December 09, 2022
John and Mark X. Cronin - 7-Figure Growth by Spreading Happiness

When John Cronin was in his last year of high school, he looked around at all of his options for his career, as a person with Down Syndrome, and didn’t like any of them. So he decided to create his own. Together with his dad,...


When John Cronin was in his last year of high school, he looked around at all of his options for his career, as a person with Down Syndrome, and didn’t like any of them. So he decided to create his own. 

Together with his dad, Mark, John started up John’s Crazy Socks, combining his passion for entrepreneurship and his love for crazy, wild, colourful socks, which he says “Just let me be me”. 

And thank goodness they do - John is at the heart of the business’ brand, and his joyfulness and sincerity have been the drivers for building an huge, engaged and passionate following. 

From his weekly dance parties to his Friday emails, to the podcast he hosts with his dad Mark, John has made his commitment to spreading happiness the core of every decision that has been made in the business, and it shows. 

This absolutely delightful duo gives us a master class in values-based business, building a strong, engaging brand and remaining tightly tuned in to your customers and your audience. 

I’m so honoured to have had the chance to speak to Mark and John, and I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.

Find John and Mark at:

Website: www.johnscrazysocks.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnscrazysocks/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johnscrazysocks 

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/johnscrazysocks 

Visit Stephanie at: https://stephaniehayes.biz/

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Transcript
Stephanie Hayes:

Welcome to the Real People Real Business Show. My name is Stephanie Hayes, and I'm a business strategist who loves to speak with like-minded entrepreneurs to share their real stories and the gritty details of building their businesses. On this show, you won't hear the glamorized entrepreneurship journeys that you see online. You won't be told how to make six figures in six weeks. Instead, you can expect to hear real, vulnerable and inspiring stories you can relate to that have helped create the foundation for each of our guest's businesses. Goodbye, boss babes. Hello, real life entrepreneurs. Today, I'm so, so excited to welcome John and Mark x Cronin. John and Mark X are the father and son team that founded John's Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. John is an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a speaker, an athlete, and a dancer who just happens to have Down Syndrome. You may have seen them on one of their many television appearances. You may know them for being named Ernst & Young's Entrepreneurs of the Year, or testifying before Congress or speaking at the United Nations. You may know them because John became sock buddies with President George H W Bush, or you may know them for having bootstrapped a startup into a multimillion dollar social enterprise in the world's largest sock store. You love their socks, but the socks are just the physical manifestation of the happiness that they share. Welcome to the show, gentlemen, and thanks so much for taking the time to share your story.

John Cronin:

Thank you, Stephanie. We're really fortunate.

Mark X Cronin:

We're really glad to be here and, uh, you know, we love the idea because we're actually real people.

Stephanie Hayes:

I know you are. I'm looking at you right now.

Mark X Cronin:

Here. If I, if I punch him, it hurts. Am I a muppet or a man?

Stephanie Hayes:

You guys are such a joy. So dive righted. Let's hear it. So what's the backstory behind John's Crazy Socks?

Mark X Cronin:

Well, our story starts just about six years ago. In fact, we're gonna celebrate our sixth anniversary this weekend. Is this Friday? This Friday our, our story starts in a small log cabin in the woods. No, no. It starts out on suburban Long Island, outside New York City, but born out of necessity. Um, John, where were you?

John Cronin:

Um, I was at, I was 18 at high school. I was in my last year of school. Um. I don't, I...

Mark X Cronin:

You were looking around trying to figure out, I figure what do I do when I'm done with school?

John Cronin:

Yes.

Mark X Cronin:

And you didn't say anything you liked. Now we should make sure people know, um, among all the other things who have going on, you have Down Syndrome.

John Cronin:

I do. I have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome never held me back.

Mark X Cronin:

And, and Stephanie, this is an unfortunate reality. There just aren't enough opportunities for people with differing abilities. So John didn't see anything he liked. Um, and that was tough, but that's, you know, only one in five people with a disability in the US have a job. And it's similar in Canada, it's awful. But John here, John's a natural entrepreneur.

John Cronin:

Yes, I am.

Mark X Cronin:

If you didn't see a job you wanted, what'd you say?

