason why he has been so successful. In fact, he even gave the audience members a glimpse of the experience. At the end of the lecture, he told us he had put little gifts under our chairs. When we reached down there was a little packet of stickers, buttons, candy and a trading card. He had even gone to the trouble of making sure we each had different trading cards so that we could trade with our neighbours. After the lecture, he hung around and took pictures with fans old and new.
Anyways, I had written down a lot of the things Johnny said in a notebook but I lost said notebook on the streets of Toronto. It was later picked up by some American musician who brought it home with them. Long story. Here are a few important points I did remember about entrepreneurship and about life:
– Building a brand is hard work, Johnny Cupcakes mentioned that he doesn’t do drugs, drink or play video games. He had put all his energy on video games. He even hired his family to help.
– Connecting with people is important. When he sold things growing up he always went back to the people who had purchased something form him once. Then when he started making T-shirts it was their word of mouth that got things started.
– Small details make a big difference. If you buy a Johnny Cupcakes the tag is an oven mitt. Online boxes are patterned and in-store ones look like cupcake boxes.
– Name 10 things that make you unique. It’s good thing to brainstorm for both job hunters and brands.
– Weird is Good. It gets people talking. Johnny Cupcakes has sold breakfast themed t-shirts with breakfast, put shirts inside icing jars and much more.
– Make things exclusive and limited edition because people like what nobody else has. Johnny had declined offers to mass produce his shirts because he didn’t want to be another fast fad like Ed Hardy T-shirts.
On Sunday, our family went down to the Harbourfront Centre to check out the Tall Ships at the Redpath Waterfront Festival. Teddy also came with us. Either we thought the boats looked the same as regular boats, or we were on the wrong side of Queens Quay but we couldn’t find too many to take photos of.
Since we had the dog with us we ventured into Paws Way. Inside was a cafe where you could share your food with your pet, a store and walls full of random beloved pet stories. To play in with the Tall Ships theme, in the event/activity room there were dog breeds that sailors used to bring on ships.
Since we seemed to fail at finding boats, we decided to go the island. It was somewhat cloudy so the sky in photos looked a bit boring.
Last week during NXNE there were plenty of day parties. The one I ended up staying the longest in was the Exclaim! and Jagermeister BBQ.
Everybody in the Toronto music industry was around so it was nice to catch up and relax amidst a hectic week. To drink, there was free Jager shots, Monster energy drinks and Pabst. Attendees were given punch cards for food and drink.
There was a snack truck full of everybody’s guilty pleasures: chips, chocolate, candies, cookies and more. Everything free. The guy seemed lonely so I visited the truck multiple times. Apparently he was doing market research, so his data is going to have some weird Asian girl eating one of everything.
The cards entitled us to one small sandwich (or poutine) from onsite food truck Hogtown Smoke. I ordered the brisket sandwich and there was tons of meat sandwiched between the little bun! There wasn’t too much to it (no slaw), but it was tasty on its own. There was also a huge selection of hot sauce by the truck from mild to adventurous for those looking to tickle their tongue.
Nash got the pulled mushroom sandwich, mostly because while in line we were wondering what that would be like. He’s also a mushroom fan. I liked the smokey flavour they were able to injected in it.
It was a lovely day of sun, music, friends and food!
For Father’s Day I bought dad a mug that looks exactly like Canon’s 24-105mm lens. I placed my order on eBay but noticed that it was shipped from xcsource.com, so you should check them out if you want your own. The details of the replica are pretty astounding. The AF and IS buttons actually move. For an extra buck or two you can actually have it say “Canon” where it is supposed to, I just didn’t realize it when I ordered. We don’t actually have the 24-105 lens, so above is a photo next to the 24-70mm. Close enough eh? Hope dad doesn’t accidentally pour coffee in his real lenses!
I didn’t really post anything last week because I was at NXNE. It was pretty hectic and even meals proved cumbersome unless they were quick and on the go. I was in the Queen West area on Thursday and wasn’t feeling Poutini’s so opted for something different. I ended up in Barton Snacks!
Inside they had desserts like ice cream as well as savoury foods in the forms of sandwiches, tacos and hot dogs. I asked the people what they would recommend for a hungry person with no limitations and they suggested the jerk pulled pork sandwich.
I have never had jerk anything besides chicken before and I found this an interesting twist. It was very flavourful and a spicey! I also enjoyed the coco bread it was served in. It was not heavy, but enough to keep all the ingredients from falling apart.
In writing this post, I discovered there is another Barton Snacks in the Annex. Since I’m always in that area, it definitely warrants a visit.
On Sunday I took Teddy to Jack Darling Memorial Park. The huge park by the lake also had a huge off-leash dog park. Teddy was pretty overwhelmed by all the other dogs but he did manage to make a friend.
The same day as Woofstock, IAMS SOGOOD hosted a concert for dogs. 45 piece Toronto Concert Orchestra played dog themed songs like “Who Let The Dogs Out” and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window”. They also performed a selection of popular classics including themes from Phantom of the Opera and Westside Story.
Surprisingly, most of the dogs were well behaved and nobody was howling at live music. I expected Teddy to be a fuss because he usually howls at the piano.
There was free goodies and a photobooth adding to a lovely afternoon by the beach.
Yesterday I took Teddy to Woofstock for the second time. His birthday (which also happened to be yesterday) always falls close to the festival so it doubles as a celebration, complete with all the goodies!
There’s a dog version of everything you can imagine out there somewhere, including ice cream. Me and my sister actually tried some dog ice-cream ourselves (not pictured). Don’t worry, it was just a sugar-free vanilla, so perfectly human edible. Honestly, it was one of the best vanilla ice-creams I have ever had.