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BREAKING! Johnny Cupcakes Announces 2010 Suitcase Tour

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Johnny and his billboard

> > > The Boston-based T-shirt mogul known as Johnny Cupcakes has always been one of our favorite Young Pioneers here at The Labor Party. And although I realize we probably report on Johnny’s various entrepreneurial exploits with a bit more regularity than might be considered necessary — or even normal–we nevertheless wanted to let you know about a promotional, cross-country Johnny Cupcakes tour that was recently announced on the company’s website.

The Johnny Cupcakes Suitcase Tour, as it’s being called, will officially kick off in Manhattan on Friday, April 2nd, 2010, where Johnny (and probably a few other members of his team) will literally be selling T-shirts of a suitcase. The general idea, as it’s explained on the tour’s mini-site, is for the company to simply get back in touch with its decidedly lo-fi entrepreneurial roots.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with JC’s humble beginnings, it all started back when Johnny was performing and touring with the post-hardcore band On Broken Wings. Before tours, Johnny would stuff a number of suitcases with JC T-shirts and other merchandise, which he would then hawk to fans on the road. Johnny was so dedicated to his brand’s success, in fact, that in order to save space in his suitcases for merchandise, he often wouldn’t pack any clothing whatsoever for himself. Here’s how he explains it:

As you may know, one of the foundations of my brand was when I used to sling wrinkled up, gas scented t-shirts out of my crusty suitcase while on tour with the band I was in. There were even tours where I’d barely pack any regular clothes for myself to wear–just all Johnny Cupcakes stuff. When I sold out of t-shirts, I’d call home and, when they weren’t at work or at school, I’d have my mom and little sister ship out more of them to whatever state we were playing next …

As far as we’re concerned, one of the coolest aspects of Johnny’s upcoming tour involves the venues at which he’ll be appearing. Here’s another quote from the website: “Each stop on the tour will be hosted by various neat businesses that I respect–art galleries, boutiques, bakeries, toy shops, and many others. There will even be some delicious free treats and surprises at most of these stops!”

Also traveling with Johnny will be some sort of documentary video crew; a different video webisode will be uploaded to during each day of the tour, and the remaining footage will be used to create an actual documentary film that we unfortunately don’t know much about. (We’ll be sure to post more details about the film when and if information becomes available.)

And if you live on the West Coast of the United States, by the way, you may be able to catch one of Johnny’s upcoming university lectures. [Click here for event details.] These lectures have proven to be incredibly popular over the past few years, and those of you able to attend will very likely walk away with some valuable insights in terms of how today’s young and creative entrepreneurial community operates.

Check out Johnny’s bad-ass collection of professionally-produced webisodes here.


Merlin Mann on the creative process

June 19, 2009 1 comment
“Not to go all philosophical, but I really believe that there’s a part of you that really
wants to go in this one direction to make cool stuff, and there’s another part of you that’s
terrified at how bad you’re going to be at it, and that people are going to see you
suck. And nobody likes being seen sucking. And it’s natural to observe that other people
seem to be great from the second they start typing. [But in actuality,] they’ve just gotten
really good at starting, and they’ve gotten really good at not minding that they suck. And
if you don’t believe that, ask anybody who writes professionally, or who does anything over
and over and over again. The only difference is that they’ve gotten really OK with the fact
that they suck sometimes.
–Merlin”Not to go all philosophical, but I really believe that there’s a part of you that really wants to go in this one direction to make cool stuff, and there’s another part of you that’s terrified at how bad you’re going to be at it, and that people are going to see you suck. And nobody likes being seen sucking. And it’s natural to observe that other people seem to be great from the second they start typing. [But in actuality,] they’ve just gotten really good at starting, and they’ve gotten really good at not minding that they suck. And if you don’t believe that, ask anybody who writes professionally, or who does anything over and over and over again. The only difference is that they’ve gotten really OK with the fact that they suck sometimes.” Mann, speaking about the creative process, at Maximum Fun’s 2009 MaxFunCon

merlin“Not to go all philosophical, but I really believe that there’s a part of you that really wants to go in this one direction to make cool stuff, and there’s another part of you that’s terrified at how bad you’re going to be at it, and that people are going to see you suck. And nobody likes being seen sucking. And it’s natural to observe that other people seem to be great from the second they start typing. [But really,] they’ve just gotten really good at starting, and they’ve gotten really good at not minding that they suck.

And if you don’t believe that, ask anybody who writes professionally, or who does anything over and over and over again. The only difference is that they’ve gotten really OK with the fact that they suck sometimes.”