John Cronin:

I wanna create one. I wanna make one, Dad.

Mark X Cronin:

And what did you tell me?

John Cronin:

I wanna build a business with my father. A nice Father Son business together.

Mark X Cronin:

So this is pretty cool. I mean, I've got, I'm a lucky man I've got to recently.

John Cronin:

Yes, you are.

Mark X Cronin:

Uh, John's the youngest ... John Cronin: Yes I am. And this is one I can work with.

John Cronin:

Yes, I am.

Mark X Cronin:

Um, so, okay, we're gonna go into business together. You work with entrepreneurs all the time, you know, entrepreneurs have lots of ideas.

John Cronin:

I love entrepreneurs. . Mark X Cronin: Some of Um, what was one of your ideas for a business... A food truck! I had the idea from the movie Chef by Jon Favreau, a movie about a father and son buying a food truck!

Mark X Cronin:

And this seemed like a lot of fun and we are thinking what could we make and where would we put it? But we ran into a problem.

John Cronin:

We can't cook!

Mark X Cronin:

Yeah, we can't cook . So it small problem, just a small problem. It wasn't gonna be a food truck, but then. Right before Thanksgiving...

John Cronin:

I had plenty ideas.

Mark X Cronin:

Brilliant. Your Eureka moment.

John Cronin:

Oh, top of my head. Um, I want to sell crazy socks. Why socks? It's fun, it's colorful, it's creative. It's always let me be me. I want crazy socks. Like my whole life.

Mark X Cronin:

Right. We used to drive around looking for, right? Yeah. So we figured this. If John loved those socks that much, surely other people would too, and we could connect with them. So at that point, we eschewed the traditional business plan route. We said Let's just get something up and running. We'll go with the lean startup. So we built a website on the Shopify platform. Yes, we got a little bit of inventory. That was a little bit of a challenge because suppliers wouldn't sell to us until we showed that we had customers. But if we couldn't get any inventory, how could we get customers? So we had to cajole a few to sell to us, even though we had to pay up front. We were bootstrapping. And again, many of your listeners will relate to that. We got asked recently by a student, uh, well, what exactly is bootstrapping? What does that mean? He said, it means you have no money, so you have to figure out how do you make do with what you have. So the only marketing we did was to set up a Facebook page and I would take out my cell phone and we made video. And who was in those videos?

John Cronin:

I am! I talked about socks. I have a catch phrase - "Socks, Socks and More Socks!"

Stephanie Hayes:

John, so how many pairs of socks do you own?

John Cronin:

Um, we have, uh, 4,000 different kinds of socks.

Mark X Cronin:

Well, that's here in the warehouse. But how many do you own? Um, I do know at one point he told me, dad, you gotta get me a new dresser because I need my hair, my socks. But that's, we opened, you know, that's how we built it. Got to, got started. What day did we open?

John Cronin:

We opened, um, on Friday, December 9th, 2016

Mark X Cronin:

And we didn't know what to expect. But we were very fortunate. We got what felt like a flood of orders. We got 42 orders the first day and most of them were local, which made sense. Right. He's in the local high school. That's where we lived. We had temporary office space there. What'd we do with those first orders?

John Cronin:

Our home delivery, they get red boxes.

Mark X Cronin:

Put the socks in the box. Yeah. We looked at it and said, this needs something else.

John Cronin:

I put, I thinking though, I. And I put out all the back out for the candy.

Mark X Cronin:

We put candy in, right? Yeah. Loaded up the car and drove around. And you knocked on doors delivering socks?

John Cronin:

I did.

Mark X Cronin:

How'd the customers respond?

John Cronin:

Customers loved it, and they took a picture with me and their socks and showed it on social media. I, I did a spread.

Mark X Cronin:

We had customers ordering again, just to get John to come back to their door.

John Cronin:

Yes.

Mark X Cronin:

And there was some funny nights, right? We were out at past 10 o'clock at night and John's knocking on doors, you know, it's just John with your socks. Like, like, don't shoot, just it's, um, so at the end of that month, really two weeks, we had shipped 452 orders and we knew we had something. We didn't know how fast it would grow. We didn't know where it would go, but we knew we could develop that business because you learn by doing. So. We learned a few things.

