Father and son business shows the world what employees with disabilities can achieve
Fun is the secret of success at John’s Crazy Socks, based in Melville, New York. “And candy,” adds Cofounder John Cronin, who puts Skittles and a hand-written thank-you note in each order. The father-son duo went into business together in part to demonstrate what people can achieve, hiring many employees with disabilities. Cofounder Mark Cronin reports that in its first two years, their business has gone viral. To handle rapid growth and big demand spikes, the company uses Microsoft 365 and Surface Pro devices.
Whether you like corgi butts, puns, or Edgar Allen Poe, you’ll find colorful hosiery to match your interests at John’s Crazy Socks, a small company that sent 43,000 orders to 44 countries in its first year. Whether customers choose socks that glow in the dark, have troll doll hair you can comb, or promote awareness around disabilities like autism or Down syndrome, if the order comes in by 3:00 PM, the company’s “sock wranglers” ship it the same day.
The combination of giving back to the community and offering personalized service helps John’s Crazy Socks distinguish itself and compete with big retailers. The company hosts up to six school visits each week to provide visitors with work experience and an educational outing. Its same-day shipping has a twist: each package includes a thank-you note and some Skittles from John, who also makes time for local home deliveries.
Cofounder Mark Cronin says he and his son, John Cronin, have plenty of new ideas, too. “We’re rolling out custom socks this year,” says Mark. “We’re also creating a John’s Crazy Socks network on YouTube and Facebook with shows hosted by or featuring people with disabilities.”
When John, who has Down syndrome, considered a career, he let his imagination run free. “Open a fun store,” was his first idea, followed by “Start a food truck!” There was just one problem with the second idea. “We can’t cook,” admits John.
He returned to the idea of opening a store, as he’d worked as a mail clerk at one of several businesses Mark had run in the past, and he’d studied retailing in high school. “I said, ‘I want to sell socks,’” recalls John. “I’ve worn crazy, colorful socks my entire life, for fun. I like to be creative. And to let me be me.”
“He kept going with that idea,” says Mark. “He had the name of the company and drawings of what a website could look like.” So the cofounders began in lean startup mode. “We built a website on the Shopify e-commerce platform and got some inventory,” he continues. “For marketing, we set up a Facebook page and made some videos of John talking about his socks. And he came up with a catchphrase.”
“Socks, socks, and more socks,” confirms John.