–Merlin Mann, speaking about the creative process, at Maximum Fun’s 2009 MaxFunCon

Click here to listen to access Merlin’s MaxFunCon lecture, on BoingBoing.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Philly’s Newest Mag Is All About Beer

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

In Philly, even inanimate objects are pissed off.

Appropriately enough, Neil Harner and Scott Willey were enjoying a few pints of ale at Earth Bread + Brewery, an environmentally-minded brewpub that opened in Philly’s Mt. Airy neighborhood last year, when they came up with the idea to start their own magazine about the city’s craft beer community. To some, that may sound like a perfect plan for entrepreneurial suicide, especially considering the unfortunate fact that the publishing industry seems to be in a never-ending free fall these days. But as far as Harner and Willey are concerned, the timing of Philly Beer Scene, as their bi-monthly magazine is known, couldn’t have been better. After all, microbrews and the bars that serve them have certainly exploded in popularity throughout the Philadelphia region over the past few years, and the whole country seems to have taken notice. Our sudden appreciation for high-caliber beer, in fact, has been documented everywhere from the Sunday New York Times to USA Today to Imbibe, a small Portland-based magazine of “liquid culture.”

And yet according to Harner, who co-owns a design and marketing firm in Lower Bucks County called Inverse Paradox, none of the beer publications that can be picked up for free in bars across the country are successfully speaking to the newer and younger generation of craft beer enthusiasts. “Don’t misquote me on this one,” he insisted, during a recent telephone interview. “When it comes to the other beer publications — Ale Street News, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Beer Advocate — we personally love those [publications]. But if you look at our magazine in comparison to the others out there, it’s a little more fun.”

Ultimately, of course, it will be the readers and advertisers of Philly Beer Scene who decide how fun it actually is. You can decide for yourself by picking up a free copy of the premiere issue at most of the better bars and brewpubs throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. Check out the magazine online at, where you’ll find information about the June 28 launch party at World Café Live.

This article was originally published on PhillyNow, Philadelphia Weekly’s news and opinion blog.

Next American City launch party, Wed June 17

June 15, 2009 1 comment

nactee_fullI generally don’t post about new work I’ve had published until the work in question is actually available on the newsstand, but because Next American City is hosting a rather unusual launch party for its upcoming issue 23, I figured it would be alright to break from tradition just this once. I’ll keep the solipsistic part brief: In issue 23, I have a relatively short front-of-the-book piece in the magazine’s Buzz department. It’s about a new rails-to-trails style bike path in Detroit, and it was developed, of course, as part of the long and ongoing effort to revitalize the city.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Next American City in awhile (it can sometimes be tough to find), issue 23 is the one you’ll want to come back for. According to what I heard at the last editorial meeting for freelancers and contributing writers, this will be the magazine’s very first perfect-bound issue. It’s also going to be a full eight pages thicker, and I believe those extra eight pages are being used to introduce some sort of creative or experimental new feature.

At any rate, here’s the information for the launch party. The admission price gets you your choice of a one-year subscription to the magazine, or a Next American City T-shirt. How can you not?

Next American City is throwing a party at The Royal Theater, one of Philadelphia’s historical and architectural landmarks, and you are invited! We’ll even provide the hard hats! Come join us as we celebrate the launch of Issue 23 with food, drinks and great conversation. Publisher and editor-in-chief Diana Lind will re-cap highlights from the issue, which is packed with features including a profile of Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker, an examination of air quality in American cities, and a debate about the value of convention centers. Interviews with a young environmental justice activist, a forward-thinking web entrepreneur, and an urban theorist round out the issue.

JUNE 17, 5:30-7:30 PM
1524 South Street, Philadelphia, PA

Admission is free for subscribers. Admission for non-subscribers is $15 in advance or $20 at the door and includes a one-year subscription to the magazine and free entry to all NAC events.

Coming in July to Malvern, Pennsylvania: American Muscle’s First Ford Mustang Car Show

May 31, 2009 1 comment

45-ford-mustang2This is just a quick follow-up note in reference to yesterday’s post about Xoxide Inc., the Malvern, Pa.-based online retail company whose three owners were recently named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2009 National Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Xoxide (pronounced ex-oxide) operates eight separate website “stores,” with each store selling a different category of merchandise — everything from beauty supplies to fish tanks to computer cooling systems. One fact I neglected to mention, however, is that the company brings in approximately 85 percent of its total revenue through its site, which exclusively sells after-market parts and accesories for Ford Mustangs.

In an effort to promote that site even further, Xoxide will be hosting its first-ever Mustang Car Show on Sunday, July 19, 2009, from 11am-4pm. The event is scheduled to take place at Xoxide’s corporate headquarters in Malvern, Pa., which is about 30 miles from downtown Philadelphia, and very close to West Chester, the hometown of pro skateboarder and notorious MTV prankster, Bam Margera. (The location’s full street address: 7 Lee Blvd., Malvern, PA 19355.)

