Young Guns: An Entrepreneur Selling Exclusivi-tee


Custom T-shirt maker Johnny Earle’s counterintuitive strategy for staying ahead of the pack has paid off. His company, Johnny Cupcakes, is raking in over $3 million in revenues in 2009, and, he says, he didn’t have to sell out to retailers like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Earle said no to big-name stores that wanted to distribute his shirts, opting to keep the company under his total control by selling off his website.Earle never finished college, but he is taking his savvy and unique style of business to students nationwide. We caught up with him at Manhattan College, where he was speaking.

Johnny Earle founder answers the 6 Shooter Q&A:Q. Where were you the moment you thought of your business plan?A. It wasn't actually me thinking of a business plan. I was at the print shop with my bands very first t-shirts. I thought it would be funny to have the printer make one Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt for me as a joke.Q. What is one life lesson that has helped you build your business?A. I have learned to delegate tasks. I used to do everything myself when I first started. As my brand began to grow, I found myself treading water and not being able to grow with my brand. It was then that I realized I was going to have to start hiring a team to help me with my brand. I had the ideas, dedication, and motivation-- I was just lacking all of the tools to get my brand to the next levels in a stress-free fashion.Q. What are your three biggest tips to entrepreneurs?A. 1. Don't rush-- First impressions are everything.2. Don't hire your friends--It's not as easy as it seems and can lead to losing your friend(s).3. It's not about the money, it's about being happy doing what you love-- Make sure you're doing something you enjoy.Q. Why don’t you think you should necessarily sell your products in bigger retail stores?A. Being in bigger retail stores, and wholesaling to other stores in general can lead to more money and a wide range of customers. However, when something is easily attainable and in mall stores, it usually tarnishes a brand-- turning it into a mere fad a year or so later. I would much rather have a brand with longevity and customers who appreciate what I've created, rather than selling out to make a quick buck. It's a fact that most people enjoy what nobody else has.Q. What do you say to entrepreneurs who want to keep your company unique? Any recommendations?A. Look at what everyone else is doing and don't do it. If you want to keep your company unique, you're going to have to think outside of the box. If you feel as if you're running into a wall-- think of businesses that you enjoy but wish they did a certain thing differently. Something that would get customers talking and wanting to come back.Q. Who is your role model or inspiration?

A. When I was younger I wanted to be like James Bond when I grew up.