John and Mark Cronin of John's Crazy Socks enjoy the baseball game together for this artwork of Alone with Peter Season 2, Episode 21

38 Spreading Happiness: The Origin Story of John’s Crazy Socks

Alone With Peter
Alone With Peter
38 Spreading Happiness: The Origin Story of John’s Crazy Socks
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Today on Alone with Peter, I am joined by two very special guests, John and Mark Cronin of John’s crazy socks. John and his dad, Mark Cronin are the co-founders of John’s crazy socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness.

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John’s Crazy Socks

John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and a wacky fashion sense. In five years, they bootstrapped their business into the world’s largest sock store with multimillion-dollar sales in 88 different nations. 

John and Mark remain fierce advocates for the rights of the differently-abled with more than half of their employees having differing abilities. They’ve been able to raise over $475,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. And they’ve used their platform to instigate change in legislature, testifying twice before US Congress, speaking at the United Nations, and recording two TEDx talks.


I’m so excited to have these two on Alone with Peter today to talk about their origin story and entrepreneurial journey. In part 1 of this three-part interview we discuss: 

  • John and Mark’s father-son bond and how their relationship shapes their business
  • Anecdotes of John’s problem-solving ability, his adventurous spirit, and natural entrepreneurialism 
  • The origin story of John’s Crazy Socks. A multi-billion-dollar social enterprise based on spreading happiness.
  • Being born with down syndrome: John’s medical issues and an unfortunate point of view
  • How life becomes so much easier when you just accepted that you’re an idiot 
  • Why start a business and why socks? Recognizing the limited opportunities people of differing abilities face and shifting the culture.
  • Authenticity in business: Embracing who you are, doing what you love, and reaping the rewards
  • The surprising emotional response to John’s Crazy Socks
  • Embracing imperfection and experimenting with your business: How overplanning kills productivity and efficiency
  • The biggest secret to success: starting small and learning as you go.
  • Why socks?
  • Why Down Syndrome doesn’t define John or others with differing abilities.. 
  • John’s fashion style, why he and Mark could never be classmates, and how John reacts to being noticed on the street.
  • The beauty of social enterprise: Using John’s Crazy Socks as a platform for change

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Get 10% off your next sock order with promo code PETER22

Looking for a daily dose of happiness? Follow John’s Crazy Socks on social media and get 10% off your next order of crazy socks using our promo code PETER22.

Website: https://johnscrazysocks.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnsCrazySocks

LinkedIn: MXC  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mxcronin/

LinkedIn: JCS: https://www.linkedin.com/company/11171456/admin/

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Johnscrazysocks/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@johnscrazysocks

Enjoy part 1 of our interview with John and Mark Cronin of John’s Crazy Socks

*Transcripts may contain a few typos. With interviews ranging from 1-2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors.

Peter Kersting: Hello, and welcome to Alone with Peter, a podcast for entrepreneurs, artists, digital nomads, and people seeking personal growth. Today, I am joined by two very special guests, John and mark Cronin of John’s crazy socks. John and his dad, Mark Cronin are the co-founders of John’s crazy socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. In five years, they bootstrapped their startup into the world’s largest sock store with multimillion dollar sales in 88 nations. John and Mark are fierce advocates for the rights of the differently abled and have testified twice before us Congress and spoken at the United nations and recorded two TEDx talks.

Peter Kersting: This father-son duo has addressed audiences across the US, Canada and Mexico. And I’m so excited to have them on Alone with Peter today to talk about their origin story and their entrepreneurial journey.

Mark Cronin: Peter, we are excited to be here.

John Cronin: Thank you, Peter. I really appreciate

Mark Cronin: This is great. We’ve been looking forward to this conversation.

John Cronin: Me too.