There are only 150 spots available at the upcoming car show, so if you think you might be interested in entering your own vehicle, visit the event’s website by clicking here, where you can register online for $10. You can also register over the phone by calling 800-768-8716. 

Incidentally, for those of you who aren’t particularly thrilled by the idea of hanging out in a parking lot full of pimped-out Mustangs all day long, it’s probably worth mentioning that the event will also consist of free food and drink; various prizes and freebies; activities for kids; an onsite showroom and store; and more. The event’s rain date, by the way, is scheduled for Sunday, August 2, 2009. Again, click here to visit the event’s official website.

Categories: Uncategorized

Philadelphia-area Xoxide Inc. owners are the SBA’s 2009 National Young Entrepreneurs of the Year

May 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Xoxide_lead> > > I recently wrote my first article for Keystone Edge, an online magazine based right here in Philadelphia. However, Keystone Edge actually covers the emerging economy throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania, as well as the creative (and quite often young) entrepreneurs who fuel that economy. It’s owned and operated by the Detroit-based Issue Media Group, an online publishing company with a fantastically smart business model, and about ten websites under its belt. One of those sites, by the way, is the exceptionally well-edited Pop City Media, which covers the emerging econony in Pittsburgh, and which I wrote for back in November 2007. Pop City Media also covered the release of Moon Handbooks Pittsburgh, the city guide I wrote for Avalon Travel Publishing, and which I’ll be updating sometime next year.

The Millionaire Boys Club: The story of Malvern, Pa.-based Xoxide is that rare tale of three high school computer whizzes making millions; it is a tale of computer shells, tachometers, blow driers, bird cages, and after-market Ford Mustang parts. [Link to Keystone Edge]

> > > For Keystone Edge, I wrote about the fascinating Xoxide Inc., an 80-employee company based in the Philly suburbs. (The company’s name, by the way, is pronounced ex-oxide.) From the outside looking in, Xoxide doesn’t necessarily come across as a particularly interesting organization. It’s basically an online retail company that sells a wide range of fairly standard products, such as beauty supplies, truck and car parts, and computer cases, from about eight different websites. 

But the company has an especially fascinating twist: It was launched about ten years ago by three teen-aged high school boys. Two of them, Chris Francy and Steve Voudouris, were both 17 years old at the time. The other founder, Andrew Voudouris (Steve’s brother), was 15 years old. The company cleared more than $1.1 million in 2002, which was its second year of operation. At the time, Xoxide was operating entirely out of the home where Steve and Andrew lived with their parents. The company’s inventory was stashed in nearly every room of the house, as well as in the backyard. The garage doubled as a workshop. And as the company continued to grow and grow, the three founders would go off to school in the morning while a half-dozen employees, most of them middle-aged men, would come to work at Steve and Andrew’s house during the day. The kitchen, of course, doubled as a break room.

Incredibly, Xoxide’s bottom line grew with each successive year. Its 2004 revenue was $5 million. Its 2007 revenue (brace yourself) was $19.1 million. Today, Andrew Voudouris is just 22 years old. Chris Francy and Steve Voudouris are both in their mid-20s. And yes, they eventually moved out of mom and dad’s house and into a 45,000 square-foot building with an attached warehouse. This year, during the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week (May 17-19, 2009), the three founders of Xoxide were named the 2009 National Young Entrepreneurs of the Year during an award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

> > > About the photography: Photographer Jeff Fusco shot all the photos accompanying my article on the Keystone Edge site, including the photo I’ve posted above, which shows the three Xoxide founders standing inside a truck that was in the process of being filled with some of their many products. Check out Jeff Fusco’s impressive photography portfolio on his website, You’ll probably recognize at least a few of the fascinating characters there. (Some of Jeff’s clients include Philadelphia magazine; the New York Daily News; Getty Images; Philadelphia Weekly; and US Air.)

> > > As you’ve probably already guessed, Xoxide is a retail company that succeeds — in part — because it offers high-quality products at a reasonable price. It also ships those products very quickly, and for free. Naturally, a few of the various other reasons for the company’s success are a bit more complicated. To offer just one example, Xoxide seems to have somehow mastered the all but  impossible-to-master online game of search engine optimization (SEO), for one. But after brushing aside all the Byzantine matters of online sales and marketing, what’s left is a company that sells a helluva lotta good stuff, and gets it to your doorstep quickly. So with that sentiment in mind, if you’ve got an AmEx card that’s currently burning a hole in your wallet, here are seven of the Xoxide “stores” you might want to visit, presented in alphabetical order:

Follow that story: Incidentally, Xoxide hasn’t enjoyed much attention from the press over the past decade or so of its existence. But winning the 2009 SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Champion Award has reversed that trend slightly. You can read what the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Mike Armstrong had to say about the company in a recent PhillyInc. column. Brian McCollough of the Daily Local News, a regional newspaper serving Pennsylvania’s Chester County, also covered the story. 

