Did you know that March 21 was chosen for World Down Syndrome Day because 3/21 symbolizes the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome? My family and I are inspired by Catherine on a daily basis, but having a day with global awareness that honors her and her Down syndrome peers is extremely important.
This year we’re going a little crazy! Beyond the Waiting Room had the immense pleasure to chat with Mark Cronin, co-founder of John’s Crazy Socks (JCS). Mark founded JCS with his son, John, a lover of crazy socks who also happens to have Down syndrome.
John’s Crazy Socks has grown from a small in-home business to a company with 34 employees and over 3,000 pairs of socks that ships to countries all over the world.
While John is away meeting with the Special Olympics as a member of the Athlete Leadership Council, I’m so happy Mark was able to share their crazy sock journey with us.
The vision and creation of John’s Crazy Socks lies entirely at John Cronin’s feet…literally. John has been a fan of fun, wacky socks his entire life and was always on the search to find more for his growing collection.
During his last year of high school, like any typical student, John was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. He was looking for jobs, checking out social programs and was even considering going back to school to further his education. But, he wasn’t finding anything that he was really interested in.
“And that is all too often the situation that people with different abilities find themselves in, because there just aren’t enough good options. Fewer than one in five people with a disability in the U.S. have a job. It’s an awful situation, but John is a natural entrepreneur. If he didn’t see a job he wanted, he’d make one.”
Which is exactly what John did. He told his dad he wanted them to start a business together.
“Right before Thanksgiving 2016, he had his eureka moment. He comes to me and says, ‘Dad, we should sell socks. They’re colorful, they’re creative and they always let me be me.’ And he already had the name. He drew a website and said we should sell online. So, we built a website and got some inventory. We were bootstrapping, so the only marketing we did was to set up a Facebook page. And I would take out my cell phone and we made videos with John talking about his socks. We opened on Friday, December 16th and we didn’t know what to expect.”
What they didn’t expect was the flood of orders that came in. They shipped 452 orders their first month and each package included a handwritten Thank You note from John. And if the customer was local, they received top tier customer service. Not only did they get a handwritten Thank You note and a bag of Hershey Kisses, they’d get to meet John as he drove around Long Island, NY personally delivering the socks.
“So, we learned that people wanted socks. And they wanted to buy socks from John. They liked the fact we had already pledged 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics. They liked the personal touch of the Thank You note and the home deliveries. One thing that caught us by surprise, we heard from people who had a very emotional response seeing a young man with Down syndrome start a business, because they had a child with Down syndrome or autism, or a sibling or neighbor or friend. Right away, they were very connected to this little business.”
Six years later, JSC has grown into a multi-faceted organization that sponsors scholarships, creates jobs for people with differing abilities, hosts podcasts, promotes advocacy, along with a multitude of other public-facing services.
John and Mark have spoken to the United Nations and the House Small Business Committee on employment issues for people with differing abilities. They also have two TEDx talks, the second one entitled, Hiring People With Differing Abilities Is Not Altruism, It Is Good Business, which makes a business case for hiring people with disabilities.
When this father and son duo started JSC, their mission was simple – spread happiness. That is still the core of their business. Every day is a new adventure, but whether John is going on interviews, writing Thank You notes to customers, speaking to the public, packing orders or designing new socks he is driven by that purpose. And Mark couldn’t be prouder.
“John is an entrepreneur. He’s a sock tycoon, he’s an advocate, he’s a dancer, he’s an athlete, he’s a good friend, he’s a brother. He’s my son. He’s inspirational. His outlook of serving other people, of believing and conveying gratitude, is so powerful. In any business you have your ups and downs and he’s always so positive that we’re going to find a way through. I love working with him because of that. And as a father, I’m watching my son grown and develop and achieve amazing things. Sitting at the U.S. Capitol next to him as we’re about to speak to the House Small Business Committee and I look over at him and he’s just smiling and happy. What a great moment.”
Written by: Tamara Devers