John Cronin:

One, my people wear my socks. Two people wear my socks for ME.

Mark X Cronin:

They related to John. They liked that personal touch of the thank you note and candy they liked the fact we had already pledged 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics, and there was something that we learned that caught us by surprise. But there are some things you're gonna learn only because you go and actually do, and that was that people, we had a very emotional response from people because they saw a young man with Down Syndrome starting a business and, and we also learned this young man...

John Cronin:

This old man.

Mark X Cronin:

This old man. We could sell socks. Okay. I, yes. Thank you. So that's, that's where we started. Um, six years later. We are now the world's largest sock store in terms of choice, and John told you we have 4,000 different socks. We've shipped over 390,000 packages to 88 different countries. We've been able to create 34 year round jobs. 22 of those are held by people with different abilities. We just stated 15 seasonal workers, 12 of whom have differing abilities. We've raised over $550,000 US for our charity partners. Um, and as you like to say, we're just getting started. Um, so it's good.

Stephanie Hayes:

Now, now you, you simplify what you've actually accomplished because in addition, to growing the business and building the revenue that you've built and building something sustainable, which is hard by the way. Um, you guys are speaking, you are, um, doing charitable work and I think what I, I love so much about your business is your commitment to these five pillars, and I wondered if maybe you could talk a little bit about those five pillars, how you make sure that those are always true in everything that you.

Mark X Cronin:

Sure. Well, you have to start and know what you are about. So what's our mission?

John Cronin:

Spread Happiness!

Mark X Cronin:

Spreading happiness. And you know, I, I'm the old one, so I've been around, I've participated in corporate mission statement writing exercises and awful, you know, people put it on the wall and nobody knows what it says and nobody pays attention. But for us, that's spreading happiness. We talk about it every day. That becomes the criteria we use for making our decisions. You know, talking about the website, talking about products, talking about delivery. Um, yep. And that's really important. And I, and I don't think that there's any particular rocket science to it. It's, you have to believe it, you have to keep talking about it, and it then becomes manifest in everything you. And what do you say are the keys to happiness?

John Cronin:

It, it's gratitude for others,

Mark X Cronin:

Gratitude for others. And that really drives us. So what we have is a slightly different type of business model. It's a social enterprise. We have both that social end of business mission and they feed off of each other. We wouldn't exist if we didn't have them. Wait. Think about it this way. We've gone out and counted the number of sock companies out there. It turns out there are one gazillion sock companies. And if all we are doing is selling socks, what do we say? Ours are better than yours and I don't smell like yours. And cheaper, we'd be lost. But because we have this mission, this story, this purpose, that differentiates us with the in the marketplace, and that helps us stand out and connect to customers. And our five pillars are an outgrowth of that one.

John Cronin:

One, uh, is Inspiration and Hope. Two, Giving Back. Three, Fun Products You Can Love. Four , Make It Personal. And five, Make This a Great Place to Work.

Mark X Cronin:

We added the fifth one as we grew, right? So, so just think about this. If our mission is to spread happiness with our customers in the community, we have to start at home. We have to start here. Our colleagues have to be happy working at John's Crazy Socks. They have to be engaged. And, and we break that down into five pieces, one, or for people, a mission worthy of their commitment. You know, in, in the United States since August of last year, 4 million people have quit their jobs each month. People are saying, I'm not gonna work for a crap wage. I'm not gonna work in bad circumstances. And they're asking, you know, if I'm working 40 hours a week, what am I doing? Well, you wanna offer them a purpose, something larger than ourselves, and it's gotta be more than we're just gonna make money. And, and you know, Stephanie, yes. We wanna make money. It turns out John and I like to live indoors. Um, right. But it's gotta be more than that. Then two, make sure everybody knows why his or her job matters. There's no cog in machinery. There's no make work. I had a friend, a business owner say to me recently. Yeah, well Mark, that sounds nice, but you can't make sure that everybody's job is I. I'm looking at 'em saying, well then why do you employ these people? If their jobs don't matter? Why are they on your payroll? Everybody's gotta know how, what they do matters and connects to the mission. Then put people in a position to succeed. Don't ask people to do what they can't do, we don't ask John to do our finances. Give people what they need. And if Kenny or Lead Packer needs a particular chair, why don't we get him that? Now we're a small business. We don't have endless resources, but if you just pay attention, you can take care of people. Four, recognize what people do. Stephanie, you prepare for your podcast. You work at it. Don't you like it when somebody says to you, Hey Stephanie, I was, listening. You do a great job. Right. Some of it's as simple as just saying thank you. And then the last piece is stay the out of the way. Let people do their jobs. Right. So that rolls up to let's make this a great place to work. The making it personal. Well, you heard from day one. We're doing home deliveries. We're putting thank you notes in candy in every package. That's true. Now we've sent 390,000 packages out with candy. You know when you make some missteps. When we started, what candy were we using?

