It’s estimated that about 6,000 babies with Down Syndrome are born in the United States each year, making it the most common chromosomal condition. While this statistic is disheartening, it also means that the more people that have this disability, the better we can understand it.
Usually, society tries to put limitations on people with disabilities, but the young man in the following story is proving that Down Syndrome has not hindered his life in any way. In fact, the “realness” that he exudes has helped grow his business into something he could have only dreamed of…
Senior At Huntington High School
As John entered his last year of high school at Huntington High School in Long Island, he began to imagine what his future would look like. Having studied retail and customer service, it seemed natural that John would pursue a job in that field.
John, 21, has down syndrome, but for him, it was never a setback. In fact, he had an inkling that he should start his own business after graduation. Around the same time, his father, Mark, was beginning to build a few online businesses of his own…
Starting A Business
When John realized that he didn’t like any of the options he had seen, he turned to his father and said, “I want to go into business with you.” John had worked with his dad before and he thought the best way to find a job he would love was to create one.
This was smart thinking for a 21-year-old and John’s dad was completely on board with this plan. All the father-son duo just had to now was come up with an idea for their first business together. After playing around with ideas, John brought up the suggestion of a fun store. One that was “fun” and “creative.” But neither of them could figure out what a fun store would actually sell…
Next, John suggested a food truck. After falling in love with the movie Chef about a father-son food truck business, John thought it’d be a great idea. Along with his dad, the two began brainstorming what they would cook at their food truck until they ran into a problem.
A Eureka Moment
“We can’t cook,” John said. Now that the food truck idea was gone, John had a eureka moment. “Let’s sell socks,” he suggested to his dad. But, not just any socks, crazy socks. When his dad asked John why he explained that he’s worn crazy socks his entire life…
He’s Always Had A Love For Socks
“They are fun, colorful and creative. They let me be me.” Mark remembers when his son was young and they would drive around looking for fun socks. “It was [John’s] thing.” The idea dawned on them when they realized that if John loved socks so much, others would too.
When the Cronin’s set out to build their business, they first built a website on Shopify, an e-commerce platform. They convinced some suppliers to sell them inventory and opened bank accounts and filed with the State of New York. The only marketing they did for the socks was to set up a Facebook page and shoot some videos with John talking about his socks…
A Personalized Approach
Within the first day of opening their business online, orders were pouring in. Most of the first few were from people who the family knew in Huntington. John and Mark even decided to make their first packages special by making local home deliveries and adding some candy and a thank you note with each package.
Off To A Great Start
This personalized idea worked and their customers loved the fun socks. They took pictures of John and pictures wearing their socks and shared them on social media. This word of mouth helped John and Mark’s business grow and by the end of their first month, “John’s Crazy Socks” had shipped 452 orders in December, which earned them more than $13,000 in revenue. Then, in March 2017, things exploded…
They sold about 10,000 orders and made over $353,000 in revenue, all without any marketing, other than social media. The market’s response to “John’s Crazy Socks” was overwhelming and John felt confident in what he had accomplished with his dad. When they opened, the Cronins thought they might get a trickle of orders, but they had a ton in the first day alone.
Wipeout Of Inventory
In fact, Mark said, “We had a wipeout of the opening inventory.” To fulfill the orders in their first month, Mark bought and resold socks from local Kmarts just to keep up with the demand. Within the first four months, their business has grown so fast that the Cronins had to move to a bigger office…
Wide Variety Of Socks
The company has over 1,500 different kinds of socks and the socks feature everything on them from Abraham Lincoln to astrological signs to beer to NFL quarterbacks. Knee socks have proven to be the biggest seller but the company also sells compression and diabetic socks.
John’s Crazy Socks is known as a pick-and-pack warehouse, which means that they distribute socks made by other companies. John works in sock-wrangling, where he picks out the socks and packages them for delivery. Mark deals with the technical aspects of running their business. This model has proven to be successful for the Cronins and in just over a year…
Over One Million In Revenue
In their first year in business, John’s Crazy Socks shipped more than 42,000 orders and brought in $1.7 million in revenue. Mark attributes the success to John’s dedication. “John never gets any special treatment…He works very hard in this business…We’re usually in the office before 9 am and frequently don’t leave until after eight at night.” Their hard work has been what’s led to their success and the fact that they care so much about their employees and customers.
Hiring People With Disabilities
Part of the Cronins’ business model is hiring people with disabilities. “[It shows] what people with disabilities can do if you give them a chance,” Mark said. The family also gives back and John’s Crazy Socks donates 5 percent of its profits to the Special Olympics. It’s an organization close to John’s heart and he’s training to compete in snowshoeing in the Special Olympics…
The company also designs special socks for other causes, such as autism and Williams syndrome. John’s Crazy Socks donates $2 from each cause socks to local and national organizations. “Giving back is essential,” Mark says.
Since starting the company, both father and son have grown tremendously as a people. When they first opened for business, Mark asked John to deliver a pair of socks to a local customer. This meant that John had to discover how to knock on a door and talk to a stranger…
He even had to deal with his fears everytime he hears a dog barking. He still freezes when he hears barking, but he is learning to overcome it. “One of the things that has been wonderful is the learning experience,” Mark said. John agrees, “It is possible. I have Down Syndrome and it never holds me back.” As far as Mark…
He admits it’s been a learning curve for him as well. Mark is a Harvard graduate who spent most of his career in healthcare management and law. Even though the sock business is new to him, he is getting to learn and have fun with his son.