The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Sydney local, Simon Crerar, editor of BuzzFeed Australia — March 23, 2014

Interview: Sydney local, Simon Crerar, editor of BuzzFeed Australia


Hannah DeMilta recently caught up with Simon Crerar, editor of BuzzFeedOz.

Your most recent role was with News Corp as their visual story editor before becoming the Australian editor of BuzzFeed. What are the important experiences or lessons you brought with you from your most recent role?

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Event Review: Vivid Keynote – Johnny Cupcakes — June 2, 2013

Event Review: Vivid Keynote – Johnny Cupcakes

I’m pretty sure I booked my ticket for the Vivid Keynote the day the schedule was released this year. I got my first Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt as a gift in 2006 and the brand has been on my radar since then. They’ve developed a bit of a cult following over the years, proving they are more than just a t-shirt company. Fans of the brand have gotten Johnny Cupcakes tattoos (I even saw a few in the audience during the talk at the MCA).

J cupcakes talk

Johnny Cupcakes (aka Johnny Earle) started the company operating from the truck of his car, selling t-shirts on the road while touring with his band. The company has now grown into a multi-million dollar business with physical store in multiple US locations and now London, in addition to the online shop.

His keynote at Vivid told the story of his journey as a young entrepreneur and the steps that led to starting his company. He also shared some lessons in business that he believes has helped Johnny Cupcakes grow and become a success. I walked away with two main themes that really stuck with me from his talk.

Lesson one: Invest in your company

A point that Johnny made several times was the importance of reinvesting profits into the company. When he was in school he used to buy items like prank toys (i.e. whoopee cushions) and candy bars to sell to his classmates. It sounds pretty trivial until you find out that he was moving about 200 packs of candy per day and making approximately $1,000 in cash that, in the words of Johnny, “the government didn’t know about.” As a young kid it would have been easy for him to spend that type of cash, but he didn’t, he reinvested. He went to the shop and bought more candy or prank toys and was thinking about what was next on the agenda.

He did the same with Johnny Cupcakes, on a slightly larger scale. He talked about how he made his first million by age 24, but he wasn’t rich. He claims he did and still does probably have a similar looking bank account to many people in the room because he always believed in putting back into the brand he built.

Lesson two: Consider what makes your brand unique

Johnny said he gets approached by 50+ young people every day who say they want to start their own t-shirt brand. He thinks it’s great and encourages them to go for it, but does give the advice that they need to consider their own unique positioning. There are thousands of t-shirt brands out there, but what will make yours stand out. Fans camped out for 24 hours waiting for the Johnny Cupcakes London shop to open, and that’s certainly not something that happens for just any t-shirt store that decides to open.

Lesson three: Value the personal touch

I’ve been to a couple really good talks recently that spoke to the important role that “non-scalable” activities can play in startups.  There is so much hype and talk around things like growth-hacking and automation or spending your time figuring out how to maximize output and minimize input in business. So it’s really refreshing when you have someone like Johnny who stands up and talks about how he still writes hand-written notes in customers’ orders some days from the store.

Johnny said details like the packaging were always important to him. It needed to be special and up to certain standards to delight the customers, even if it meant loosing money or a lower profit margin. He wanted to sell his t-shirts in packaging that didn’t get thrown out, and cited Apple as another company who does this extremely well.

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Another great story came from when they were looking to build and open their store in LA. Johnny stressed how important it was to create a store that didn’t just sell clothing, but created an experience when you visited it. They hired the same design team that had worked on clients such as Disney in the past to help create the new LA shop. They built fake ovens into the wall that opened and closed by themselves and released fake steam. They spent $700,000 on those ovens (and they weren’t even real ovens) that took them well past the original $60,000 budget for the entire store. However, in the end that risk paid off, and the Johnny Cupcakes brand continues to create an experience for its fans.

Today is the final day for the Johnny Cupcakes Pop-Up Shop in The Rocks. Otherwise, you can check these guys out online at to get your sweet fix. 

Event Review: YOW! Keynote – Mike Lee — December 10, 2012

Event Review: YOW! Keynote – Mike Lee

YOW Mike Lee keynote

What: The evening keynote with Mike Lee, as part of YOW! Australian Developer Conference 2012 in Sydney
Over Heard: “You can’t know what you don’t know. You know?”

