017 – How John Cronin, who has Down Syndrome, and his dad Mark launched John’s Crazy Socks.
Meet John Cronin. John and his Dad, Mark, own the successful on-line business John’s Crazy Socks. John has Down Syndrome and it was his idea to start a business selling colorful crazy socks with his Dad. Today David Hirsch talks to John’s Dad, Mark Cronin about the journey that led to this crazy successful business idea. That’s on this Special Fathers Network Podcast.
Dad To Dad 17 – How John Cronin, who has Down Syndrome, and his dad Mark launched John’s Crazy Socks.
Tom Couch: This is the Special Fathers Network podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers.
Sometimes the mentor father is just there to answer a few questions. Sometimes they become good friends. It’s a proven support system for new fathers with special needs kids. If you’re a father looking for support, or if you’re a dad who’d like to offer support, go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: Hi, I’m David Hirsch. This is the Special Fathers Network podcast. Stories of fathers helping fathers.
Tom Couch: And I’m Tom couch.
John Cronin: Hi, my name is John Cronin.
Tom Couch: Meet John Cronin along with his dad, Mark, John owns the successful online business. John’s crazy socks.
John has down syndrome and it was his idea to start a business, selling colorful, crazy socks.
Mark Cronin: What we do for Thanksgiving, he sat me down. He said, dad, we need to talk.
John Cronin: I said to my dad, dad. I really want to go to a bank with you.
Mark Cronin: He said we should sell socks.
Tom Couch: Today, David Hirsch talks to John’s dad, Mark Cronin. About the journey that led to this crazy successful business idea.
David Hirsch: So what’s the mission of John’s crazy socks.
Mark Cronin: We have a very simple mission was spreading happiness.
Tom Couch: That’s on this Special Father’s Network podcast.
Mark Cronin: John sets the tone a lot. John is always looking to see what can we do for others? It’s a simple idea. The more you do for others, the better off we are.
Tom Couch: So here now is David Hirsch’s conversation with special father Mark Cronin.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Mark Cronin of long Island, a father of three boys and cofounder of John’s crazy socks, Mark. Thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this special fathers network.
Mark Cronin: Thank you for speaking with me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Carol have been married for nearly 37 years and other proud parents of three boys, Patrick, who was 28.
James who was 25. And John who is 22, who was born with down syndrome. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Mark Cronin: I was born in Queens or in New York city. My parents moved out to Huntington station on long Island when I was one. Well, that’s where I grew up and laugh.
I left home when I was 19 swore I’m never coming back to long Island and we’ve been living here for 20 years, I guess, born to be on long Island.
David Hirsch: Got it. So how would you describe your relationship with your father?
Mark Cronin: It was a not unusual relationship for an Irish father and son was a man. I respected most in the world.
He was very demanding and very tough. You raised me to be a strong, independent thinker and take responsibility for one’s beliefs. When he got what he wanted. It, it led to us banging heads for awhile. You know, when I was in high school and in my early twenties and I had to move out because the house was not big enough for the both of us.
David Hirsch: You had siblings when you’re growing up, didn’t you?
Mark Cronin: Yes. I had two younger brothers and a younger sister. I was the oldest, fortunately, my dad and I, uh, While there was some rough years they were able to reconcile. And in fact, that was one of the benefits of living on long Island was, was living near him, um, and being able to help him out as he.
David Hirsch: And what type of work did he do?
Mark Cronin: He was a defense contractor and he spent. Most of his career, working for a company called Sperry that became a, bought out, became part of Eunice. Got it. So he was a veteran and then worked in the defense industry. He was very proud of that work.
David Hirsch: Did he serve in World War II or Korea?
Mark Cronin: He served at the very end of World War II. He enlisted when he was 17. He joined the paratroopers. As I understand it from him because they got better food. He was training for the invasion of Japan. And after the surrender, you served in Japan as part of the occupying force.
David Hirsch: So just let me a question to clarify.
He was a paratrooper, so he was jumping out of airplanes.
Mark Cronin: It was jumping out of planes.
So I have friends who are also world war II veterans. One of them is one of the original Tuskegee airmen. His name is Lawton Wilkerson, and I was reflecting about some skydiving that I had done with some of my kids a number of years ago.
And he said that there’s absolutely no reason to jump out of a perfectly good plane. The only time you would consider doing that is that the plane was gonna crash. So it takes a certain type of person to want to be a paratrooper.
I would think so.
David Hirsch: And where did you go to school? High school, college graduate school for that matter?
