On Friday, John and Mark X. Cronin, the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, met with the leadership of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to discuss entrepreneurial initiatives serving the intellectuals with developmental disabilities (IDD) community. They were part of a showcase convened in Hyannis Port by the Kennedy Foundation that brought together eight of the most promising IDD startups in the world alongside a world-changing group of investors, policymakers, industry leaders, and IDD experts.
The day started with the showcase event followed by some afternoon sailing when members of the Kennedy family took the founders sailing on Nantucket Sound. John and Mark spent the afternoon with Tim Shriver, who as the Chair of the Special Olympics is one of John’s heroes, and Max Kennedy on Max’s sailboat, Glide. Max even let John man the helm which delighted John.
The day closed out with a dinner at Chris and Sheila Kennedy’s home. It was a casual barbecue full of fun, fellowship, and the sharing of ideas. Teddy Kennedy Jr. showed John the planets rising in the night sky and John traded his favorite Bob Dylan songs with Doug Brinkley. When Tim Shriver called the gathering together for a heartfelt wrap up, he asked John to sum up the day for everyone. John shared his guiding principles of having gratitude and doing for others and reminded the group that they were all there to change the world.
The IDD Innovation Showcase
The Kennedy Foundation worked with MassChallenge, an international business accelerator, and Blue Umbrella, an autism technology hub, to organize the showcase event. John and Mark are alumni of MassChallenge.
Tim Shriver, chair of the Kennedy Foundation Board, kicked off the proceedings by introducing the members of the Kennedy family participating in the day and setting the tone and direction for this new initiative. He cited the family’s deep commitment to his aunt, Rosemary Kennedy, who had an IDD, and the work the foundation has done in her name. The family commitment to this cause is personal and profound and has sprung many great achievements and organizations including the founding of the Special Olympics and Best Buddies and Senator Ted Kennedy authoring the American with Disabilities Act. The family and Foundation have truly changed the world, yet they do not rest on their laurels, but instead renew with each generation looking for more ways to give back, to serve others and to have an impact.
Mark X. Cronin said, “The event and the individual family members were so inspiring and uplifting, calling us to a higher purpose and to dream of ways in which we can have more impact. And yet they were there to listen to the invited founders to learn what is possible and how they can help.”
Tim then introduced Christopher McKelvey from the next generation of the Kennedy family who is leading the entrepreneurship initiative for the Foundation. Chris explained that the Foundation wants to support and highlight the work of start ups that will have an impact on the IDD community. He spoke of the effort to identify the leading firms and to understand the ways in which the Foundation can help.
Each of the eight invited founder groups then presented their work and plans for the future. In addition to John’s Crazy Socks, the other companies were Beaming Health, Hiki, Hope Trust Floreo, Daivergent, NeuroNav and Voiceitt. These are technology companies working on issues ranging from voice recognition and translation for people with speech difficulties, a friendship app for people with autism, using virtual reality to educate people with autism, enabling families to create special needs trusts online, to making it easier for people with autism to find work or arrange services.
John and Mark not only shared their story of how a young entrepreneur who happens to have Down syndrome could start and lead his own business employing people with differing abilities, but how John and John’s Crazy Socks serve as a role model for future entrepreneurs and businesses among those with differing abilities.
John and Mark highlighted some of their achievements to date: creating jobs for people with differing abilities, raising over $450,000 for charity partners, and creating thousands of happy customers. They also outlined plans to expand and deepen their mission. They discussed the move into more distribution channels, including wholesale, the introduction of more charity partners and the introduction of their Happiness Index.
Mark took the opportunity to discuss some of the mission-inspired initiatives that John’s Crazy Socks is exploring including the JCS Champions Program, which would put people with differing abilities into their own business by giving them a micro-franchise in John’s Crazy Socks, creating a marketplace where businesses led by people with differing abilities could reach more customers and creating a learning institute to train entrepreneurs with differing abilities and to assist small and medium businesses to employ people with differing abilities.
John said, “I had so much fun. I met so many amazing people and they are all working to create a better world.”
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 to spread happiness. They spread happiness by offering the socks you can love that let you express yourself, by giving back, by creating jobs for people with differing abilities and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.