Peter Kersting: Yeah, I’m I’m I’m glad cuz I’m excited just watching you guys talk to each other. I love your father’s son bond and I thought that’d be a great place to start this conversation. So I like to do backstory because it gives us some perspective, and helps us really understand where you come from and how you’ve been able to accomplish what you’ve done. And, and so I feel like there’s a lot we can learn from you too. And I wanted to start with your relationship. So maybe you could describe to us what that is like for you too.

Mark Cronin: Well, we could talk about the business thing, but that’s been a natural growth of our relationship we’ve spent, we’ve been through a lot together. Right, right. Um, and we’ve spent a lot of time together and just enjoying each other’s company. And John here, I would suggest that John approaches the world the way an artist might of able to transform the ordinary into something special or like the Mary Tyler Moore theme song who can take a nothing date and make it special after all. . I mean, I’ll give you an example long before this business we would spend most Saturdays together. Just the two of us. Yeah. Sometimes mom would be around, but just the two of us. Yeah.

John Cronin: That’s my favorite. And,

Mark Cronin: And what would we start with?

John Cronin: We’d start with, soccer.

Mark Cronin: Go to special Olympic soccer and then we’d go back to the office we had then and pick up the recycling and go to the recycling center.

John Cronin: I love that.

Mark Cronin: You love that. Just go to the recycling center. We would frequently do the big shop at Costco.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: We would go visit my aunt, Gloria’s sister St. Timothy, who has since passed away. But she was in a nursing home. We’d go visit her.

John Cronin: Yes,

Mark Cronin: We’d go run errands.

John Cronin: Right. And my family part, we would call her Costco. I asked my dad, um, I’m gonna court or

Mark Cronin: Oh, you were a Costco card member. Right? You would have these jokes you found very funny.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: Nobody else did. But you found them hilarious.

John Cronin: At, at some time I come up said, can you pick a color?

Mark Cronin: Oh right John. So once John hits a line, he uses this forever. So there is a, uh, a poem by Allen Ginsburg called a supermarket in California in which the narrator is following the ghost of Walt Whitman around a supermarket. And when he gets to the checkout says, Walt, when can I buy my groceries with my good looks? Well, John has taken this line and no matter where we go, he’ll ask, can I pay for this with my good looks?

John Cronin: [Inaudible].

Mark Cronin: So I, you know, we’ve had that. John is the youngest of three, you know, parenting is.

John Cronin: Humbling.

Mark Cronin: It’s very humbling. There’s so much you wanna do. And, and there’s really little, you can do, your children are gonna grow up to be whoever they’re gonna grow up to be, but we’ve always tried to promote their independence. And that includes John and just enjoy the journey, enjoy the ride. Um, and for John, I, I guess there’s something special because it started in such a challenging way. Um, when John was born, we did not know he was going to be born with down syndrome. Um, and you know, it was a different day and age. There was a covering pediatrician. He was born in the middle of the night and came in and said, oh, I’m so sorry. I have such bad news to tell you. And he said, well, what are you talking about? This is our son. This is my boy. What? There’s no bad news here.

Mark Cronin: But people with down syndrome are frequently born with significant medical issues. And, and that includes John. So on day three of his life, he needed intestinal bypass surgery. Uh, we didn’t know if he was gonna survive. We brought a Catholic priest in to baptize him. Um, and he survived that. And then he had a very significant, uh, heart condition. He had two holes in his heart and a leaky valve. And before he was three months old, he had open-heart surgery and we didn’t know if he would survive that we knew he couldn’t survive without that operation. Um, so maybe when you go through things like that, you appreciate more the trip to the recycling center. Yeah. Um, and just the joy you find in that.

John Cronin: Right. I create fun. It is a great journey. I get there I go out there. It’s just me and my dad and we just bubbling around and having fun.

Mark Cronin: I suppose now that I think of it, that’s a little bit of what we’ve done here. Right? The socks, you know, they’re just socks. They’re just a little bit of fabric. And yet, somehow or other working with John, we’re able to transform them into something meaningful, something joyous.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: That’s pretty good stuff.

