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John Cronin

Employees from John’s Crazy Socks with members of Huntington town board

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol, at the Aug. 6 Town of Huntington board meeting, gave special recognition to Melville-based online retailer John’s Crazy Socks, which was cited recently as a winner of a national accounting firm’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

The company was founded two years ago by Huntington residents Mark X. Cronin and his son, John, upon John’s graduation from high school. John had said he wanted to go into business with his father, and they settled on one capitalizing on John’s fondness for unusual socks.

Mark and John Cronin with Councilwoman Joan Cergol

From humble beginnings, the firm has grown into one that produced $5.5 million in revenue in its second year, selling 2,300 varieties of socks and receiving more than 20,000 online reviews. A hallmark of the company is its dedication to having a social impact. More than half of its workforce has differing abilities, including John, who has Down syndrome.  Through videos, social media, school tours, work group and speaking engagements, the Cronins demonstrate what persons with differing abilities can do.

The company also pledges 5 percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics and donates money from its Awareness and Charity sock lines to other charity partners, including more than $300,000 for the National Down Syndrome Society, the Autism Society of America and the Williams Syndrome Association, among other groups. Mark and John Cronin have spread their message of maximizing potential and social consciousness through speaking engagements across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In June, the accounting firm Ernst & Young presented John’s Crazy Socks with one of its 2019 New York Region Entrepreneur of the Year awards, in the Mission Drive category. The awards recognize entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies for innovation, financial performance and their impact on the world.

“Their workplace is absolutely amazing,” said Cergol, who visited it a few months ago. “John and Mark Cronin are truly inspirational as role models for successful business plans and corporate responsibility. We have known this for some time, and it is exciting to see that they are receiving national recognition for their work. I wish them even greater success in the future.”

Photos from Town of Huntington

Mark Cronin and his son, John, fourth and fifth from the left, are joined by John’s Crazy Socks employees as they present a donation to a Special Olympics representative to celebrate the company’s second anniversary. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington father-son duo show the business world how accepting people’s differences as strengths can form a road map to success.

Mark Cronin and his son, John, have found the secret ingredient to happiness is socks. The pair started John’s Crazy Socks by offering 31 wacky styles of socks in December 2016 and have since grown to become an international seller offering more than 2,300 different styles.

John and his father Mark Cronin smile. Photo from Mark Cronin

The company started with an idea from John Cronin, a 22-year-old entrepreneur diagnosed with Down syndrome, who was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after graduating from Huntington High School. Together, with his father, they built a business based on social enterprise.

“We have a simple mission of spreading happiness,” the father said. “Spreading happiness comes from doing things for other people.”

The Melville-based company currently has 35 full-time employees, 18 of whom are neurotypically different, according to the owners. To keep up with holiday demand, John’s Crazy Socks hired an additional 27 seasonal workers largely from the Town of Huntington, 23 of whom have different abilities.

“If we can have 35 permanent employees, why not 350?” Mark Cronin said. “There’s 80 percent of the disabled population that is unemployed. Yet they’re ready, willing and able to work.”

Dozens of employees dressed in Santa hats helped customers pick out socks, pulled orders from the warehouse and rang up sales at the company’s 2nd anniversary and holiday pop-up shop Dec. 8.

“With all the people with disabilities, it’s not disabilities anymore — it’s abilities,” David McGowan, a retired speech pathologist from North Babylon, said. “It’s beautiful to see them working in a place like this.”

The co-owners have built an atmosphere of inclusion where each workday starts with a 15-minute briefing at 9:30 a.m. for all employees. Each Wednesday, there’s a bagel breakfast and on Fridays a staff luncheon.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff. You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

— Mark Cronin

“Our employees make our business go each and every day,” Cronin said.“ We’re out there competing with Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target; yet we beat them in completing orders and shipping. They do a great job. There is no charity here.”

Well, that’s not completely true. Since launching the business, the father-son duo has held true to their pledge to donate 5 percent of the company’s earnings to the Special Olympics as the younger Cronin has competed in the program as an athlete since age 5. The co-owners celebrated the company’s second year in business by presenting a check for $49,751.25 to a Special Olympics representative.

“It’s unheard of and it’s something all corporations should start doing,” Kim Brown, of Huntington, said. “And he’s done it since the very beginning.”

Her husband, Dave, agreed with her.

“That should be the American mission,” he said.

In addition, John’s Crazy Socks has created a line of sock designs whose sales help benefit different charities including the National Down Syndrome Society and the Autism Society of America.