John Cronin:

Hershey's Kisses

Mark X Cronin:

Hershey's Kisses, which everybody loved, right? You opened a package, you could smell the chocolate until we got the email from the woman in Florida saying, you may not wanna send chocolate to the south in the mail.

Stephanie Hayes:

Oh no!

Mark X Cronin:

So now what do we put in?

John Cronin:

And now we put in Skittles

Mark X Cronin:

Things that don't melt. Right? You, you, you ask, how do you do it? It has, you have to start with that belief. You have to start with the belief that we wanna make a personal connection with customers. Then it becomes manifested in everything we do. So we don't go chasing transactions. We're looking to build relationships. And I, I'll give you an example that your listeners, business owners can relate to one of your most valuable assets is your email list. Well, if you sell online, you know, every time you send out an email blast you are gonna get a little blip in sales. You might get a big blip in sales. So it's really tempting to send out a lot of emails. There are some companies, I get four emails a day, who the hell wants four emails a day? Right? So we look at it that our customers have trusted us with their email. And we're gonna respect that trust. We only send emails out to people that want to get 'em. So yeah, you have to sign up. But then if you stop opening the emails, we'll stop sending it to you. We don't wanna bother you. So we have over 250,000 email names, but when we send out a blast to everybody, it goes to about 90,000. We only send out two emails blasts a week. One will introduce a new product or tell 'em something new we have, but the other is John's Friday email no sales. It's just John sharing what he's up to and what's going on. Um, it's, um, and, and what are the results of that? In email, one of the, one of the, um, metrics that you track is open rate. You wanna hit at least a 20% open rate. If you get up to 30%, you're doing pretty well. We get a 55% open rate cause we're connecting with customer that will serve us better in the long run. So that's an example of how you make that real. Very tangible nuts and bolts, but that shows up in everything we do. We don't have any voice trail. You're gonna, you call here, you're gonna talk to an actual person, you're gonna have an actual human conversation. There are no scripts. We don't listen in on phone calls. Then it's fun products you can love. That there are kind of two levels to that. One is choosing what we sell, right? So it's gotta be fun, it's gotta spread happiness.

John Cronin:

Absolutely. I gotta be behind.

Mark X Cronin:

And John's gotta endorse it. If John can't stand up and endorse a product, we won't sell it. Absolutely. And there have been some things we've sent back, um, because we're sitting now, John can't do this. Um, but it also means we have to fulfill our promises. Yes, we have a social mission. Yes, we hire people with different abilities, but we have to make good on our promise to our customers. So we have to have a great website. We gotta have great selection. We have more selection than anybody else. You, the products have to be good. We have over 30,000 5 star reviews and the service has to be good. We do same day shipping. We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over in Amazon. He's not putting the thank you note candy in his package.

Stephanie Hayes:

No candy, especially not chocolate

Mark X Cronin:

Right? It's not right? But then, uh, giving back. The, it's not enough to just sell stuff. You gotta connect, you gotta engage. We wanna show gratitude. So we started by pledging 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics and why the Special Olympics?

John Cronin:

I am a special Olympic athlete.

Mark X Cronin:

Right. How long you been in Special Olympics?

John Cronin:

21 years.

Mark X Cronin:

21 years. What sports?

John Cronin:

Uh, basketball. Track and field soccer and snow shoe.

Mark X Cronin:

Snowshoe.