John Cronin: It does. I love you.

Mark Cronin: I can share anecdotes with John of his problems, his adventurous and problem-solving notions, and a bit of that entrepreneurialism that’s always been there.

Peter Kersting: I love watching you guys talk to each other and your relationship is just really special. People just enjoy watching. Is that something you realized when you started John’s crazy socks, that people would align with that so much? People just wanna watch you work.

Mark Cronin: No, no. And we still, we still have trouble kind of grappling about that. I mean, we’ll tell you the full origin story, but you know, what comes out of that? You know, you, you learn by doing, we saw, you know, people related to John, they liked the personal touch. They liked the giving back. The one thing that caught us by surprise was the emotional response we get, um, from so many and its families that have a child with a differing ability or relative. Um, but we also hear, you know, II find it awkward because we’re just who we are. We’re nothing special. Um, I, I had the CEO of a Fortune 500 company leaning into me, weeping about the relationship I have with John and others. I, I don’t know what to say. Um, cause I don’t think I love my son, but I’ve got three sons. I love all three. And, and by the way, you know, we should bring Patrick and Jamie on because they can offer some dissenting opinions. Exactly. You know, you know, it just it’s, it’s the same thing in the business. We don’t do anything special. We don’t do anything that requires the proverbial, rocket science. Um, I mean, we’ll tell you, we are just, we’re just a couple knuckleheads selling socks. But all we want to do is

John Cronin: change the world.

Peter Kersting: That’s all just change the world.

Mark Cronin: That’s it? Yes. You know, the world’s a pretty horrible place sometimes. But if we could make people smile, we could bring a little love to the world. Okay.

Peter Kersting: Yes. And I think you hit the nail on the head in a sense. I’m seeing you two, just being super authentic and in today’s world, that’s what people are really longing for. Meaningful relationships, authentic, you know, businesses to get behind and maybe you guys stumbled on something. But I feel like the fact that you’re just very comfortable being who you are, despite the challenges and everything else. That’s what people are becoming emotionally attached to.

Mark Cronin: Well, I mean, one way we explain it is John here has no guile and I’m too old to care. But part of it, how much simpler is life when you just recognize this is who I am, and this is what matters? And you’re not putting on heirs and you’re not trying to be somebody else. And you’re not trying to please everybody else. You know, I knew my eldest son, he was really getting it. He was a couple of years outta college and he was sitting and talking and he said, you know, dad, life became so much easier when I just accepted that I was an idiot, that I didn’t know that much and I could go about my life. You know, watch somebody who is told and wants to act like they’re really smart and knowledgeable.

Mark Cronin: So now they have to know everything. Right. And if they don’t know something, they wind up having to fake it. And then when you do that, well, now you can’t learn it cuz you can’t ask questions cuz right. You’ve already said, you’d know whatever it is. But if you just accept, you know, okay. I don’t know. Life is okay. You know, sometimes you, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room and it’s the person who’s not the smartest who can benefit the most because when somebody else is blowing smoke or something, they just ask, “what do you mean?” What’s going on here? We kind of apply that to our business. We were talking about that with one of our colleagues earlier today. So we have no excuses. We can’t blame what happens on the board. We can’t blame it on headquarters. We can’t blame it on other people. The business operates the way we want it to operate. And if it’s anything other than the way we would dream of it being, why would you do, why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you want to create a business the way you always dreamed of doing it?

Peter Kersting: Those are some lessons that are pretty hard for most people to grasp, I think. It seems like a blessing to me that that’s something you in your journey and your eldest son, as you mentioned, have been able to learn. We’ll talk about this later in the podcast. I think. I don’t wanna jump into it too fast, but there’s an element of what you’re doing with John’s crazy socks, which is just, I don’t know how to do it. Let’s figure it out. Or you know what? Let’s not take it too far too fast. Let’s just see what happens.

