21yo and his dad build six-figure business
JOHN CRONIN'S message is simple, "socks, socks and more socks", but the mission of this 21-year-old entrepreneur with Down syndrome is much more powerful: smashing stereotypes of what people with a disability can achieve.
"Down syndrome never holds me back," John Cronin, founder of John's Crazy Socks', told FOX Business. "I love inspiring people."
In 2016, John was finishing high school and, like other young men, was facing a big decision of what to do next.
Not liking the choices he faced, John turned to his father Mark 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.
So John started dreaming up some business ideas including a "fun store" - they are still trying to figure that one out - and a food truck.
Eventually, John's love for colourful socks became an inspiration, and in December 2016, John's Crazy Socks, an online one-stop sock shop, opened for business. From food-inspired knee highs to canine crew socks, John's Crazy Sock's now boasts over 1,300 pairs of outrageous socks.
"I love socks because they're fun, they're colourful, and they keep your feet warm," John tells Time.
Mark adds, "John had worn crazy socks his entire life, that was his thing. We would drive around looking for them. It seemed as if John loved fun socks so much, others would too."
Before launching their e-commerce store and convincing some suppliers to sell them some inventory they did a small amount of marketing - they set up a Facebook page and shot some low-fi videos with John talking about his socks.
Since the site went live, business has been booming.
"We are on a mission to spread happiness, and we are spreading that message through socks," Mark said.
Each order is shipped out the same day and includes John's story, often a hand written note by John, some lollies and two discount cards - "one for you and one to give to a friend".
Like any start-up, John's Crazy Socks ran into its fair share of challenges. Initially, manufacturers refused to do business with a start-up that had no track record.
"I think there was an assumption on many that this was a quaint, little business, you were doing part time and on the side. When they find out, in our first year, we are going to dd $US1.3 million ($AU1.7 million), that makes people sit up," Mark said. "Which I would suggest is pretty good for a start-up."
The company recently shipped socks to former president George HW Bush, comedian Kevin James and Houston Texans football player JJ Watt.
More than profit, John and Mark are dedicated to giving back. Five per cent of their sales go to charity, like the National Down syndrome Society, and they carry specialty socks for causes like Autism Awareness. In addition, John and Mark's staff include employees who have a disability.
"We are demonstrating that by working with people with special needs they become an asset, they become a reason for our success, not a liability, not an obstacle. We had to overcome that," Mark said.
"It feels good knowing that I got a full day of work and I can go home and I am happy" Elyssa, a sock picker, said.
"It really shows that you can do anything you want, anything," echoes fellow sock picker Alex.
The team recently expanded and is now headquartered in a warehouse and office in New York. John spends his days working with fellow employees, packing orders, making phone calls and coming up with unique initiatives like the "Monday Madness Mystery Bag" and a sock-of-the-month club. Mark and John also make it a priority to keep their fans informed via John's social media channels.
Every day John and Mark are posting videos and pictures on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. John's social media posts reach 80,000 Facebook fans and have more than three million video views. Videos of John speaking at galas, lobbying in Washington, walking as the Grand Marshall of the National Down Syndrome Society's Buddy Walk, or even taking the train to a business meeting inspire millions worldwide.
"John and I have this special partnership. We both know we need each other. We are both committed to the mission we have and we want to work together, I'm a lucky man to be able to work with my son," Mark said.
"I'm telling the whole world, I really can do anything," adds John.