Mark Cronin: Um, I went to a high school. I had gone through public schools through eighth grade and then went off to an all male Catholic high school called st. Anthony’s high school in long Island, and then went to the college of Holy cross Wooster mass. Um, I spent some time in a graduate program for literature.
Did he university of New York. I have a masters of public policy from the Kennedy school of government at Harvard. So
David Hirsch: when you graduated from Harvard, what was your expectation? What was your vision of what you’re going to do with your career?
Mark Cronin: Oh, I was going to change the world. I sat off working in and spent much of my career working in healthcare.
And, and that’s what I was trying to do was, uh, do what we can do to change the world and my wound up at an early age, running the Medicaid health services program in New York city and putting in place some programs similar to what we’ve been debating over the last decade, even though this was the late eighties, covering more people, even more people, health insurance.
And finding better ways to, to deliver the healthcare that would also lower costs. And then after leaving that, I spend time in the same field, I’m working as a consultant. And then as a manager, setting up some Medicaid HMO, and that evolved into running some managed some healthcare management technology for early on, it was.
Frames that we could do things to change the world. And I was very fortunate to be able to work with some good people in some opportunities where we did, we, we got some legislative and, uh, programmatic changes that made a substantial difference in New York, but get millions of people more in healthcare and to improve the quality of care that I got.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Um, so one of the things that piqued my interest is the, uh, technology firm. What was that? Or what did it lead to?
Mark Cronin: Well, there were, there were a couple of different things, but one was that’s known as working in the healthcare field came more and more apparent that technology would allow us to drive change.
Won’t allow us to change the way things operated. So much of that work was with organizations of doctors to put them more in the driver’s seat financially, give them more independence so that you had a tighter relationship between the doctor and the patient without the insurance company getting in the middle.
And then it was another track. And this was some of my entrepreneurial where in early nineties or mid nineties, A software development company. And we put out a couple of products, including some of the cold face, fall 94 for windows and baseball, 95 for windows, that kind of some great reviews. And we lost every penny.
Uh, I love those stories. Well, I’ve
David Hirsch: always wanted to be a social entrepreneur and I can bore you to death with stories of things that. Or great on paper or the people conceptually agreed to that just didn’t meet their expectations, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Mark Cronin: Right? It’s um, it takes a certain mindset to be an entrepreneur.
You have to be willing to fail, you know, today and we’ll talk some more about John’s crazy socks. We have, we’re having early success and we’re doing well, but it’s like that band that puts out. And it seems like
David Hirsch: exactly. So all these experiences that you’ve had from a business standpoint, no doubt have been the foundation for what it is that you’re doing. Let’s talk about the special needs community. Initially your personal connection to it before John was born. Did you and your wife have any connection to the special needs community?
Mark Cronin: We had a little bit, I had done some volunteer work in high school, working with people with special needs. There were some small family connections, good friends, but my parents had a son around my age, like down syndrome and they bought the trend at the time and they kept Tommy at home and raised them.
Must’ve been a, if I look back on that, it must’ve been very hard because there were so few resources and my wife or mother worked for a long time or an organization called Y AI. And my wife worked with them over the summers when she was in college, but we had some experience in the past working with people with.
David Hirsch: So I remember you telling me in a previous conversation about the anticipation of John’s birth and the reluctance to get some tests. Tell me that story again.
Mark Cronin: Well, my wife would have been 37 while pregnant with John in her OVI divest in actually having an amniocentesis. It tests to see whether or not there were any issues, including whether or not there was Downton presence of down syndrome in those days, that was the only test and the amniocentesis was painful and it had fairly high risk of causing a miscarriage and a very high, false, positive rate.
My wife told the doctor, she wasn’t interested because he wouldn’t matter. Even if you had to try with down syndrome, you know, found out I’m gonna have a child with down syndrome and came home and told me about it and told me that the doctor said to her, you know, I’m going to want to speak to your husband.
And I think I would have liked to have been in the room for that. And I look back on that with some puzzlement, because I was in complete agreement with my wife. It didn’t matter what the test results said. We were, this was our child. This was going to be our child. The reason I’m puzzled is it’s not in my nature to ever choose to be ignorant, but we did not know was going to have down syndrome.
David Hirsch: What was your first reaction upon that news?
Mark Cronin: Um, okay. So he’s got down syndrome and that’s a lot of, you know, I know that’s a lot of my character. You just take things as they come. We wanted to get information and data, both come from large families or extended families. There was a lot of support early on, and it was some things I remember.