Mark Cronin: Absolutely. You know, we will tell folks we have an aesthetic of ready fire aim, which doesn’t mean run around Willy nilly, but don’t overthink it. Just go and do things. If we thought about it ahead of time, everything that would be involved in this business, oh my God, we never would’ve gotten near it, but let’s get something up and running and test it and see what happens or, or here’s an example in, uh, so we opened in December of 2016. By May of 2017, we’re starting to learn. Nobody buys socks in the summer. Um, so what can we do? Well, one of the things we wanted to do was create a sock of the month, a subscription. This is not a brilliant idea. All sorts of people are doing subscriptions. So we sat down with our colleagues at the time and said, let’s do this. And within 10 days we had the webpage built. We had figured out the logistics, we’d gotten the inventory and we started

Peter Kersting: Within 10 days.

Mark Cronin: Within 10 days, we got it up and running three or four months later, one of our suppliers, who’s also a competitor because they sell direct to the customers. They started a soccer month. Okay. So I, them about it, we got to talking and they told me they had been working on this for a year and a half said, what the hell are you doing? What could you possibly have been doing for a year and a half? They told me about their committees and their tests and this and that. Well, here’s, here’s part of the answer. By that point, we were more than three months down the road. We had real customers, we had real revenue, we had real experience and we were on our third iteration of our, of that webpage of the functionality built to serve our customers. So their year and a half didn’t buy them anything.

Peter Kersting: Yeah. It’s a hard lesson learned. And honestly, it’s not a lesson that, uh, that, that people necessarily pick up on that. All that preparation beforehand is just, uh, is gonna end up in the same thing. You’re gonna fail at some stuff and you’re gonna figure out, oh wow, we need to change this part. We were wrong about that versus you just jumped in 10 days in,

Mark Cronin: Right. I’m not suggesting, you know, just be wild and throw stuff out there. But yesterday I had a long conversation with a friend who, actually the son of a friend, and he and his partner are creating a new type of juice bar and they want it to be very healthy, but they’re gonna layer in some social aspects.

Mark Cronin: One of their missions is to hire ex-cons to be able to give them jobs and show what convicts can do and that they deserve a chance. And they’re building running into this and healthy lifestyles. So they have these plans to have multiple stores and be in a bunch of cities and they’re gonna have a big central kitchen and that will feed the smallest stores. And we got to listening and, and listen, I’ve never run a food store. I love what they’re trying to do, but, I said, you know, before you build 20 stores, why don’t you try one? Why don’t you just get one up and running and see how customers respond and you’re gonna go and learn things. And I don’t know what they are. I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you this now, but there are some things that you’re thinking of doing that you just know are brilliant and they won’t be they’ll turn it be a complete flop. And there’ll be other things that you’re not even thinking about that you’re just gonna do will turn out to be a great win, but you gotta go and do get, get things.

Peter Kersting: It reminds me of the founder of Netflix talking about starting up Netflix and that idea. I heard him on The Tim Ferris podcast, and one of the things he said that really stuck with me was there is no such thing as a good idea or a bad idea. You just gotta try something and see if it works. And his story of Netflix is fascinating because there were all these different things that they were thinking about doing or not doing. And Netflix started out totally different than it is now. I wanna ask a slightly different question though, cuz this is really great stuff, but I wanna focus a little bit more on your guys’s relationship and, and maybe this is kind of connected to the business too, but, but John, who is the idea guy? Are, are you the idea guy in the business?

John Cronin: Uh, yes. I, I just my idea and I wanna go be with my dad and I wanna sell really fun, crazy socks.

Mark Cronin: The idea for us to go and sell socks is 100%. Yes. John’s idea.

John Cronin: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: I know it’s not the first idea when you tell us what some of the other ideas were.

Mark Cronin: It wasn’t the first idea, but, but Peter, you’ve worked with entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs all have a lot of ideas.

John Cronin: Yeah.