Stephanie Hayes:

But you're a dancer as well?

John Cronin:

Yeah. Yeah. Am I'm I dancer.

Mark X Cronin:

If, if there was no Special Olympics, there'd be no John's Crazy Socks. He's learned so much, gained confidence and experience through that. So that's an important way to give back. But we've gone on to create products that celebrate causes, raise awareness and raise money for those causes. So the first awareness he created was

John Cronin:

A Down Syndrome awareness sock.

Mark X Cronin:

Down syndrome awareness socks. And who created that? I. And that raises money for the National Down Syndrome Society and the, uh, and a local group, ACDS. But we have Autism Awareness Socks, Cerebral Palsy Awareness

John Cronin:

Animal Rescue Socks.

Mark X Cronin:

So, We've raised over $550,000 for our charity partners. John's donated over $125,000 to the Special Olympics, more than any special Olympic athlete, but that connects us with our customers because our customers know, part of the experience of buying here is they're supporting these charities that matter to them as, as we record this, we're in the beginning of December, 2020. Well, we're doing our 12 days of giving. Each day we highlight a different charity partner and we donate $1 from every order received to that charity partner. So today, for example, we are celebrating the Autism Society of America. So every order we receive today will donate an extra dollar to the Autism Society of America. You gotta look for ways. To give back. But that becomes an important business principle cuz it's part of the experience we share with our customers and it's part of how we connect with our customers. And then inspiration and hope is, is, yeah, that's the most important pillar. Yes. We wanna show what people with different abilities can do. We start with John here, you have Down Syndrome. Yeah, I am. We don't put you in the back.

John Cronin:

I'll be in the front. I'm the face of the business.

Mark X Cronin:

And, and this cuts as two sides to it. On one hand, we want to encourage students and people with different abilities. We wanna give them hope, we wanna encourage them, we wanna send them a message. We need you. You have skills. You have abilities. We need you in the market. So we host tours here. We've had over a thousand people come through our operations. We host work groups from schools. We do Now, we've moved much of this online, so we've had school groups around the world come through. We speak at schools and with parents. We wanna show, look, look what can happen. The other side of that is speaking to other businesses and policy makers. To say, you know, hiring people with differing abilities is not altruism. It's good business. We make that business argument all the time. So we've made two TEDx talks on that subject. We've spoken at conferences and with, uh, Businesses from, you know, Microsoft and IBM and LinkedIn and Ernst and Young. Um, we visited Vancouver with the US State Department, speaking to, uh, some local groups there and speaking at the university. Um, anything we can do to, let's get out and don't tell show people demonstrate. And the business has given us a platform where some people will listen to us and that creates an obligation on our part to speak up for people who can't speak to themselves, right? So that's led us to testify twice before the US Congress. We get to meet with legislators, um, to, and when we get those opportunities. We have to speak up for others. All that rolls up to become John's Crazy Socks.

Stephanie Hayes:

Well, and I think this is what's just so compelling to me, is that you haven't created a business. You've created an entire life. You've created an entire platform. You've created an entire brand that has nothing to do with socks.

Mark X Cronin:

Right? The socks, we are simultaneously the world's largest sock store and. We're not really a sock store. Yeah. The socks become the physical manifestation of the story and the mission. You know, in that ways we're as much a content company as we are a sock company, but the socks become the thing that can bind us. So if you are a customer, You're getting this experience. You buy from us and you know, you help us employ people with different abilities. You help us give back. Most of all, you help us spread happiness. You know, the thing that makes us feel best is when customers tell us, when I put the socks on in the morning, they just make me feel good.

Stephanie Hayes:

So, you know, it's, it's an old sort of business adage. You know it as a customer, I'm buying your products because of what it says about me too and what I believe in, and I think what you guys have done so beautifully, probably not even intentionally, completely from the heart, was make this an experience, make this, make this emotional connection with your customers, with John as a brand. And because he just so naturally fits.