My mother-in-law’s saying, well, you know, a lot of opportunities. And if you grow up in Porsche broom, working in a store, and I know she meant really well, that took me aback because when your child is born, you have some notion that everything is possible. It’s not what you think everything is possible.
So it already started hearing about limitations, focus back a bit. But much of what we were doing was just focused on, okay, what do we have to learn? What do we have to deal with? And John had some significant medical issues at birth, which is pretty common for people with down syndrome. And we immediately became very focused on those medical
David Hirsch: conditions. And what were they?
Mark Cronin: Well, he had, uh, on day three, he had the intestinal bypass surgery. You know, the way I put it in some context, the way I think about down syndrome is it’s kind of like, uh, an old Chinese menu and everybody gets everything in column a and then there’s column B and you get to pick and choose except you don’t get to pick and choose.
And that gets decided for you. So about 10% of people with down syndrome are born with intestinal issues. The big one that concerned us was he had two heart defects in ASD and a VSD, which basically meant two holes in his heart. About 50% of people with down syndrome are born with a heart defect. So that concerned us, as you might imagine, and we add some troubles.
At first, he was transferred to a. A major medical center. The doctors weren’t always straight with us. I mean, right from the beginning, when he was transferred there, I met with the neonatologist and his team and I asked and I had found out overnight about the heart issues. And I asked how was my son’s heart?
And the doctors at all, there was no problem. Everything is fine. We finished that conversation. And one of his cellos went over to a phone. Picked it up and then ordered an EKG, the Cronin baby with a heart murmur. Wait a second. You told me there was no problem. And we had some contention like that. John was born via C-section.
So my wife was at another hospital when she got out, we met for the first time with a cardiologist. Who very matter of factly said, you know, they usually try to save these babies nowadays.
David Hirsch: Oh my God.
Mark Cronin: So there were some, it was some startling things. The good news is we were able to find a doctor, gentleman named Wilton Corsini, who is the head of pediatric cardiology.
I have Columbia Presbyterian. We met with him a consult about John. We told them shared the medical condition or some of our concerns. And he was so wise and helpful and kept saying, well, if this was my patient, this is what we would do. And if this was my patient, then at one point I looked at my wife, but didn’t even say anything with each other.
I just looked at him and said, well, what do we have to do to make him your patient? He did. Choose a day. Exactly what would have happened. It’s hard for us to think about this now with John used to be measured in grams and he projected, he said, he’s going to go into congestive heart failure. His fingers will start to turn blue, a lack of oxygen, but then we’ll know when it’s time to operate and here’s the date that’s going to happen.
And he was exactly right on. Cold rainy day in April before John was three months old, we went in, went in at night and the next day to be operated on, we were told it would be a seven or eight hour operation. They told us to go home and come back several hours later, we walked around the neighborhood until the rain drove us back in and I was standing at the elevator heroin had already gone ahead of me.
And out of the side door, the surgeon wall, this was after about only two and a half hours and looked at me and said, um, your operations so success. And he walked out, the operating room was on the eighth floor. I think I could have flown up there. I got up and I grabbed my wife. You know, the operations over here.
There was a panel with the information. Oh. And we went looking for him and almost walked into the O R so that operation was a tricky operation, but John has been healthy ever since. So early on, it was really a focus on those medical issues that, that consumed us. We then took to raising our son, but those first few months were, uh, there were difficult, you know, we didn’t know if he was going to make it.
So we’re very fortunate.
David Hirsch: Well, uh, that’s, uh, a remarkable story. Uh, John start in the world sounded like quite a roller coaster ride for you and your wife, not just physically with delivery and her recovery, but emotionally for the first few months, you know, although. Challenges that were laid out in front of you and what a blessing it was that, uh, the doctor from Columbia Presbyterian, you know, was able to provide you with a vision of what to expect and that it actually played out that way.
Mark Cronin: You know, parenting was very humbling. There’s so much we want to give to our children so much we want to do for them.
David Hirsch: So when you look back since then, what were some of the more important decisions that you and Carol have made? Raising three boys, including John, you know, about special needs, um,
Mark Cronin: Our overall approach. And I, you know, I think this is what we do as parents, right. Is to promote independence and that’s been true for all three of our sons of you just want to keep pushing them to stand on their own two feet, to make their own decisions and to lead their own lives. We try to imbue them with certain values that we have, but in the end, they get to choose that.
And we did that with John. I don’t think of John as my son with down syndrome and he’s this, my third son, John was very fortunate and we were able to get therapies for him when he was less than a year old. And he enrolled at a very early age, in a preschool. We enrolled them into the public school system.