Mark Cronin: Yeah. And the truth is only some of them are good ideas. Right. We should talk about, you know, the, the getting started and how that happened. Um,

Peter Kersting: Yes, please.

Mark Cronin: Well, you gotta put in context and to a degree, I, I gotta make sure that people understand my partner. Yeah. Right. So you are an entrepreneur.

John Cronin: Yes I am.

Mark Cronin: You’re now a sock Tycoon.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: You are a public speaker.

John Cronin: Yes. I am.

Mark Cronin: A public speaker who, by the way, for the first four years of his life, couldn’t talk learned sign language.

John Cronin: Yeah. I, I sign language and I use a computer. I press a button. It helped me communicate.

Mark Cronin: So we, we try to make sure people and parents know that. Particularly if they have children with developmental delays that he couldn’t talk. And now sometimes

John Cronin: I never shut up.

Mark Cronin: Yeah. We can’t get him to be quiet, but, you’re a public speaker.

John Cronin: Yes. I am.

Mark Cronin: You donate a lot of money which makes you a philanthropist.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: You’re a dancer.

John Cronin: Yes, I am Dad.

Mark Cronin: You’re an athlete.

John Cronin: Yes.

Mark Cronin: You’re a good friend.

John Cronin: Yes, I am.

Mark Cronin: You got a girlfriend that makes you a boyfriend.

John Cronin: I am a boyfriend. Yeah.

Mark Cronin: You’re a brother.

John Cronin: Yeah. A brother.

Mark Cronin: You’re a son.

John Cronin: Yes I am.

Mark Cronin: And you happen to have down syndrome.

John Cronin: Yes, I am. I have down syndrome. Down syndrome never hold me back.

Mark Cronin: And this is important because the down syndrome doesn’t define John.

John Cronin: Right.

Mark Cronin: It is something he has, it’s a characteristic, but he’s all these other things too. And that first. Right. But so now we go back a little more than five years ago. It’s the fall of 2016. Um, and our story starts in a small log cabin in the woods.

John Cronin: No!

Mark Cronin: It starts in the suburbs of New York City. And where were you, pal?

John Cronin: I was at Huntington high school. It was gonna be my last year of school.

Mark Cronin: So he’s trying to figure out what do I do? What do I do when school is open and what are you looking at?

John Cronin: I looked at job programs in school. All the options I don’t like.

Peter Kersting: What were the options available to you, John? And what did you not like about them?

John Cronin: I really didn’t like it because I am afraid.

Mark Cronin: There weren’t many jobs and you know, some of the jobs might be and not putting it down, you know, collecting shopping carts at supermarkets.

John Cronin: Yeah.

Mark Cronin: There were programs he could join, but in many ways they were just, it was like daycare, almost like, okay, we’ll keep you busy during the day. Um, exactly. But John here, he’s a natural entrepreneur.

John Cronin: Yes, I am.

Peter Kersting: Well, I can tell you’re a smart guy, too. John,

Mark Cronin: If you didn’t see a job you wanted, what were you gonna do?

John Cronin: I wanna create one. I wanna make one.

Mark Cronin: See John, he can be forward. I mean, I’ll pause here, but go back to some childhood things. I mean, I’ll give you just a few small anecdotes cuz you were asking about him as a tribe,

Peter Kersting: Please. I wanna see what he was like as a kid. Cuz you mentioned that there were a lot of ways he surprised you.

Mark Cronin: Well, you know, he… Here’s one. We were out once, so maybe you were in high school, you know? Yeah. My wife and I, we weren’t that great parents, but you know, so he’s home alone.

John Cronin: Dad, you’re a good parent.

Mark Cronin: And, and he wanted to have mac n cheese.

John Cronin: Mac N Cheese.

Mark Cronin: Yes. You know, healthy food. He wanted to put it in the microwave, but the microwave was busted. So what do you do? Well, what’d you do?

