By Sophia Ricco
Socks say a lot about a person. They are not only a vehicle for our feet but can spread a message of happiness and inclusion as John’s Crazy Socks has proven.
The Melville-based sock business was started by father and son Mark and John Cronin in 2016. Born with Down syndrome, John has played an instrumental role in developing and leading the business. During his last year attending Huntington High School and Wilson Tech where he studied retail and customer service, John began to ponder what the future would hold.
“He was trying to figure out what he would do when school is done,” Mark said. “But the reality is, there aren’t many good job options for people with differing abilities. In many ways, John is a natural entrepreneur. If he didn’t see what he wanted, he would create it himself.”
Inspired by his love for wearing “crazy socks,” John pitched the idea of selling snazzy socks to his father.
“I love crazy socks because they’re fun, colorful and creative,” John said. “They let me be me.”
His love for wacky socks and making people with smile made John’s Crazy Socks’ mission simple, spreading happiness. They execute this in a multitude of ways, from donating five percent of earnings to the Special Olympics to personalizing deliveries to creating “awareness” socks.
“Everything we do is designed to spread happiness,” Mark said. “We have a different business model. It’s a social enterprise. So we have a social and business mission. They’re indivisible.”
The missions work together, each helping propel the other forward. At first launched with a “lean startup” to see what could happen, John’s Crazy Socks found a few suppliers and posted videos to Facebook of John introducing the business and their mission.
“I talked about socks in the video,” John said. “Then came up with the catchphrase: ‘socks, socks and more socks.’”
The videos got traction and when John’s Crazy Socks opened on December 9, there was an outpouring of support and in-pouring of orders from the community.
“Most of our initial orders were local, which makes sense because we live in Huntington and are involved in the community,” Mark said. “John went to Huntington schools and he’s active in the Chamber of Commerce.”
To make the first orders special, John personally delivered the socks to local homes. With a commitment, to make things personal, John’s Crazy Socks packages every order with care. As a pick-and-pack warehouse, “Sock Wranglers” find the socks, that are assembled in a red box by “Happiness Packers,” the job titles given by John.
“We have stickers, with their names and pictures on them,” Mark said. “You get a package with John’s smiling face on it. You open it up and get your socks, a thank you note from John with our story on the flipside, two discount cards, candy and the pictures of the people who put your order together. You’re not just getting socks, it’s a package of happiness.”
They have ensured anyone will find socks that make them smile, stocking over 2,300 varieties from 27 suppliers.
“We are now the world’s largest sock store, in terms of choice,” Mark said. “We are the one-stop shop for sock’s for everyone.”
Although they don’t design all of their socks, John’s Crazy Socks has created multiple “awareness” socks for Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s and other organizations, with a portion of proceeds donated. In two years they have donated over $280,000 to charity partners, Mark said.
For a sock surprise, they offer a Sock of the Month Club, and themed-packages coveriong everything from cats to sports.
“When we look at products to carry, the criteria we look at is, does it spread happiness,” Mark said. “And can John get excited about it? Our socks we sell let people express their personality, since we have such diversity, anyone can find something they love.”
John’s Crazy Socks stands as a symbol for hope and inspiration. In the first month, they shipped 452 orders and continue to grow. John as the leader and face of the business exemplifies what a person with differing abilities can accomplish when given the opportunity.
“People want to buy socks,” Mark said. “And people want to buy socks from John, because they relate to him with those personal videos. Many people found John inspirational, particularly from families who had children with Down Syndrome or Autism, because it showed the possibilities.”
They create a unified workplace, by employing 23 people with differing abilities, out of a workforce of 39. John highlights what he and his fellow employees achieve, by speaking throughout the country and hosting school tours, work groups and social service agencies at the warehouse.
“We’re a little company, all we want to do is change the world,” Mark said. “We want to show what people with different abilities can do.”
John’s Crazy Socks
40 Republic Road, Melville