Music Note: On a somewhat unrelated note, Keystone Edge’s editor, John Davidson, heads up a fantastic Americana/roots music band called The New Time. Fans of very early American blues will absolutely love these guys, as will most fans of the modern alt-country/y’alternative sound, as documented in the late, great, and very much missed No Depression magazine. You can learn about The New Time and listen to some of its music at Davidson has graciously posted MP3s on his MySpace page as well, which can be accessed at Enjoy.


Categories: Uncategorized

Where I’ve Been

May 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Young Pioneers Media:

>>> Good God it’s been a long time since I’ve managed to post anything new on these pages. Sorry about that! For those of you who might have wondered where I’d gotten off to, and what I’ve been up to, that explanation is simple enough: Instead of simply blogging about the unexpected fringes of the new creative entrepreneurship culture, like advice and problems that can arise with website hosting, I’ve been busying myself over the past few months with the process of putting together a print magazine that concerns itself with the very same topic. Interesting time to be launching a new magazine, right? I know.

Which is why I’ve also been working on putting together the pieces of an especially ambitious business plan that includes not just a single printed magazine, but rather an entire publishing, multimedia and merchandising company. In other words: I’ve got lots of unusually fun stuff in the works, business-wise.

Then again, I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m not particularly thrilled with the idea of taking on investors or getting myself deeper into debt than I already am. So it’s quite likely that Young Pioneers Media, as C. and I are calling this company, won’t exactly explode into existence, so to speak, but will rather seep its various products and services out into the market, slowly, until one day it seems nearly impossible to believe that, just a few years ago, it didn’t exist at all.

johnny_in_skeleton_suitThat’s the big plan, anyway. We’ll see how it actually all works out, of course, over the coming months. And like I mentioned above, our introductory product is going to be an actual print magazine. Or to be more specific, a professionally-designed, newsstand quality magazine about creative and alternative entrepreneurs, which will be published quarterly during its first year, and probably bi-monthly throughout its second year. As of now, the master plan includes going monthly by year three, if not somewhat sooner.

Johnny Cupcakes:

So. With all that said, I’m still not entirely sure just how much I actually want to reveal about the content of the premiere issue just yet. I will say, though, that we were lucky enough to convince none other than the incredibly successful T-shirt mogul Johnny Cupcakes to act as the magazine’s very first cover star. The entire process of working with Johnny, by the way, has been an incredibly fortuitous experience for me, especially because, as far as I can tell, Johnny’s brand seems to appeal to a number of different youth demographics, none of which I really have anything to do with: Hip-hop culture, skateboarding culture, etc. And that’s probably why I’d never heard of the guy before randomly stumbling across his boutique on Boston’s Newbury Street last summer.

I wrote a little bit about the pure joy of discovering the Johnny Cupcakes brand in a previous post, so I’ll restrain myself from going on and on about that experience here. If you continue scrolling to the very bottom of that post, you can read a bit about my last trip to Boston, where I had a chance to see Johnny give a brilliant lecture about entrepreneurship at an area college. The following day, I met up with Johnny and his photographer, Dave Green, at the company headquarters and warehouse in Weymouth, Mass. We ended up spending the better part of the afternoon shooting photos of Johnny, who posed with an enormous cupcake that had actually been baked the night beforeeat-cupcake by a friend of the photographer. Check out the photo on the left, which is a great example of the work Dave did that afternoon.

Dave Green and

Incidentally, Dave also works as a freelancer, so if you happen to be based in or near the Boston area and you’re looking for a very capable and friendly photographer, I simply can’t recommend him highly enough. You can find his portfolio and contact information on his website, (Tell him Dan from YP Media sent you!)

One more thing: If you’re interested in learning more about exactly who else and what else we have planned for the first issue of the magazine, you’ll want to check back here every now and again, as I have plans to blog about some of the premiere issue’s brilliant entrepreneurial superstars over the next few weeks. And once we have a solid release date set in stone for the print edition of the magazine, I’ll undoubtedly be making a good bit of noise about that, right here. And for what it’s worth, I’ll also be doing my best to occasionally post updates about some of the other YP Media products that are currently in various stages of pre-production, including books, calendars, T-shirts, guidebooks, and other top-secret fun stuff.  So do stay tuned.