John and Mark X. Cronin spoke to the entrepreneurship students at Long Island University – C.W. Post bringing their blend of inspiration, know-how and social entrepreneur strategy. John and Mark are the father and son team that co-founded John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise they have built into the world’s largest sock store. Responding to an invitation from Professor Jim Freely, John and Mark offered encouragement and challenges to the students that led to invigorating conversation at the end of their talk.
Responding to an invitation from Professor Jim Freely, John and Mark offered encouragement and challenges to the students that led to invigorating conversation at the end of their talk.
The Cronins shared the inspirational story of how John, a young man with Down syndrome, and his father, started and built John’s Crazy Socks, 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. The father and son team had the audience laughing and nodding in agreement and left more than a few audience members in tears.
John Cronin said, “We love speaking with students who want to be entrepreneurs because we are entrepreneurs. These are our people.”
Professor Freely said, “Mark and John are such dynamic speakers. It is wonderful for students to hear from them so they can understand the opportunities entrepreneurs face as well as the challenges. The students can hear first-hand how the Cronins have built a nationally recognized social enterprise."
More than Just a Good Story
The students enjoyed hearing how John and Mark began with a lean start up, bootstrapping their way to a multi-million dollar business. They also heard about the mission driven business that is John’s Crazy Socks and the five pillars on which they have built the business.
“It is important for the students to hear that talk of mission and purpose is not idle talk, but essential to making a business go,” said Professor Freely.
In their talk, the Cronins covered multiple subjects of interest to the students:
- The Origin Story: How to Make a Dream a Reality
- Building a Social Enterprise
- Creating a Unified Workforce Where People with Differing Abilities Work Side by Side with Neurotypicals
- The Benefits of Hiring People with Differing Abilities
- Some Entrepreneurial Lessons
Entrepreneurs play a special role in our economy and our society,” said Mark X. Cronin. Entrepreneurs make new ideas a reality, they make change happen and can have a profound impact on people’s lives.”
Creating a Social Enterprise: Entrepreneurship that Makes a Difference
The students valued the conversation. Afterwards, one student said, “This was the best class all year. I learned so much and understood what I can do with a business.”
Mark and John discussed the Five Pillars on which they have built their business. 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 neurotypicals and how that has benefited their business. Mark said, “Hiring people with differing abilities is not altruism, it is good business.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.