HULL, Massachusetts — Johnny Earle's inspiration to start his own business hit very close to home. "Growing up, I'd see my mom come home miserable from her 9-to-5 job, and I think that's what made me an entrepreneur," he said.
For 23 years, Lorraine Earle commuted from the Earle home in this seaside town to a law office located about 20 miles north in downtown Boston. The three-hour commute took its toll on Lorraine and provided the impetus for her son Johnny to become his own boss.
The longest commute Lorraine has nowadays is to the Hull store that serves as Johnny Cupcakes HQ a few doors down from her home. She mainly works out of her house, taking care of all the bookkeeping, trade-marking and business dealings for her son's hugely successful T-shirt company, Johnny Cupcakes.
Johnny's business has truly become a family affair, and it grew while he was out touring with the Boston metal-hardcore band On Broken Wings. While Johnny was selling Johnny Cupcakes T-shirts from the road, mom and sister Linsay shipped shirt orders from the Earle home in Hull. As the business grew, their house became overrun with boxes upon boxes of T-shirts. Deciding that his fledgling business needed his full attention, Johnny eventually left the band and decided to dedicate 110 percent to his growing T-shirt-as-wearable-art venture.
"The orders kept piling in from the Internet," he said. "[We] kept getting boxes and boxes of shirts, and it went from the trunk of my car to my parents' house. You literally had to move boxes to open the door to get to the bathroom or to open the refrigerator door. There were just boxes of shirts everywhere and my mom's always like, 'My house is never going to be nice.' "
Lorraine was finally able to get her house back when Johnny and his father renovated an old boat garage in Hull just a few doors down from the Earle home. This location now serves as a warehouse, office, retail store and Web store where all Johnny Cupcakes Internet orders are shipped from. A year after the Hull store opened, Johnny expanded his enterprise to include a second retail shop on Newbury Street, Boston's esteemed shopping mecca.
Johnny's dream of being his own boss became a reality due in part to his family's support. "Growing up, my parents have always been really cool with everything ... I've never drank a sip of beer my entire life, I've never done any drugs and I think the reason — one of the reasons — is my parents ... just let me do whatever I wanted to, so I never felt like I had anything to rebel against."
The Earles even supported their son's decision to leave college after only a few weeks. He began college at the Art Institute of Boston, majoring in music, but discovered collegiate life simply wasn't for him. "My parents have always been really open to whatever I do ... they said, 'If you don't like it you can leave, just give it a
Applying that philosophy to Johnny Cupcakes, Johnny Earle now finds himself with a multimillion-dollar business built from the ground up without any college experience or outside investors.
"I wake up every day surprised and still can't believe that this is what I am doing full-time," he said. "I was able to buy a house and give my friends and family a fun place to work ... it's unbelievable."