Mark X Cronin:

Yes. It's that personal connection. And we know the hero in our story is our customer. That's right. Because it's the customer that makes everything possible. And, and we can share, you know, we know we're, you have an audience of business owners out there. It's not all been easy. Um, you know, we bootstrapped, which meant we had no... We were under capitalized. So particularly in our second year, we experienced rapid growth, which everybody wants, but that puts a big strain on your finances. I remember the end of the year, I'm looking saying, oh, we had great revenue and we made a profit on paper. How come I have no money? You know, my accountant's laughing at me. Say, Mark, it's all in your inventory and in your warehouse that you built. Then in the next year when things came down to earth, we ran outta money and we had people wanting to, you know, investors coming along wanting to put money in a company. And what they really wanted to do was buy the name and the image and shut us down. And they're telling us, oh, you and John will make out great. Well, we never would. Because the brand has to be more than just a smiling face. It's, it has to, it's everything that you do. Right.

Stephanie Hayes:

And I think this is relevant not just to a social enterprise, but even if your, you know, your business is entirely for profit, I think the same lesson applies. I think the same, you know, the same approach applies that you, you need to believe in something and you need to be behind something.

Mark X Cronin:

Yes, because particularly here, you know when times get tough and they will, if you know what you are about and you know what your values are, that will give you your North star. That will keep you moving forward, right? Who? Who the heck predicted a pandemic? 2020? When we got hit with that, it was awful. We lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. And what do you. Well, we knew what we were about, so you know, first thing we had to do was make sure everybody was safe. Right? Right. Particularly many of our colleagues were very vulnerable. Make sure everybody's safe. And then how can you adapt? Well, you move speaking engagements online and tours online. We had socks. We made healthcare superhero socks to say thank you to line workers. And they raised over $50,000 from the American Nurses Foundation. And then what else can you do? What new opportunities present? Well, we made, uh, mask, but how do you spread how happiness, if everybody's shut. Oh, what do you do Every Tuesday afternoon?

John Cronin:

Every Tuesday I have a dance party at 3:00 PM.

Mark X Cronin:

John hosts an online dance party. What better way to make people happy than dance?

Stephanie Hayes:

Wait, I wanna join your online dance party.

Mark X Cronin:

Come and join. Go to the website. What's the website?

John Cronin:

JohnsCrazySocks.Com

Mark X Cronin:

And at the bottom you can sign up for the dance party, right?

Stephanie Hayes:

I'm so in.

Mark X Cronin:

We started a Facebook live show, which is, we still do, and that evolved. Now we have our own podcast. What's that called?

John Cronin:

The Spreading Happiness Podcast.

Mark X Cronin:

Just 30 minutes of us bantering and telling some jokes. John updates his love life. Yep. Um, but, Because that's part of the mission. How can we spread happiness? And that helped us survive and thrive through the pandemic.

Stephanie Hayes:

But here's what's so beautiful about this, is every time I, I would look at my socks, there's happiness, right?

Mark X Cronin:

Right.

Stephanie Hayes:

We don't, I don't wanna just put on regular socks every day. I have banana socks. Okay. That. Dear friends in California sent to me and every time I put them on, I think of my dear friends in California. These are not, these are not just consumer items, are they?

Mark X Cronin:

No. They become memorable. Like our, we've been selling direct to consumer now. Right now our fast is growing segment. It's actually business to business. Other business is mind. Why? Well, you know, you buy 'em, buy the socks, give them out to your customers or your employees. People actually wear them. And they remember you, and every time they put 'em on, they're gonna think about you. And if they're powered by us, well there's another story behind it. Um, and then somebody sees 'em wearing those socks and says something, and now they share that story. Um, it's so much better than a t-shirt or another coffee mug or, or another stress ball

Stephanie Hayes:

And it's practical.

Mark X Cronin:

Yeah.

Stephanie Hayes:

John, what's it like working with your dad?

John Cronin:

Um, I, I like, I like working with my dad and the way my dad taught me he believed in me. He knew I can have success. I learned a lot.. I learned a lot because my dad gave that to me. He became successful and I'm so lucky to have a clear partner like him.

