Inspiration

Young Business Owner With Down Syndrome Uses His Love of Socks to Give Back to the Community

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Starting your own business is a risky endeavor, but a father and son from Long Island, New York, have successfully built a family company around socks — though these aren’t just any old socks. Mark Cronin and his son John are the founders of John’s Crazy Socks, which they say is special because their socks do more than keep feet warm: they make an impact within the disability community.

John Cronin is a 22-year-old man with Down syndrome. In the fall of 2016, he was getting ready to graduate high school and the inevitable question that follows all students arose: What’s next? His loving father Mark asked John what it was he wanted to do, and in response, John said that he wanted to go into business with his dad. At the time, Mark was developing some small online businesses on his own.

Together, the two debated several business ventures, at first toying with the idea of opening their own food truck (John had become inspired by the movie Chef starring Jon Favreau). After realizing that this idea would probably not work because neither John nor Mark actually knew how to cook, they scrapped the plan and opted for something that was closer to their hearts: crazy socks.

Since he was a kid, John loved collecting what he called crazy socks: socks with crazy patterns and colors, socks with funky sayings on them, socks that were different. “John had worn crazy socks his whole life. We used to go around looking for them. And the thing is, if there’s something you love, chances are that other people love it too. Thats where the idea came from,” his dad remembers. And John’s love for socks is deeply personal. “They always let me be me,” he said.

Now, just two years after their start in late 2016, business is booming for John’s Crazy Socks. In the first two months of opening the online store, they sold over 1,000 pairs of socks. According to TIME, they even grew their total sales from $14,700 in December 2016 to $350,000 in March 2017. What’s more, the pair has made sure that their business gives back to the community in many other ways. Not only do John and Mark make special socks for charities supporting causes such as cancer awareness, autism awareness, and Down syndrome awareness, but they’ve also dedicated their business to helping people with disabilities trying to enter the workforce. 

“Giving back is an essential part of what we do,” their webiste proudly proclaims. “We do not think a business can simply sell stuff, it is essential to give back. From the beginning, we have pledged 5 percent of our earnings to the Special Olympics. We have added a growing list of Charity and Awareness Socks that raise money for our charity partners. We also hold special events to generate funds for our charity partners.”

John’s Crazy Socks employs people with differing abilities. The company also uses social media channels and public platforms to advocate for the rights of those individuals. “Eighteen of our 35 employees are people with differing abilities,” Mark says. And on the John’s Crazy Socks YouTube channel, you can find videos of John and those employees showing off their unique skills. “Some of it is just goofy stuff. We like to have fun. But we have a science show, and soon we’re going to release our cooking show with John and Riley, who’s on the autism spectrum and loves to cook,” Mark adds. The Cronins are also politically active in discussions surrounding the rights of people with differing abilities. “We testified before the House Small Business Comittee about changes that need to be made so that people with differing abilities can work and hold onto their earnings,” he explained.

Overall, John hopes to always stay true to his company’s motto: Spreading happiness through socks. “We’re connecting with our customers because we give back, and because we care about offering inspiration and hope,” Mark says of his admirable business model. Mark attributes the success of the compant to a mindset that he and his son share: “Once you believe in it, once it’s important to you, then you find a way to make it happen.” We most certainly agree.

Check out the video below to see the team in action!

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