Whatever country or industry you work in, it’s not easy to find work if you live with a disability. High-profile role models are few and far between, and inclusive initiatives, such as coffee giant Starbucks’ plan to open sign language stores, are so infrequent that they become major news.
But John Cronin, co-founder of John’s Crazy Socks, has not let this stop him. Working alongside his dad Mark, he’s built up a much loved sock business worth millions of dollars. He’s delivered speeches at graduations, designed new sock ideas, hand-delivered packages to local customers and drummed up support from high-profile individuals including former US President George HW Bush and actors Kevin James and Eva Longoria.
And he’s done all of this as well as—not in spite of—having Down Syndrome.
John had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so he asked his dad Mark if he’d be interested in going into business together. John initially wanted to create a “fun store,” but the two couldn’t decide what a fun store would actually sell.
They then thought about travelling around in a food truck, like in the Jon Favreau movie ‘Chef’. But they realised that this wouldn’t work, as neither of them could cook.
Then, in 2016, John had a flash of inspiration: a ‘crazy sock’ business. The company John’s Crazy Socks now offers almost 2,000 styles—or “socks, socks and more socks,” as John puts it — and has made $4 million in sales. It’s sold thousands and thousands of socks to buyers local and international and employs 35 people — 18 of whom are disabled.
“John has worn crazy socks his whole life. That was his thing,” Mark told CNBC in an interview.
Yesterday I was inspired by my friend John Cronin to wear these beauties from @JohnsCrazySocks marking World Down Syndrome Day. A great sock supporting a wonderful cause. #johnscrazysocks #worlddownsyndromeday #happiness #downsyndrome pic.twitter.com/3ulu8ORsta
— George Bush (@GeorgeHWBush) March 22, 2018
The company has now become so successful that it also stocks other people’s socks. Five percent of all profits go to the Special Olympics, and a proportion of each sale goes to charities including Autism Speakers and the National Down Syndrome Society.
In addition, every sock sale is sent out on the same day it’s ordered with a handwritten thank you note by John and a sweet treat. The wise-cracking John even adds that the company ships faster than Amazon, and “Jeff Bezos never puts a thank you note and candy.”
By having a young man with Down syndrome as the face of the business, speaking at graduations and advocating for changes in law and employing people from varied backgrounds, John’s Crazy Socks hopes to be an inspiration for all.
More importantly, though, the father and son duo simply want to spread happiness across the world.
“I have Down Syndrome,” John told CNBC. “But Down Syndrome doesn’t hold me back.”