He went through the Huntington school system. I was extremely fortunate at grade teacher after grade teacher.
David Hirsch: Were there any challenges along the way, from an educational perspective in that you can think of? Oh,
Mark Cronin: When he was young, John had difficulty communicating, he had trouble speaking. There was late development there.
And even after he started because of the down syndrome. But he could communicate. So we all learned some sign language so that he could communicate. And we developed with one of his speech therapist, or she developed a communication device. And in those days was cardboard that had little pictures and he could pick them out to show.
One of the things we used to hear at school was, uh, John has a way of making his wants and needs. No. And he still does that. Even if he doesn’t know a particular word he’ll, you’ll get the message across. There was a time when we joke that that extra chromosome was a wandering chromosome because John liked to wander, he would go wandering off.
That was not always fun when you would lose sight of him and he vanish. He thought this was, this was a great laugh. We were all panicking, looking for him, but know, I mean, I’ll give you an example. It’s a small thing. When he started school, they were going to arrange a special boss. We said, why let him take the regular bus with all the other neighborhood.
We’d be fine. And he was from John, never took what he would call a short bus. He would always ride the regular school. And his brothers thousands very fortunate and continues to be fortunate. This, his brothers always looked after him, helped out, also benefited on as there is their brother. I think they’re better humans.
If you remember on your conversation with them, John started school. I sat them down and said, look, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but people may know John’s a little different. They may pick on them. They may make fun of them in our eldest son, Patrick thought about this. And he said, well, that’s okay if that happens and I’m going to talk to them and teach them and let them understand.
Jamie’s smiled and said, yeah, we’ll let Patrick talk to him. And if, uh, if that doesn’t work, I’m going to punch him out.
David Hirsch: I tried diplomacy and then I’d go to war. Yeah.
Mark Cronin: Fortunately it never came to that. There’s no doubt Jamie would have done it.
David Hirsch: So what type of, uh, Activities for the boys involved in when they were younger.
Mark Cronin: Ah, there were very, you know, sports was a big deal. So they were all very active in sports as was done.
Um, no, there have been some differences. Say the older boys played football and lacrosse and they both, as it turned out, both placed in college, um, not including playing football, but you know, John from a very early age, But, uh, special Olympics soccer and he still does soccer and basketball and track and field and snowshoe.
So that was always a part of our life of playing sports, following squats. Don’s a met fan and he, and, uh, an object fan. So. He’s used to losing,
David Hirsch: Hey, I thought we had the, we cornered the market on what it was like up until two years ago. When the Cubs finally won the world series, after more than a hundred years,
Mark Cronin: plus as a family, we’d always be up for the small adventures and travel.
It would a typical Saturday for us. We leave the house at eight 30 in the morning with whatever the sport events were going on. And then we’d go through that. We’d go do other things and we’d go out at night and we may not get home to one of the morning.
David Hirsch: Oh wow.
Mark Cronin: And John to this day still loves that type of activity and travel adventure.
David Hirsch: Well, what I’ve heard you say is that, uh, you know, we have three boys and we just tried to expose them to all the things that you would normally do and, you know, It is what it is. Right. Don’t treat them any specialty or coddle them are overprotecting. Right? That’s might seem like the right thing to do from a safety standpoint, but you’re really limiting, maybe disabling somebody by doing that.
Mark Cronin: But people have asked to now we face a lot of interviews and as one obstacles to translate the story, the last night, John was being interviewed by somebody. Asked him about times when people told me he couldn’t do things, I just looked at him positive. Cause that hasn’t happened. We don’t even think that there are obstacles out there and it’s similar to his two older brothers is just, okay, you can do this.
Let’s go push and you can do this. You know, I was a very small thing growing up. We’d be at a store and I’d have the kids go to the counter and pay for things. Or if they had a question, they can go ask somebody at a store. What was going on? Uh, you know, we’re trying to get information. Do you want them to be resourceful?
I think the, the challenge for us is we have to be willing to let our kids fail and to let them fall. And that can be hard. That can be hard. I, I have some. Siri. I only have jokingly about that. You know, if you’re a bad parent, it’s actually good for your kids. You know, if a kid you’re hungry, go learn to make yourself something.
I’m not going to do it for you. And then they go learn.
David Hirsch: You don’t want to take that to too much of an extreme, but I know exactly what you’re saying, what you want to create independence. You want them to be able to do things for themselves because you’re not always going to be there.