Mark X Cronin:

So, Stephanie, we recently received a, a family business award and we're at this event and all these people are speaking all the glorious, wonderful things about family businesses. Well, let's talk a little reality. So John and I founded this business. Uh, one of his brothers, one of my other sons, came and worked with us for a bit. He doesn't work with us anymore and this is a good thing. Now understand, I love him dearly. We are close, but if we kept working together, you were gonna find us both in a pool of blood on the floor with axes in our heads, and John. You know my wife, your mom works with us, right? What's her title?

John Cronin:

She is a mama, mama bear.

Mark X Cronin:

She's the mama bear. There are times like we're driving home and she'll look at me and say, can we please just stop? Can we please leave this in the office? You know, can we, um, there are always struggles in a family business. Mm-hmm. , and you know, then the numbers that don't speak well for family businesses, the failure rates in second generation and then by third generation are astronomical. Um, But we're fortunate. I'm, I'm lucky if you could...

Stephanie Hayes:

if you're just listening to this, you'll have to imagine John and his dad hugging. Hello, your dad and kissing on the screen right now. And I just like, I might cry. I think this is just a beautiful story. There's one question I ask all of my podcast episode guests. That I would love to hear your response to. As you know, this show is about telling the real stories, telling the, the gritty, the vulnerable, the, you know, all the stuff that actually happens out there. What's the different, what's the biggest difference between what we hear out there in the business world and what's real about running a business?

Mark X Cronin:

Well, I think part of it is the challenge to do it every. The fact that you were successful yesterday does not mean you will be successful today or tomorrow. And you have to keep finding a way. And we've had our ups and downs. You know, I, we tell this story and it all sounds so wonderful and easy. By the end of 2019, we were, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt. I remember meeting with the bankruptcy law firm with them telling me, mark, you have to declare chapter 11. We'll handle that for you. All you have to do is give us $50,000 up front. And I looked at 'em and I said, guys, if I had $50,000, I wouldn't be talking to you. Um, that can be tough, you know it. Taking on the responsibility for all the people we have working here is tough. Um, there are great joy and wouldn't want it any other way, but there are challenges that you're gonna face every day, and it's not, and it's particularly something we share. We speak with students and there's not a question of will things go wrong. It's only a question of when will they go wrong, and then you have to find a way forward. You know, sometimes it's as easy as Skittles in front of, instead of, uh, Hershey's kisses. Sometimes it's not.

Stephanie Hayes:

I love that. You guys, it's been an absolute delight talking to you today. Can you share with our audience how can they find you? And we'll post all your links and we'll post all of the wonderful things that you have sent over in the show notes. But for those who have, those who are just listening, can you tell them what is the best way that they can find you? How do they find some socks?

Mark X Cronin:

JohnsCrazySocks.com if you wanna reach out to us personally, you can do it there. You can find out, you know, you go to the bottom. It's a lot of information you can find out about, uh, um, the dance party, about custom socks. Give packages, speaking engagements, our podcast. Um, and you can come and get great socks. And when you. You're gonna help us employ people with different abilities. You help us give back. Most of all, you help us spread happiness.

Stephanie Hayes:

Well, I can't think of any better reason to go shopping. I love it you guys. Listen, we are up against time and I wish we could talk for another hour, but it's been such a delight having you both here. Thank you so much for your time and we are gonna wrap up the episode. I'm so happy we had the opportunity to chat with John and Mark today to hear more about how their business came to be, their experiences along the way, and what the future of the business entails. And thank you for tuning into this episode of The Real People Real Business Show, where we get the real entrepreneurial stories and journeys that you can relate to. Show notes, resources, and links from this episode. Go buy Some socks are available on my website and social media platforms. Thank you again for joining us today, and if you've enjoyed today's content, I'd love for you to give us a review on whatever platform you're on to help us share these genuine stories and socks with an even bigger audience. Until next time, keep building. Keep dreaming and keep being real.

John & Mark X. CroninProfile Photo

John & Mark X. Cronin

Sock Tycoons

John and Mark X. Cronin are the father-son team that created John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. They bootstrapped their business into the world’s largest sock store. John is not only a business owner, but he has Down syndrome. Every day, John and Mark show what people with differing abilities can do – more than half their colleagues have a differing ability. And they show their gratitude through their Giving Back program that has raised nearly $500,000 for their charity partners. Most of all, they are spreading happiness one pair of socks at a time.