I always preach about how I often find the most inspiration when I attend events beyond my industry.  Last week’s YOW! Keynote with Mike Lee was no exception. While Mike’s background is a products engineer and developer, his keynote message had little to do with the technicalities his current work. Rather he spoke on some themes and topics that are relevant not just to someone who identifies as a developer, but rather anyone who has reflected on the meaning of their life work.

A former Apple employee, Mike spoke about how their used to be an urban legend at the company that Steve Jobs once fired an employee on the spot who couldn’t answer the question of what he was working on. It was something that haunted Mike and made him constantly think about his role and purpose at the company. He practiced his one min elevator pitch, so that if he was ever stopped and asked what he was working on – he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to answer. While that day never came, the fact that Mike (and probably several other employees) were so accountable for their mission at the company was a powerful idea.  The power of being focused and to have an idea of what you’re actually doing is important.

Mike also touched on the importance of constantly being forced out of our comfort zones. While we might be fooled into thinking that our brain is constantly lighting up and creating, it actually filters us. We are tricked into seeing less even through these filters of the brain even when it’s right in front of us. This is part of the reason that Mike believes that people who are successful in business are ones who constantly challenge themselves to be uncomfortable.

We are building a future that none of us want.

As builders and engineers helping to shape the future, we can’t help but feel responsible for what we create shared Mike. He shared that he worries a lot about the world and nature and all of its problems we’ve created by inhabiting it. Mike also shared that he hopes his purpose and one min purpose or “why” to life is about giving knowledge to others. He wants to tempt them with information.

I’m just doing my job. Those would be the last words of our humanity.

Just doing our jobs is not enough, but rather we should look to have meaning in our lives. The idea of constantly being ready to give the elevator pitch of our purpose when given the opportunity – a lesson that is valuable no matter what industry you work in.

Event Review: TEDx Macquarie University – No Boundaries — September 2, 2012

Event Review: TEDx Macquarie University – No Boundaries

I must admit I like my weekend sleep-ins, but there are some events worth waking up for. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself when I was on the train to Macquarie University early Saturday morning for the start of TEDx. However, I most certainly wasn’t the only one. More than 320 attendees, partners and team members were part of this year’s event.  As soon as I arrived, I was glad I had. I was greeted by the friendly student volunteers and a delicious coffee (thanks Emily and the Fresh Ground team).

For those unfamiliar with idea of TEDx, these are independently organised TED events – with themes and guidelines from the original TED (Technology Entertainment and Global) conference to discuss “ideas worth sharing.” There have now been more than 16,000 talks, given at more than 3,200 TEDx events in 130+ countries.

This was TEDx Macquarie University’s second year, and it was great to be back a second time to see how it had grown.  I think it’s great when localised versions of events such as TEDx find ways to tie in and work with the community. Some of our inspirational speakers were also professors at the university, and many of the event staff and organisers were either current students, or alumni.  It was these little touches throughout the day that helped make this TEDx event unique and unique to Macquarie University.

Thanks to Liam Darmondy, Jarryd Daymond and the TEDx team for hosting and all the great speakers who came and inspired us. Videos of the talks will be available soon on the YouTube channel, and the photos are posted here.

Event Review: Stump the Strategist — August 23, 2012

Event Review: Stump the Strategist

What: Stump the Strategist #28 featuring Dan Ilic – each monthly event has a themed topic followed by the chance to share your marketing challenges for the resident strategists to solve.
Where: Step Change, Level 13, 338 Pitt Street Sydney
Over Heard: “It’s like drunk football!”

I had the pleasure of attending my first Stump the Strategist event this week with guest speaker Dan Ilic. It’s on every month, hosted by the folks of Step Change. They bring in a variety of cool speakers, put on food, drinks and get some discussions happening. It’s a free event too (woo hoo) all you need to do is register beforehand.  According to their website, it’s like ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway? Mixed with ‘The Gruen Transfer’ and a little bit of ‘Thank God you’re Here.’ 

Dan’s talk was on the death of television, and had the audience interested and laughing right away. I found that Dan’s thoughts on working with online influencers particularly resonated with me. When we look to the future of advertising it’s not in traditional television, but in a new age of bloggers and even vloggers. After the talk, Dan and our team of strategists took four unscripted audience questions to answer. They were timed and had nine minutes to address each marketing or business challenge. The audience could then vote if they answered it… or had been stumped.

Overall a great night, and enjoyed the focus on audience participation. If you’re interested in finding out about future Stump the Strategist events, keep an eye on The Fetch Sydney. You can also get a preview of the current upcoming talks on the website.

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