Mark Cronin: Hi, my name is he and my father Mark. Right? What’s the name of our business? Shotgun, your socks. What’s our mission. We have business. What made you really happy today? Today? Pretty good day. Huntington came through a tour today and who went to Huntington high school. Did you like going into high school? I love
David Hirsch: you and John are cofounders of John’s crazy socks.
What’s the backstory for starting this for profit business.
Mark Cronin: Well, those back to the fall of 2016, I was starting some online businesses. We had had a disruption in our family and where was the family business out of clothes on, in late. So I was starting some online business. John who’s starting his last year of school.
So he was looking around, we were looking around, what are you going to do? When school is over? We were looking at different option. And he came to me and said, dad, I want to work with you. I want to go into business with, he had worked for me previously as a mail clerk in an office. This seemed like a good idea.
So what are we going to do? John? He’s always got ideas. First idea was we should open a fund store whenever that might be. Um, he never was able to quite describe that. We then saw a movie called chef John Fabro, and it told a father, son bonding story, uh, where they opened the food truck. John loves father, son movies.
He loved this idea and he wanted, I was to open a food truck. We would talk about what we could do. There was John points out. Neither of us can really cook.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, he sat me down and he said, dad, we need to talk. He said, we should sell socks. And he already had the idea for the name.
And he had grown rings of what a website could look like, not had his entire life worn, crazy and colorful socks. We used to go looking for him. And so this seemed like something that could work. I tell folks that are traditional way to go about this. As you develop a business plan, right? You do a lot of research and gather a lot of data and you work on projections, work up this detailed plan and determine whether or not this would succeed.
That’s not what we did. We went to the lean startup route and said, let’s just get something out. You can call it a minimally viable product. Let’s get something up and see how people respond. We came up with a logo, we’ve got some inventory. We built a website. The only marketing we did was to set up a Facebook page and have John talk about his socks and when he would have, and we opened on December 9th.
We weren’t going to open it 10 in the morning on Fridays is number nines, but the website crashed. We had a scramble and we opened three that afternoon and we weren’t sure what was going to happen. We read about online stores. It took a month or two to get us to sell a single order. We were very fortunate.
We immediately received a flood of orders. What seemed like a flood of waters. And they roll local. And this makes sense if it’s start up business frequently, your first customers are family and friends. And these were people that knew John from a high school and from the area. So we made a decision that day.
We said, you know, let’s find a, we hand deliver the, we put the socks in a box, looked at that. And it needs something else. We went across the street to the grocery store. That’s some Hershey’s and John, thank you. Noted. And we drove around delivering those socks. Don loved it. I was knocking on doors and making that delivery.
We were very fortunate because our customers loved it too. What they did was they put pictures for John and they took pictures of the box posted on social media. Well, we immediately began to grow. That’s how we got started in that first month. Really? In two weeks we shift 452 orders was about $13,000 in revenue.
And we knew then that this was something that could work. We knew people wanted to buy socks. And one of the buys, socks, they related very much to anything. Then we already were getting notes from people. About how John was a role model. Um, and we got some confidence that the two of us could go out and do it, but that’s how we got started.
David Hirsch: So what’s the mission of John’s crazy socks.
Mark Cronin: We have a very simple, I was pretty happy. We are here with John Cronin, cofounder of John’s crazy songs. What are you doing? John advi? Who were they for? I conference. And why do you write these? Thank you cards for your customers. I want you to tell you, update you.
Oh, that’s great. And you put a thank you card in every package. Yes. What else goes into packages? I think it’s high day care card. And it’s on sways. You put some candy in every package? Yes. And what else goes in? Every package, socks, socks, most socks. That’s great. We’re in the business of spreading happiness, but we just want to make that customer happy.
What can we do to make them happy? We’ve built a business on the four pillars. One and the most important one is inspiration and home and showing people what’s possible. It’s letting people know what can happen when we give someone a chance. And we’re really focused on people with an intellectual disability who John is the face of the company.
We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve hired 30, I would say 33 people. We have 15 people with a disability working with us. Share what they do all the time and social media. We do school tours. We have isn’t in groups that come in, John and I. Now two speaking engagements. The second pillar is giving back. We donate 5% of our earnings as a special Olympics.
We have a series of awareness and charity socks, like our down syndrome awareness thought. Autism awareness. William’s syndrome awareness that raised money for our charity partners. The third thing, we’re a sock store. We have socks. You can love that 1900 different sites. We have a soccer, the monk club, we have gift boxes, gift back and the forth we make it personal.
So even though we’re out of that temporary office space in which we started. Um, and now we’re doing many more than 452 waters. We package gives a thank, you know, every package gives some candy. If you post a picture or video in our Facebook page, John’s going to make a thank you video for you. Anything we can do to connect with our cause.
