“We are entrepreneurs,” said John, “And we love speaking with other entrepreneurs to share our experiences and offer encouragement.”
Ashlea Lantz, Senior Policy Advisor at the Harkin Institute moderated the panel along with Charlotte Woodward, Education Programs Associate at National Down Syndrome Society. Other panel members included Angad Sahgal and Amit Sahgal, Co-Founders of Let ME Do it and Britni Allen and Dr. Keri Allen Co-Founders of Rosemerry Sparkle Design
Speaking on Growing a Business
John and Mark shared their experiences in starting John’s Crazy Socks and Mark added from his background in starting and leading multiple businesses. They offered concrete lessons learned and mixed in humor about the website crashing or running out of inventory and how they overcame those challenges.
Mark explained, “If you start a business, it is not a question of will things go wrong, only when. And no matter what happens, you have to find a way forward.”
“Entrepreneurship is not for everyone,” said Mark, “but it is an important alternative. Entrepreneurship is open for all including people with different abilities.”
John and Mark urged the audience not to “overthink” and not to wait for the perfect moment. “We have an approach of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim.’ It is important to take action.”
John offered words of encouragement. “Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. Work hard. Show what you can do.”
The audience appreciated their presentation as several would-be business owners asked for private sessions to discuss their budding ventures. As one-person told the pair, “You are plain-spoken and put it right out there so everyone can understand.”
A True Entrepreneurial Success Story
In the fall of 2016, John entered his last year at Huntington High School and began looking for a path he could follow upon graduation. He could not find meaningful work, which was not a surprise as John has Down syndrome and there are not enough opportunities for people with differing abilities.
But John is a natural entrepreneur. He turned a problem into an opportunity and suggested to his father that they go into business together. Shortly before Thanksgiving, John had his Eureka moment and said that they should sell socks. The father-son team set to work building a website, acquiring inventory and spreading the word about the business they would open. John's Crazy Socks took its first orders on December 9, 2016. John and Mark wanted to test the idea and see how customers would respond.
Customers loved John's Crazy Socks. Within two weeks, the pair had shipped 452 orders and knew they had something. They have grown the business into the world's largest sock store with 4,000 different socks. Among their milestones:
- They have shipped over 425,000 orders to 88 different countries.
- They've created 34 jobs and 22 of those are held by people with differing abilities.
- Their Giving Back Program has donated over $650,000 to charity partners.
- John and Mark have testified twice before the U.S Congress, spoken twice at the United Nations and been honored by the New York State legislature.
- They have been named Entrepreneurs of the Year by EY.
- They have recorded two TEDx Talks.
“We joke that we are a couple of knuckleheads selling socks and all we want to do is change the world,” said Mark.
Indeed, John and Mark speak to groups across the country and even around the world advocating for the rights of people with differing abilities, demonstrating the benefits of hiring people with differing abilities and encouraging entrepreneurship.
“We want the world to see what people with differing abilities, people like me, can do,” said John.
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 two times 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 $650,000 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, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.