Exposure is Poop

In the beginning when you start off a creative career of some sort you might take that opportunity that pays absolutely nothing to get your name out there. A few is fine, I mean I’ve done my fair share of free work. However, once you are established or been around the block a bit there should be no way people are still asking for favours in terms of exposure.

In fact, I’d say the second that you learn how to make money from doing what you love is when you stop accepting to do it for free. If you’re doing it for free, you might as well be doing it for yourself and retain all your rights. Post it on your own blogs, portfolios etc but don’t let people take advantage of you on something that they totally have the means to pay you for.

Anyways, exposure is poop, it doesn’t pay rent.

What’s Your Evil Plan?

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“Evil Plans- Having Fun on the Road to World Domination” is a cleverly titled book from comic writer and entrepreneur Hugh MacLeod. In fact, I actually discovered the book because it was sitting in the discount book section at Chapters and it sounded both adorable and intriguing.

To those unfamiliar, MacLeod is the artist behind gapingvoid.com. He creates original art for businesses in hopes to spark creativity, not sit in the background like the majority of mountain-climbing motivational posters.

In Evil Plans, he encourages those who are unhappy in their careers to take the risk of leaving and to figure out their life calling aka “evil plan”. The book is written in short chapters, or tips which are then elaborated on with examples and anecdotes. Oh and of course MacLeod’s signature comics.

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I think my favourite tip by far was:

 “Don’t worry if you don’t know absolutely everything before starting out.”

It’s something many of people struggle with (I know I do) when changing career paths, or starting their own businesses. However as MacLeod states later in the chapter,

 “Interesting destinies rarely come from just reading the instruction manual.”

We may not be the most skilled or talented in whatever it is that we enjoy doing, but it doesn’t validate whether we’re able to do those things. The choice we can make is to find something that matters to us and well, just do it.

What is your evil plan?

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The Time I Met Johnny Cupcakes

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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.

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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 Cupcakes and I!
Johnny Cupcakes making his signature face and I!

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.

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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.

There was candy, but I got hungry that week and ate it
There was candy, but I got hungry that week and ate it

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.

and most importantly:

“Real success is being happy doing what you love”

The $100 Startup

20130124-103139.jpgI recently read Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup. It had a lot of stories and anecdotes of entrepreneurs which make a decent living (50k or more) doing what they love. What I enjoyed about the book is that it didn’t just focus on multi-million dollar startups like Facebook, but ones from regular people.

The book also has a short exercises for people interested in starting their own business. I emphasize short because the main message of the book is not to ponder forever on if you should do something, but to just do it.
Guillebeau mentions this quote by Karl Marx:

“Catch a man a fish, and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity”

I thought this was an interesting way to think of things. Consumers will buy things because they are easy and convenient. People don’t go to a restaurant because they want to be taught how to make the dish. Regardless of whether you currently have a business idea or not, the book is an inspiring read and makes you re-think what it means to be happy in life. Is it money or thought of doing something you love?

I know somewhere down the line I will probably have my own business and I will definitely give this book another read.

How to Win at the Genius Bar

My iPhone 4S’ wifi stopped working. I decided to take it in yesterday and ended up getting a replacement phone for free. I was in and out of the store in around 20 minutes.

Here are some tips to make your trip to the Genius Bar efficient and productive.

Backup your device. That way if you get a replacement product, you won’t have to waste time typing all your contacts and losing your photos. Also if the Genius Bar guy needs you to restore it, you can do that too.

Do your research. If there’s something wrong with your iPhone/iMac/iPod (or any other Apple product), make sure you read the Apple support site and try some of their suggestions. At least, know what those suggestions are so you can fire them at the guy saying you tried them before he tries to suggest them to you. Although there should really be something wrong with your device if you’re looking for a replacement, because they will fight you hard.

Be persistent. I wasn’t going to let the guy talk me into any solutions that were temporary. I assured him that nothing he suggested was going to work.

Prove it. From the beginning of my appointment, I showed him my phone did not detect wifi. He opened it up and said nothing was wrong. Then I proceeded to let him restore it, which temporarily fixed it. I knew in 5-10 minutes it would fail again. So we sat there. And waited 5 minutes. Sure enough, the phone had disconnected from the wifi and did not detect any networks.

Whether it’s a replacement or a repair you’re after, make sure you are prepared when going into the Apple Store. It will make your visit quick, efficient and less likely to end up in multiple trips!

Life After School is a Little Bit Scary


On Saturday, I officially graduated from Metalworks Institute, ending once and for all my life as a student. Now what?

Shit.. I Forgot Your Name


What do you do when you for get someone’s name? Over the holidays, at networking events or even when you’re sitting on the bus, sometimes you are greeted by someone who you recognize. However you can’t put a name with the face. Here are some tips I use to figure out the names I can’t remember.