David Hirsch: Let me go back to the sock store thing.
I think you said, which was stunning. And you have 1900 different socks that you sell and they’re all in inventory.
Mark Cronin: They’re all in inventory.
David Hirsch: Holy moly.
Mark Cronin: We think we have to offer our customers the greatest possible employees. At some point, we would like to say that we are the world’s largest sock store, not in terms of quantity, soul.
We’re not going to out sell Walmart, but in terms of choice and we all may already be. We find X important for our customers. So that’s what we have out there in inventory.
David Hirsch: So they’re individuals as well as companies and organizations buying the socks. What’s the typical order, like a
Mark Cronin: typical order. It’s going to have four or five socks that we’ll enter.
It’s usually about $40 when you’d go and count the, uh, the soccer month club, which has to be ordered separately. We have now started doing custom winter socks. So those are for not-for-profits. I use them as fundraisers or corporations that are giving them to customers or their board or their employees.
We’ve had two organizations, both that we are charity partners, environment and national down syndrome society, and the special Olympics, which made custom socks and give out to members of Congress though, we do a lot of that. We’re social entrepreneurs. We have a social mission. We have an eCommerce solution and our indivisible, if we didn’t have the social mission, we would not be selling volume of socks that we sell.
If we were only where if we ran mainly as a charity saying all, we have a feel good story. We wouldn’t have the impact that we have. For us to work, we have to be weight. Socks products have to be good. Always has to be good. Nervous has to be good. We’re competing with Amazon. So we do same day shipping and winter comes in today by three o’clock.
It’s going out today. Most of our customers get their orders within two days. And I like to point out that, uh, Unlike John Jeff Bezos is not putting a thank you in Andy, those Amazon. That’s fabulous.
David Hirsch: So, uh, I remember you telling me that there’s been three viral moments in the history of the short history today of John’s crazy socks.
What was the first one?
Mark Cronin: First one came a little over a year ago. We opened in December, 2016. January was very slow. We did fewer than 200 orders. We grew five fold in February, 2017. So we had about a thousand or what is that month? And that’s when we introduced all of our accounts, syndrome, awareness, and our autism awareness.
Then the first week of March, the online journal, the mighty put out a video. We went from overnight from doing 60 orders one day to over a thousand orders. The next day, watch what you ask for you may get it because at that point we’re in temporary office space. We had four part time employees. So that surge had viral moment.
Wiped out our inventory overwhelmed. Our staff overwhelmed our space and we spent the better part of a month scrambling to get caught up. There were ways that were quite comical. We were in this old house that was converted to office space was built in the 17 hundreds. When they tell you they don’t build them, like they used to be grateful ceilings, tilted, stairways.
I can remember trucks showing up and unloading 15 cartons of sauce. And we had no place to put them. They’d be sitting on the sidewalk as we were just stacking box on top of off, that was an adventure. Um, but it did help us grow. We ultimately, a lot of staple. We moved into this space we’re in now, which is about 6,400 square feet of office and warehouse.
And. We were able to build a, a stronger foundation that sort of goes through the next two viral model. So, which was the BBC one. That’s the one that, uh, helped connect the two of us that came in January and it shows the unpredictability of things. They were working on a story about us for a long time, very late in the process decided they were going to do a video run on BBC one.
And we were expecting maybe a small lip of waters out of the UK. Instead last I looked at video on Facebook alone and over 35 million news.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Mark Cronin: And we’re grateful. We’ve been, we’ve grown mainly through word of mouth, uh, positive media coverage, and then retention about one-third. And our customers are very happy.
So about one third of our orders each month go to repeat customers. We have 5,500 online reviews. 96% of those are five star reviews. We’re very fortunate. Oh,
David Hirsch: I need to give a shout out to my daughter, Emily. Who’s currently in London at the London school of economics. She was the one that forwarded me, that video that you’re talking about that appeared on BBC.
And I got so excited about meeting you guys on a recent trip to London. And, um, for some reason I just didn’t connect the fact that you weren’t in London, you were in New York. So this has made it much easier to connect with you. So the power of social media,
Mark Cronin: we’re very fortunate for that.
Not quite a year and a half old. And there were a couple of ways we can measure. I wouldn’t do it in one way. We want, we want the world to see what’s happening here. I want people to come in and see our workplace. It’s a unified workplace or highly productive, or people are really happy. And we get to see people develop every day.
