John and Mark X. Cronin, co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, spoke with self-advocates, parents and supporters at GiGi's Playhouse Phoenix/Scottsdale. The father-son team shared their story as a family and in business to offer an example of what people with Down syndrome can accomplish and to offer encouragement to the self-advocates with Down syndrome and their families.
“I want people to know that I have Down syndrome and Down syndrome never holds me back,” said John Cronin. He added, “And I love GiGi’s Playhouse. I love everything they offer people.”
An Empowering Story
John and Mark shared the story of how and why they started John’s Crazy Socks. As John entered his last year of high school, he began to search for what he would do after leaving school. Much to his disappointment, he could not find meaningful work. Unfortunately, that is a reality for too many people with a differing ability. Only one in four people with a disability is employed in the Unted States.
But John is a natural entrepreneur. He said, “if I cannot find a job, I'll make one.” John approached his father with a suggestion that they go into business together. It was John's idea to sell socks. “Why socks?” said John. “They are colorful, comfortable, and creative and always let me be me. I wore crazy socks my entire life.”
The pair figured that if John loved socks so much surely other people would too. John came up with the name for the business and the idea that they would sell socks online. They opened John's Crazy Socks on Friday, December 9, 2016, not knowing what type of response they would receive. On that first day, they received 42 orders. Most of those orders were local, so they made home deliveries with John knocking on doors and delivering socks. Customers took pictures and shared their excitement on social media; word began to spread. By the end of the month, John and Mark had shipped 452 orders. They did not know how fast their business would grow nor how large it could become, but they knew they had something.
John’s idea has grown into the world’s largest sock store. They have created 34 jobs, 22 of which are held by people with different abilities they have shipped over 430,000 orders to 88 different countries and they're 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. They have created 34 jobs, 22 of which are held by people with different abilities they have shipped over 430,000 orders to 88 different countries and they're 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.
Offering Encouragement to Others
“We have been fortunate to grow this business,” said Mark X. Cronin, John’s father and partner. “It is important that we give back, not only with donations, but by sharing John’s story and showing what is possible. We want people to know what John has done to spark that entrepreneurial spirit in other people with differing abilities. And we want people to see the work that our colleagues perform so they know that employment is possible.”
Their talk included scenes from John’s childhood when he could not speak and learned sign language so he could communicate, yet today is a sought-after public speaker. And John and Mark shared how hiring people with differing abilities helps their business succeed.
Mark said, “Hiring people with a differing ability is not altruism, it is good business.”
John’s Crazy Socks and GiGi’s Playhouse
John and John’s Crazy Socks have long been supporters of the GiGi’s Playhouse program. John participates in some of the programs at GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island and always comes back looking for more.
“GiGi’s Playhouse offers fun things to do and a way to meet people,” said John.
John’s Crazy Socks has donated money and gifts for auctions and raffles, met with program participants, attended, supported fundraising galas and spoken at GiGi’s Playhouse events near and far. Last fall, John and Mark visited the GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo, North Dakota, and earlier this year summer, they spoke at an event for a new location in Portland, Oregon and the pair have worked with the GiGi’s Playhouse in New York City.
Mark X. Cronin, John’s partner and father, said, “We stand in awe at what GiGi’s Playhouse has built. Their community centers offer so much: social gatherings, learning opportunities, career development, networking for parents and more, all serving people with Down syndrome across the country. We count ourselves as fortunate to support the difference they make in the community.”
A Heartwarming Response
After the talk, one attendee wrote, “They are so relatable and funny. John and Mark deliver a serious and uplifting message in such a positive way.”
John took pictures with the families and self-advocates and the father-son team stayed to answer everyone’s questions and engage in lengthy conversations.
One young attendee said, “I love hearing from John.”
A parent said, “We needed this. We need to hear from people who have made it. It give us hope.”
Keynote and Event Speakers
You can have John and Mark speak to your organization or school. 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.
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.