Who would have thought that you could build a multi-million-dollar enterprise just selling novelty socks? That’s not why John Cronin got into the sock business, but the stacks of money are a nice by-product of his passion project.
John Cronin, 22, has been wearing crazy socks his whole life. He also has Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition with symptoms that include small stature, low muscle tone and an upward slant to the eyes, as well as cognitive delays, according to National Down Syndrome Society.
About four years ago, John, who lives on Long Island, was approaching high school graduation and pondering his future. The career paths available for individuals with Down syndrome didn’t exactly inspire him.
“There are not many options open to people with disabilities,” Mark Cronin, John’s father, told CNBC. “All job training programs and workshop programs had waiting lists, and not many employers offer jobs for people like John.”
So, John decided to do something different. “I wanted to go in business with my father,” John said. “Because I love my dad so much.”
The two spent some time toying with ideas about what kind of business to start. They thought about opening a food truck, but neither of them really knows how to cook. Their brainstorming continued, until one day, inspiration struck.
An important date was coming up — World Down Syndrome Day, March 21. People traditionally celebrate this important day by wearing crazy socks in fun patterns and colors. Mark remembers that he and John looked for socks specifically celebrating Down syndrome that they could sell, but they couldn’t find any.
“My idea is, I want to make one,” John said.
So, that’s precisely what he did. John designed his own crazy sock: purple with hearts and “3-21” (the date of World Down Syndrome Day).
From that moment on, John’s dream was to have his own business selling crazy socks. And both he and his father jumped in feet first.
“When John came and said we should sell socks, well it seemed like an idea worth trying,” Mark said.
People responded well; on the first day of the business, John and his father sold socks to over 40 customers. Word spread, and soon the business took off.
Today, if you look at the store’s website, you’ll find socks with avocados, socks with sloths, socks that look like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting, and socks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s face. The possibilities are endless, just as they were to John when he decided to start his crazy sock store.
John’s Crazy Socks has ballooned into a multi-million-dollar business. Last year, Mark says they shipped more than 42,000 orders, generating 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. The business has created 35 jobs, 18 of which are held by people with differing abilities, according to Mark.
If that’s not a do-good, feel-good business, I don’t know what is. As an occasional wearer of crazy socks, I think I’m going to take a look at their inventory. Maybe I’ll even add some to my Christmas gift shopping.