So in that regard, we are getting word out. We make videos here. To call them lone five would be the overstate, but those videos that we’ve made, they’ve been seen over 4 million times. Hi, my name is Jack Ryan. I’m sorry, Greg is doc. And can they talk about Capeci sock or the shock on my first stock? Are you giving us a sneak peek of your favorite compression socks?
John I’m excited.
And then we have things like the mighty video that has over 20 million views. That BBC video that has over 35 million Google is making a video about us. That’s going to be released on father’s day. We’ve got a documentarian who’s been in here filming. So we’re making good on getting that word out.
People making good and taking care of our customers. We’re making good on giving back. We’ve raised about a hundred thousand dollars for our charity partners so far. And in terms of volume and sales, we nine to 2017 was our first full year. We shipped over 42,000 orders. We brought in one point $7 million in revenue, or we’re going to double that this year.
So we’ve been very fortunate.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. If I remember you telling me before that you have a way of referring to the people that are packing the orders. Cause there’s a lot of that going
Mark Cronin: on. Right. Well, much of our, what we do here is we’re running a pick and pack warehouse. We call our pickers sock Wranglers.
We call our Packers happiness, Packers names matter. Our customer service people they’re called happiness creators. The woman who runs our custom sock program and gets our new socks. She’s a happiness Imagineer. We have our Lord of the Sox who runs our fulfillment and our keeper of the socks who runs inventory.
We have a digital overlord as our webmaster, and we have two marketing wizards who have recently joined us. And we have Maria who keeps us organized. She’s our community organized. You get to have some fun.
David Hirsch: So Mark, are there any other stories that sort of emphasize John’s independence? Yes,
Mark Cronin: there are, there are, there are a numbers of them, and we try to share these with people through our social media so they can see here’s another example this summer, Don and I were fortunate to participate in a business accelerator program called mass challenge.
It was based in Boston, so we would spend two or three days in Boston. Each week only would drive up on a Friday night and drive home on a Wednesday night. On one particular day, it was, it was day on had to New York in the morning for a doctor’s visit. And that evening we were scheduled to do a television show in Boston.
How’s he going to get from New York to Boston? He’s going to do what most people or many people would do. He took Amtrak got on the train. I picked him up at South station and we immediately did a video of John talking about being on the train and it turned out he was giving out his business card to promote his business.
That was easy for John to do. And we want people to know, of course he could take the train or a week or so ago. We went to a hockey game and an Islander game in Brooklyn with a work colleague. You need mom and dad to do that. Of course you could go with a friend and they took the train in and out. Our Don may have an intellectual disability, but he’s capable of doing many.
And we want people to see that. I could tell you similar stories about other work colleagues here. I like to tell stories about Matt. Matt has Asperger’s and when he first came here, we told him you’re going to have to appear on videos. We take pictures to social media and he came up to me and mr. Cronin, I don’t think I can do that.
I’m very shy. Okay, Matt, let’s just try the, we did a video of him and John and two other people eating lunch and just talking about what they did. Hi there, what I’ve done. And today I am honoring Matt, so I haven’t got, and I’m going to be able to like that. Then he did another. And then about a week later, Fox business news.
Was in here to record a story. And Matt went up to the reporter and say, I want you to interview me. And so Matt has now on TV five times because we didn’t do anything magical. It’s just giving him an opportunity. Or there was another anecdote, Matt bring his lunch and he said to somebody, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
And they said, well, why don’t you order lunch? But I’ve never done that. So people coached him. Here’s what you do. You pick out what you want in the menu, hold them up credit card number. They’re going to deliver your lunch. And everybody kind of cheered and help Matt, as he mentioned it, it all worked great.
Matt told great about himself so much so that the next day wanted to do it again. In his wide open room we have, and I’m walking past an area is at the top of his lungs, reading his credit card number. I put my arm around him and I, but maybe you want to do that in private. I love it. We got to give people an opportunity to do things.
And Matt clearly shows he can do that. Just give him that opportunity.
David Hirsch: I imagine you’ve got some pretty positive feedback from parents of those that are also working there at John’s crazy socks.
John Cronin: We do. Um, we hear from parents, we hear about transformations. They see in their children’s lives. One young man, Thomas Thomas is on the autism spectrum.
There’s a lot of social socialization issue, close to monosyllabic, rarely will look at you. It comes out from Queens. Parents said, please make an an hour drive every day parents and give them a chance like everybody else. Um, Thomas had to pass the test to show me from work as a stock plan or what they told us was they couldn’t get them in any program.
