John Cronin graduated from high school with uninspiring prospects for a job, so he pitched the idea of a sock business to his dad, Mark. Together, John and Mark run John’s Crazy Socks. In just under two years the company has brought in $1.7 million and employs half its workforce with people with special needs.
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It was in fall of 2016, John’s last year of high school, that the idea for John’s Crazy Socks started to take shape.
Like many of his peers, Cronin was deciding what he wanted to do after graduation. But unlike his classmates, John’s options were somewhat limited. With Down syndrome, the career paths available to him didn’t exactly pique his interest; many were gigs at retail chains and the ones that weren’t had long waiting lists.
The John’s Crazy Socks website officially launched in December 2016. The response from customers, Mark recalls, was promising. They received 42 orders that first day, all local and largely coming from nearby Huntington, New York. John, at the time, was a student at Huntington High School.
John’s enthusiasm for his budding business — and the emphasis he placed on customer service and providing a quality experience — did not go unnoticed. (Jeff Bezos, John notes, does not include candy with Amazon orders). In the beginning, John’s Crazy Socks offered socks in 31 different designs, ranging from $5 to $12 a pair.
Videos and photos of John’s home deliveries started to spread on social media, and sales began to skyrocket. In the first month, Mark recalls they shipped 452 orders, for about $13,000 in revenue.
With the goal of being a one-stop shop for all socks, John’s Crazy Socks carries socks from over 20 different suppliers, with socks in 2,000 different styles. According to Mark, the socks they design themselves though — the charity and awareness socks — are the most successful. Two dollars from every awareness sock sale is donated to the company’s charity partners and John’s Crazy Socks also donates 5 percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics.
In fact, John’s Crazy Socks is also a social enterprise; it employs people of differing abilities, ranging from individuals who have been diagnosed with autism to Down syndrome. Mark points out that while strides have been made in the medical and educational arenas for people with Down syndrome, it’s a different case with jobs.
That can raise serious concerns, and it’s not all financial; research has shown that employment is linked to self-esteem, self-worth, purpose and identity.
So far, John’s Crazy Socks has created 35 jobs, 18 of which are held by people with differing abilities. Many of those positions consist of “sock wranglers,” who sort and organize the inventory.
Hiring people with different abilities is not only beneficial to the lives of the employees, Mark says. Employing people of differing abilities benefits the business.
So John and Mark are trying to do something about that, using their platform to spread the message. In the past year, Mark and John have been to Capitol Hill four times, advocating for people with differing abilities and pushing for more employment rights, and they have testified before the House Committee on Small Business.
Since its launch in December 2016, John’s Crazy Socks has exploded. Last year, Mark says they shipped a little over 42,000 orders, totaling around $1.7 million in revenue. This year, they are on pace to do 160,000 to 180,000 orders, with over $6 million in revenue. Customers include high-profile people ranging from George H.W. Bush to Eva Longoria.
With so many sales rolling in from all around the country, John now only does a handful of local, home deliveries a week. Still, every order is shipped out neatly packaged with the thank you note (which John originally wrote, but has since been duplicated) and candy (they began with Hershey Kisses, but those melted. Then they experimented with M&M’s and Swedish Fish, before ultimately settling on Skittles). John regularly posts videos on social media and also participates in speaking engagements around the country, where he talks about his business and entrepreneurship.
John’s official title at John’s Crazy Socks is chief happiness officer, which is fitting in more ways than one.
“I have Down syndrome,” John says. “Down syndrome doesn’t hold me back.”
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This millennial won’t let Down syndrome stop him from running a million-dollar sock business | CNBC Make It.