As John Cronin, a young man who happens to have Down Syndrome, approached graduation from Huntington High School, he pondered what his next step would be. After some thought, he decided he wanted to go into business with his dad. The only challenge was what type of business they would run.
“Our first idea was a fun store, but that wasn’t going to work. A food truck seemed fun, but we don’t know how to cook.” says Mark X. Cronin, John’s dad, with a laugh. Then right before Thanksgiving, John, having always been a fan of flamboyant socks, had a eureka moment, “I wanted to start a sock business, because they’re fun, colorful, and let me be me.” Thus, on Dec. 9, 2016, John’s Crazy Socks was born.
When it first took off, most of the orders came from the surrounding Huntington area, but word about the business spread quickly thanks to social media. “The only marketing we did was through Facebook with videos of John talking about the socks.”
John hand-delivered all orders from customers in the Huntington area and included a hand written note with some candy, a practice he continues to this day. “Our customers would post pictures with John and of the packages on social media and word really began to spread from there.” says Mark.
The socks sold by John’s Crazy Socks, as its name implies, are indeed crazy. They carry socks in every theme you could possibly imagine, such as sports socks, literary socks, wedding socks, animal lovers’ socks, and president socks, just to name a few. These president socks feature pictures of Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush (who has recently been spotted wearing a pair of John’s Crazy Socks featuring the face of Clinton) and our current President Donald Trump complete with a lock of golden hair attached to the sock. In fact, as of June 2018, 1900 different socks are available on the company’s website.
John’s Crazy Socks’ also sells “Awareness Socks”, in which some proceeds go towards different charities. For example, if one buys a Down Syndrome Awareness sock, $1 goes to the National Down Syndrome Society and $1 goes to ACDS. The company also sells similar socks for Autism Awareness and Williams Syndrome Awareness. Additionally, five percent of all earnings are donated to the Special Olympics. “We don’t think it’s enough to just sell things anymore, you have to give back.” says Mark.
This sense of “Giving Back” is just one of the four pillars that John’s Crazy Socks is built upon. The three others are “Socks you Can Love”, “Gratitude”, and “Inspiration,” referring to the wide variety of socks the site offers, John’s hand delivery service, and showing the world what’s possible when you give people with differing abilities a chance. That last one is special as John’s Crazy Socks, as Mark said earlier, is not just a business that sells socks, but is also a fundraiser and voice for people with special needs and does everything in its power to help this community.
One such way is how it advocates for the employment of the disabled. “We hire people with disabilities all the time. We need good workers and our employees are good workers. By having people with differing abilities, it helps with retention. People stay here and recruit their friends.” says Mark. He also believes that there are barriers in hiring the handicapped that need to be broken down. “People have prejudices that need to change. People have to change their way of thinking. Hire people based on what they can do, not what they can’t.” He also mentioned that many handicapped workers are faced with the difficult decision of choosing between receiving Medicaid benefits and working full time. “That needs to be changed.”
Additionally, John recently testified before Congress about how employing the disabled has contributed to the success of their business. “I felt good by talking to people at the conference. I wanted to represent all people and show them that Down Syndrome never holds me back.”
At the end of the day, one of the major reasons for the success of their business is thanks to the father-and-son bond John and Mark share. “I couldn’t do it without John” said Mark “and I couldn’t do it without my dad. I love working with my Dad. It’s truthfully fun. It’s the funnest business ever.” said John