Nobody would have them. He spent most of his time in his bedroom, they would have trouble getting him to come out. He didn’t kind of take care of themselves and have to argue with them. He was showered, uh, to do anything around the house. And now they described Thomas’s being showered, shaved, and ready to go.
First thing in the morning and asking them, when do we leave? And, and I wish I could tell you that we were brilliant and we knew the magic formula and we don’t. We just give people a chance and they’re a good role models around this, a strongly supportive community. We are the lucky ones.
David Hirsch: Uh, well, I love it.
Um, you’re literally, uh, changing and transforming people’s lives and, you know, all because John had this idea. To go into the sock business with his dad. That’s beautiful.
Mark Cronin: But then when John sets the tone a lot, you know, John is always looking to see what can we do for others? And we have found here, it’s a simple idea.
The more you do for others, we are.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well that would be a good model for everybody to embrace. Literally everybody doing brightest here or there and everywhere else. Very inspiring as well. Well, thank you for sharing that about John’s crazy socks. And, uh, as we wind down, I’m wondering from an advice standpoint, what are some of the more important takeaways that come to mind that you might share about, uh, raising kids, typical kids, and those with physical or intellectual disabilities?
Mark Cronin: There’s no single right answer. I know. For my wife and Maine really focused on promoting independence. And when that comes to John, we doing the same thing we did for the others setting the expectations of what he can do. And he rises up to those experts. I think there’s a tendency worried for shelter, our kids, and I understand that impulse, but ultimately I think.
But doing them at the surface. I’ll give you a recent example. Friday night, my wife and I went out to a concert. Tom was going to be home alone, pretty moved into an apartment in Huntington village. One of the reasons we did that was so that John would have more independence and I would walk. So he said he was going to go have dinner at a local restaurant.
Where his brother happens. This was great. And my wife, it is that, no, I don’t think it’s safe. I’d be too worried. I’d worry about you. I don’t want you crossing that many streets. And I looked at her and I said, come on now. That’s kind of his own business. He can cross all the streets. The ones we knew had the ability to do this.
And for what it was is, and I’m not picking on my wife. It’s always easy to see somebody else. She was more concerned that in that moment, and, and she’s a great mom, but she was more concerned in that moment about how she felt in her worries as opposed to Don’s independence and what John could do. And of course, he went out and of course he would find, and he was able, you know, it’s a bar restaurant.
He sat at the bar, ordered himself dinner and a final time. Stopped on the way home to get some ice cream at home and was, you know, can’t get a castle then was great. One of our business. We want people to know that, that of course John can do these and other people like him.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing that story.
So why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the Special Father’s Network?
Mark Cronin: Oh, because you always have to give back, I’ve been the beneficiary. I have such great support from so many people. And I remember when Don was born, there was a no a fair amount of uncertainty. I was very fortunate. One of my best friends, you know, we were focused on medical issues.
One of my best friends from high school is still one of my best friends happened to be a cardiothoracic surgeon and I had him to lean on and that was tremendously helpful. I want to be available to families just to let them know what life can be. Like. John leads such a rich and fulfilling life. I want people to know that I’d like to know more for myself not to prescribe things, but as a resource, a listen, and to let people know it’s going to be okay.
I’ve can be very good. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, I love. The philosophy, the attitude, the glass is half full. It’s, not half empty, a way that you and Carol and raised all three of your boys. Thank you. So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Mark Cronin: I think that’s it. I know what John would say. What would he say Don would say, if you want some great socks, come to John fox.com.
David Hirsch: So if somebody wants information on John’s crazy socks, where would that go specifically?
Mark Cronin: Go to the website johnscrazysocks.com and also go to our Facebook page. We share a lot of information there and we have the other social media accounts, Instagram, Twitter. We even have a LinkedIn page now, but we share a lot, you know, one of the things we do when we share a lot of videos, showing what people can do in the process of developing a John’s crazy socks network that will feature either be hosted by or feature people with intellectual disabilities.
So people can get information there.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Well, Mark, thank you for your time. And the many insights as reminder, Mark says, one of the dads who’s agreed to be a mentor father as part of this special father’s network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21st century dads.org.
Thanks again, Mark.
Mark Cronin: Okay. All right, David. Thank you.
David Hirsch: And thank you for listening to this Special Fathers Network podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Again, if you’d like to be a mentor father. Or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own.
Please go to 21stcenturydads.org. I’m David Hirsch. And thanks for listening to this Special Fathers Network podcast.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Podcast was produced for 21st Century Dads by Couch Audio music provided by Purple Planet find out more purple-planet.com. And to find out more about 21st Century Dads go to 21stcenturydads.org.