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For many entrepreneurs, the journey to success is paved with perseverance, creativity, and inspiration. For John and Mark Cronin, a father-son duo, this path was also paved with just a touch of crazy because John and Mark are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Founded with a mission to spread happiness and demonstrate that people with differing abilities are just as capable as everyone else, their business has grown from a small startup to an inspirational social enterprise.

A Unique Beginning

John’s Crazy Socks began as a solution to a personal problem. John Cronin, who has Down syndrome, was nearing the end of his school years and faced the overwhelming prospect of finding fulfilling employment. “I wanted a job, but there were limited opportunities for me,” John recalls. “So, I told my dad I wanted to start a business with him.”

Mark, a seasoned entrepreneur, saw the potential in John’s enthusiasm and drive. “John had a natural entrepreneurial spirit,” Mark explains. “When he was younger, he organized a talent show at his school from scratch. I saw that same spark in him when he wanted to start a business.”

The Birth of John’s Crazy Socks

The idea for John’s Crazy Socks came to John just before Thanksgiving in 2016. “I loved colorful, fun socks,” John says. “They made me happy, and I thought they could make others happy, too.”

With that simple yet powerful idea, the duo jumped into action. “We built a website on Shopify and stocked some inventory,” Mark recalls. “Our marketing was just us making videos on my phone and sharing them on Facebook.”

Their first day saw 42 orders, mostly from locals in their hometown of Huntington, New York. John personally delivered many of these orders, often staying for hot chocolate and a chat. “People loved the personal touch,” John says with a smile. “They wanted to take pictures with me and would order again just to have me come back.”

Building a Business on Five Pillars

John’s Crazy Socks is more than just a business; it’s a mission-driven enterprise built on five pillars: inspiration and hope, giving back, making it personal, creating fun products you can love, and showing what people with different abilities can do.

 

  • Inspiration and Hope: “We want to show the world what people with different abilities can achieve,” Mark emphasizes. More than half of their employees have differing abilities, and they regularly host tours and virtual visits to inspire others.
  • Giving Back: The company pledges 5% of its earnings to the Special Olympics and has raised over $750,000 for charity partners through specially designed awareness socks and other initiatives. “It’s about gratitude,” Mark explains. “Our customers know that when they buy from us, they’re also giving back.”
  • Making It Personal: Every order is packed with a handwritten thank-you note and candy, a tradition started by John himself. “It’s all about making personal connections,” John says. “We want our customers to feel special.”
  • Creating Fun Products: With over 4,000 different kinds of socks, John’s Crazy Socks offers a wide variety of fun, creative designs. “We listen to our customers and create socks they’ll love,” Mark explains. “John approves every design.”
  • Showing What People with Different Abilities Can Do: This pillar is at the heart of their mission. “We want to change perceptions,” Mark says. “We’ve testified before Congress, spoken at the United Nations, and constantly advocate for the inclusion of people with differing abilities.”

Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

John and Mark’s journey is filled with valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. Mark highlights three key points:

  • Take Action: “Don’t overthink. Just start. We have a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach. You need to take action and adjust as you go.”
  • Understand Your Purpose: “Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Your purpose and values will guide your decisions and help you stand out.”
  • Ask for Help: “You don’t have to go it alone. Connect with other entrepreneurs and seek advice. We’re part of the Entrepreneurs Organization, which has been invaluable.”

Overcoming Challenges

Starting and growing John’s Crazy Socks hasn’t been without its challenges. One significant obstacle was financial. “In our second year, we didn’t realize how much of an outlier our initial success was,” Mark explains. “We made millions but had no cash because it was all tied up in inventory and infrastructure.”

Despite these hurdles, they persevered. “We learned to seek investment earlier and bring in experienced advisors,” Mark says. “But we always stayed true to our mission and values.”

A Testament to Resilience and Belief

John and Mark’s proudest accomplishments aren’t measured in dollars but in the impact they’ve had. “We’ve created 34 jobs, with 22 held by people with differing abilities,” Mark says proudly. “And we’ve seen incredible personal growth in our colleagues.”

John adds, “I love working with my dad and making people happy with our socks. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.”

Looking to the Future

As they continue to grow, John’s Crazy Socks is expanding into new areas. “We’re moving into B2B sales and offering fulfillment services,” Mark explains. “We’re also working on a book and speaking engagements to share our story and inspire others.”

John and Mark’s journey is a powerful reminder of what’s possible when you blend passion, purpose, and a commitment to making a difference. Their story isn’t just about selling socks; it’s about spreading happiness, one pair at a time.

For entrepreneurs looking for inspiration, John and Mark’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, creativity, and unwavering belief in your mission. As John says, “Believe in what you’re doing. It makes all the difference.”

Looking to divulge your own entrepreneur story? We’d love to hear and share it here! Contact us today to uncover your inspirations, triumphs, and learnings.

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