“It’s not enough to just sell stuff,” Mark Cronin said. “You have to have a mission, a purpose and give back.”

Through November 2018, the co-owners said the business has donated more than $200,000 to their charity partners in a little less than two years.

John Cronin smiles with a customer during a home delivery. Photo from Mark Cronin

It’s not enough to donate money, according to the father, as they also frequently open up their warehouse to Long Island school districts and social service agencies. The pair goes out on speaking engagements to share their vision, business model and hopefully inspire others under the U.S. State Department’s speaker’s bureau.

“John and his father have made this successful because of how much they care about other people,” Patricia Klee said.

Klee, who was John’s former speech therapist at Huntington High School, said she will be bringing her current students to his company for a work-study experience this spring. The company opens its doors and provides an “invaluable” hands-on learning experience for the students.

In the coming year, the father and son have announced the company is rapidly outgrowing its Melville warehouse and is looking to expand to a new location, hopefully in Huntington or Huntington Station. They are looking for a site that will allow them to have offices, a storeroom, a studio for John’s social media videos, a storefront to sell their socks and hopefully a cafe. On their wish list is also space for an auditorium or presentation space that can be used by the community.

“They’ve always put other people first,” said Erica Murphy-Jensen, one of John’s former teachers at Huntington High School. “They’ve always taken care of others.”

John Cronin smiles with a pair of socks from John’s Crazy Socks. Photo from Mark Cronin

By Victoria Espinoza

For one father-son duo, the secret ingredient to success is socks. John Cronin, a 21-year-old Huntington resident diagnosed with Down syndrome, was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after he graduated from Huntington High School, when John’s Crazy Socks was born.

The two-month-old business venture has already seen success, and Cronin and his dad Mark Cronin are continually coming up with new and unique ideas to set John’s Crazy Socks apart.

“We opened the store Dec. 9 and expected a trickle of sales,” Mark Cronin said in a phone interview. “Instead we were flooded with sales. It turns out John is a social media star.”

The co-founders shot and uploaded a variety of videos to the company’s Facebook page, starring the 21-year-old who has become the face of the business.

John and his father Mark Cronin smile. Photo from Mark Cronin

“Those first couple of videos we put up, which were spur of the moment, had 30,00 views,” the elder business partner said. “People were spreading them all around Huntington. So people flooded us and in fact on our first weekend we ran out of inventory.”

John’s Crazy Socks now ships nationally and internationally, and for local residents shipping may be the most enjoyable part of ordering from the company. Cronin hand-delivers local orders, which his dad said is an extra treat for customers.

“Word spread through social media that John would show up to a house to do a delivery, and whole families would come out to greet him and take photos,” he said.

Cronin said it’s one of his favorite parts of the business.

“I really like going to do home deliveries,” he said in a phone interview.

Aside from a friendly face with a new order of socks, patrons also receive a hand-written thank you note from Cronin as well as some Hershey kisses.

“We’ve learned a lot and saw there is a real opportunity here,” his father said. “We’re spreading happiness through socks, and it’s a way of connecting with people. The more people we can make happy the better off we will be.”

The team also gives customers two coupons with each purchase.

“We want to make it a great experience for people to buy from us,” Cronin’s father said.

John Cronin smiles with a customer during a home delivery. Photo from Mark Cronin

He said the duo has high hopes for John’s Crazy Socks, as they intend to become the world’s largest sock store, offering more sock styles and designs than anyone else. When the company started in December, they offered 31 different styles of socks. Today they offer more than 550 different styles.

It’s not just different colors and concepts customers can find at John’s Crazy Socks. They also sell socks with meaning behind them. Cronin designed an autism awareness and a Down syndrome awareness sock, as well as a breast cancer sock, and a Special Olympics sock. Cronin’s father said a portion of the proceeds from each specialized sock goes to national and local charity groups working towards finding a cure or to advocating for the groups, depending on the cause.

A blue whale sock was created for the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, and there are many other personalized socks to come.

For Cronin, socks represent self-expression.

“I really like socks,” he said. ‘They’re fun and they can fit your own personality.”

The elder Cronin said he’s enjoyed many aspects of starting the business with his son.

“I love bringing joy to people, the little things we get to do to just wow people,” he said. “We live in this increasingly complex world, and we can connect with people and say we hear you and we can make you happy, and that’s awesome. And it’s great to be able to do something with my son.”