Everyone is familiar with the stereotypical college lecture. Going to a business lecture might elicit thoughts of a monotone professor with big round glasses who bores everyone to sleep.
To the relief of the students in attendance, the Johnny Cupcakes lecture hosted by the Richards College of Business (RCOB) this past Monday the exact opposite. This lecture, a part of the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series, was comedic, interactive and arguably one of the best lectures held at the University of West Georgia (UWG).
After mandatory introductions, the lecture took off with Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle, the creator of Johnny Cupcakes. He began the lecture by talking about his past and his entrepreneurship as a child. Before 16 years old, he established 16 businesses.
He recounted all of the mini-businesses he stared at his school when he was growing up; he sold candy, made yearbooks, preformed magic tricks and shoveled snow to name a few. These businesses helped him find his goal in life.
“I realized that I could do something that makes me happy and that makes other people happy, and I could figure out a way to get paid for this,” he said.
All of Earle’s small businesses were just preparing him for his biggest and best idea, Johnny Cupcakes —“The World’s First T-Shirt Bakery.”
“I own retail t-shirt shops that are set up like bakeries,” he said. “We display graphic t-shirts inside of refrigerators, and vintage ovens, on baking trays. When you walk into my retail stores you can smell frosting; it’s really vanilla scented car fresheners that I hide throughout the store. And when you buy a t-shirt from Johnny Cupcakes, we package them in little pastry boxes. Everything is a complete experience.”
He spent the rest of the lecture explaining important business lessons about marketing and the way he runs his business.
The entire lecture was presented in a fun and hands-on way. He had everyone in the crowd—from business professionals to girl scouts—laughing out loud. His funny stories about all the adventures in creating a t-shirt bakery kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. For example, one of his retail stores has a sign that says “No Sugar! No Carbs! No Fat!” on the front.
“I am a prankster,” Johnny joked. “I trick hungry people for a living. And it does trick hungry people every day.”
Along with interacting with the audience though comedy, he also interacted with generosity. There were little Johnny Cupcakes gift bags on each seat in the auditorium. The gift bags had Johnny Cupcakes mints, stickers, trading cards and raffle tickets. He had everyone fill out the information needed on the raffle tickets, and then used them to give away three $50 gift cards for his website. He also drew another card for a special e-mail correspondence.
After the lecture, the audience was allowed to come to the front to ask questions. People poured to the front of the room, and for the first time in the lecture series, the moderator had to create a cut-off limit of how many people could ask questions. Even after the lecture ended, and the Townsend Center workers were going home, Earle stayed behind to take selfies and answer any questions people had for him.
Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle was a great speaker, and he created a great atmosphere while also teaching great business lessons through comedy and free merchandise.