John and Mark Cronin of Johns Crazy Socks Serve as Judges in Adelphi University Student Business Plan Competition

Adelphi University's 2022 Business Plan Competition took place on Tuesday, April 26 and awarded $11,000 in prize money to help three student entrepreneurs grow their businesses. John and Mark X. Cronin, co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, served on the judges panel in assessing the student business plans and presentations.

Judges with Winner

Kayla Strayhorn, who is developing BU Rooftop Gardens, won the first-place prize of $5,000. Ms. Strayhorn also won the $1,000 Environmental, Sustainable, and Governance (ESG) prize. Kayla impressed the judges with her plan that will promote sustainability and reduce hunger (UN SDG 2) through the development of ecologically friendly rooftop farms in New York.

“Kayla has a very cool and important business,” said John Cronin.

The Adelphi Student Business Plan Competition

The annual Student Business Plan competition is part of Adelphi’s approach to experiential learning and the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business (WSB) approach to providing students with a competitive edge to advance their careers. The students competed with business plans for actual businesses they were developing, and the judges all lead entrepreneurial organizations.

“We love working with student entrepreneurs, said Mark X. Cronin, “they are part of our tribe. We were so impressed by the innovations and hard thinking of these student entrepreneurs.”

“Over two semesters, students worked independently and with the advice of faculty mentors to develop their unique businesses,” said competition director and associate professor of management Murat Sakir Erogul, PhD, who has provided mentoring, structure and advising throughout the planning process since launching the competition a few years ago—with support this year from Lori Cary, MBA ’20, interim director for student success.

All Adelphi students were eligible to submit a preliminary proposal either individually or in teams. Students have been working on their proposals and presentations since the contest opened in November 2021. The original fifteen submissions yielded four finalists:

  • Shuriz Hishmeh ’21, an MBA student from Dix Hills, New York.
  • Matthew Kessler, a senior nursing major from Brooklyn, New York.
  • Ruiqin Fu, a biology graduate student from Suzhou, China.
  • Kayla Strayhorn, a senior speech-language pathology major from Brentwood, New York.

Business Plan Competitors

The second-place prize of $3,000 went to Shuriz Hishmeh for his FW Composting plan and third place went to Ruiqin Fu for her plan to develop Boom I rang Dental.

Finding Judges for the Student Entrepreneurs Contest

Zachary Johnson, PhD, interim associate dean of undergraduate students for the business school and co-founder of a small business, ProfVal, said, “We identified a panel of business leaders who are transforming their industries and have met requirements related to sales, sustainability, employees and/or commitments to Adelphi. “Each of these entrepreneurs represents the type of entrepreneurial leaders we hope our students will become.”

The judges included:

Mark Cronin, Jennifer DeVito, Zachary Johnson, and Lisa Marie George are all part of the Entrepreneurs Organization on Long Island.

 Judges from EO-LI

About John’s Crazy Socks 

John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $500,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™. 

For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at