The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

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.

photo (17)

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. 

Interview: GovHack Perth Organiser Zane Prickett — May 28, 2013

Interview: GovHack Perth Organiser Zane Prickett

This week, The Fetch Perth’s Curator, Justin Strharsky spoke with Zane Prickett, one of the organisers of GovHack Perth.


What is GovHack?

GovHack is an event where Developers can make awesomeness in a weekend of hacking and Government can come to see the potential of open data and allowing access to their data. Oh and did we mention there is over $3.5k local prizes and $40k national prizes?

We fill a room with as many web and application developers, open data & visualisation gurus, user experience folk, accessibility peeps, augmented reality-ists, mobile maesters, user experience fanatics and anyone interested in open government as we can find and set them loose on government data sets to create new mashups, data visualisations and apps. Everything needed is provided to hack to your hearts content, for glory, or money, or both!

On hand will be:

  • Data “owners” and mentors from a range of technology backgrounds
  • Facilitators to help teams focus, and move forward throughout the event
  • Copious amounts of power, wifi, food and caffeine
  • A range of developer tools and support throughout the 48 hours

Governments collect and publish enormous amounts of data, but have limited resources to get it into the hands of their citizens in engaging ways. GovHack is an event to draw together people from government, industry, academia and of course, the general public to mashup, reuse, and remix government data. GovHack is about finding new ways to do great things and encouraging open government and open data.

GovHack runs over 48 hours starting with drinks and the competition announcements on the night of Friday 31st of May. On Saturday you will need to register your team by midday and you can attend technical workshops to help with your project. Mentors in a range of areas will be on hand to help out. Teams work through the weekend and then on Sunday afternoon you’ll have 5 minutes to present your prototype to everyone, including the judges.

This years’ event takes place at Spacecubed on the 31st of May to the 2nd of Jun. We are excited have Lyn Beazley, WA’s chief scientist, as the key note speaker. And the event is free to developers. Currently there are over 70 participants and 20 observers. There are a few more participant tickets available if any developers would like to join.


What kinds of data is the government making available?

Currently there are over 2500 sets of data that will be available for the event. Most of these are already freely available via web services such as A great resource to see what data is available and to come up with ideas for the event is

In addition to the 2500 freely available data sets there will be some additional data made available just for this event. This includes WA Public Transport and WA Treasury digital data. These are exciting data sets and should make for some interesting outcomes.

Can people really make anything useful in a weekend?

With the right team and the right focus, Yes, developers can make awesome outcomes in one weekend. Last year one of the winning teams,, had a fully interactive and live web application to dive into and explore the federal government. Excellent visual outcome for only one weekends work.

In addition this year at a national level there is a push to make sure the best ideas and applications do get finished. First Amazon has jumped on as an event sponsor to host any of the winners applications for up to one year free of charge. Second at a federal prize level there are additional funds available for projects that need a bit more work to finalize. This should allow another week or two of work for the teams to finish their applications.

What is the coolest hack or product that’s come out of a GovHack?

Last year there were lots of excellent applications to come out of GovHack with being a great example. With that said my personnel favorite was “A Day in the Life”. In this web application someone types a date in the past and it searches the national archives to show interesting information such as photos, weather, government, price of a loaf of bread,…

What does government get out of the event?

The government gets to see the outcomes of open data and the potential it holds. Currently government is collecting tons and tons of data from a range of sources. In general the government understands there is lots of potential in the data but they dont have all the resources to make it happen. Govhack is a way for government to see the potential and reasons for open data and to continue to move in that direction.

In addition government gets to see the talent of the developers working in Perth throughout Australia and the potential of new technology.

Did you face any challenges in bringing this event together?

Interesting question. From the developers side it has not been too challenging getting the event up and running, basically they have been on board from the word GO. But the government side was a bit more challenging. In the beginning we faced such questions as “Why are you hosting an event to HACK the Government?”. But once all the initial questions were cleared up the government has really jumped on board and is fully behind the event

As well thanks a ton to Spacecubed. They have made the organizers life much easier with their well run and well recognized space, cheers!

Any advice for participants?

Enjoy yourselves. This event is a great chance for developers to come together for a weekend, enjoy some coding, networking, show case some awesome applications to government, and potentially win some money!

Some links:

%d bloggers like this: