John and Mark X. Cronin, the father and son team that co-founded John’s Crazy Socks, brought their message of hope and entrepreneurship to the students at the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University. They were featured speakers as part of the University’s 2022 Global Entrepreneurship Week.
The Cronins shared the inspirational story of how John, a young man with Down syndrome, and his father, bootstrapped John’s idea to sell crazy socks into the world’s largest sock store. Yet they offered so much more as they shared the nuts and bolts of growing and scaling a business and spoke to the power of a social enterprise.
John Cronin said, “We love speaking with students who want to be entrepreneurs because we are entrepreneurs. These are our people.”
The father and son team had the audience laughing and nodding in agreement and left more than a few audience members in tears. At the end of their talk, John and Mark received a standing ovation.
Professor Joshua Aaron, the Pam Wright Chair of Entrepreneurship, said, “The talk was very well received by the audience. We will definitely want to have you back sometime in the future.”
Creating a Social Enterprise: Entrepreneurship that Makes a Difference
In a conversation after the presentation, one student said, “This was an eye-opening talk. It made me think differently about leading a business and gave me great encouragement. Thank you so much.”
Discussing their Five Pillars and the social enterprise model moved the audience. Mark explained, “We have a slightly different business model in that we are a social enterprise. We have both a business and a social purpose and they feed off each other. If all we did was sell socks, we’d be lost. Our mission is to spread happiness and show what people with differing abilities can do, that separates us, that helps us connect with customers and build a community. At the end of the day, the socks become the physical manifestation for our story and mission.”
Employing People with Differing Abilities and Building a Unified Workspace
More than half the employees at John’s Crazy Socks have a differing ability. It starts with John, who has Down syndrome and is the face of the business. Their commitment includes hiring people with differing abilities and then creating content to show the world what is possible when you give someone a chance.
John and Mark spoke of creating a unified workplace, where people with differing abilities work side-by-side neuro-typicals and how that has benefited their business. Mark said, “Hiring people with differing abilities is not altruism, it is good business.”
Marla Slaughter from the Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the school said, “Thank you for doing a fantastic job today. I appreciate you paving the way for many future jobs for people” with different abilities.
Keynote and Event Speakers
John and Mark X. Cronin are frequent speakers at conferences and corporate events. They share their entrepreneurial story of how a young man with Down syndrome together with his father created what is today the world’s largest sock store with a mission to spread happiness. Their speaking engagements bring laughter, tears and inspire people to see what is possible for each of us to achieve. They have spoken in person at events across Canada, the United States and Mexico and virtually at events around the world. They have spoken at events for Microsoft, EY, Bank of America, the Special Olympics, and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.
Their advocacy work has seen the Cronins testify twice before Congress and speak at the United Nations. Their work has been featured on many national news shows. They are winners of many awards including the EY Entrepreneurs of the Year. They serve on the CEO Commission for Disability Employment and the Neurodiversity at Work Business Roundtable.
John and Mark recently recorded their second TEDx Talk entitled, “Hiring People with People with Differing Abilities is Not Altruism, It Is Good Business.” That Talk is available on YouTube and the TED platform. Their first TEDx Talk entitled Differently Abled People Want to Help Us is also available on YouTube and the TED platform.
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 $550,000 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 email@example.com.