John Cronin: I did. I went to, next-door neighbors’ houses, and I asked if I could heat my food.

Mark Cronin: He’s knocking on neighbors’ doors saying, can I use your microwave?

John Cronin: Yeah. Right. That can be also my problem.

Mark Cronin: Right. Or one time he is you’re in summer school, the summer school program. Yeah. And I run into the principal someplace and she’s gushing. She goes, mark, you know the talent show that John is organizing. It’s so wonderful. And it’s great. What he’s doing in I’m like what talent show? what turned out. John had decided the school should have a talent show. so, I mean, he, he watches a lot of these teen movies and stuff and just leaves. Well, I’ll make that real. So he had barely had gone into the principal when you had some presentation prepared on your iPad.

John Cronin: Yeah. I did.

Mark Cronin: He pitched it to her. She agreed that he went around to all the teachers and organized a school talent show and he didn’t have to tell me cuz he was gonna surprise me with an invitation to it, but he didn’t need any help. He could go and do this. Um, so for him to come and say, all right, I don’t see anything I want. I’m just gonna go make one. And then you told me that I want to go into business with you. That was just natural for him. Right. And he had grown up in a place where I had run different businesses and he had, he had seen that. Um, yes, but yes then you’re right. We had to come up with what type of business would we run?

John Cronin: Right.

Mark Cronin: You had a lot of ideas.

John Cronin: I had great ideas.

Mark Cronin: Oh, “I have great ideas.” What was one of them?

John Cronin: One of them was a food truck. I have an idea from the movie Chef with Jon Favreau. A very neat movie about a father and son bonding over a food truck.

Mark Cronin: And so this seemed like, could be a good idea. We start talking about what we could make, and where we could do it. I remember, you know, your mom telling you things you should do when you were saying no, no, no, no. It’s my food truck. Um

John Cronin:

Mark Cronin: And, tell you the truth. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my days in a food truck, but it didn’t matter because we ran into a problem.

John Cronin: We can’t cook.

Mark Cronin: Yeah. We can’t cook.

Peter Kersting: That’s a pretty big problem.

John Cronin: Yeah.

Mark Cronin: But it was entirely John’s idea. The crazy socks. So it was right before Thanksgiving. And you had your Eureka moment.

John Cronin: I did. I wanna sell crazy socks. Why socks? It’s fun. It’s colorful. It’s creative. It will always let me be me.

Mark Cronin: John wore these crazy socks all his life. Yes it is. We drive around looking for him and I should tell you, John has a very particular sense of style.

John Cronin: Yeah. Very particular.

Mark Cronin: He knows what he wants to wear and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. He’ll put plaids and stripes together. That’s OK. He’s also very organized. So he’ll know on Monday what he’s wearing every day of the week, he’d lay these clothes out and his brother Jamie would come and say, dad, you can’t let him wear that to school.

John Cronin: Yeah. He’s not the fashion police.

Mark Cronin: John, don’t tell me! He’d wear what he wanted to wear.

John Cronin: Right. One time with pajamas on.

Mark Cronin: Oh, right. You snuck into school with pajamas in a bathrobe. Yeah. That was great fun.

Peter Kersting: You’re a troublemaker, John.

John Cronin: We, we did learn something about each other. You asked about the relationship. So, you know, working, we spend a lot of time together.

John Cronin: Yeah.

Mark Cronin: Back in the summer of 2017. Oh

John Cronin: Oh yeah. Mass Challenge.

Mark Cronin: We were very fortunate to participate in a business accelerator program called Mass Challenge. Uh, they were around the world, but we were participating in their Bo Boston program. So we had an ongoing business here. We needed to be here. We drive up on Monday nights, get up there like one in the morning would spend Tuesday and Wednesday there, and come back Wednesday nights. Well, while we were up there, they had lots of activities, including classroom sessions. So, John, he would go early and he would get good seats. And then he’d be texting me, dad, you’re gonna be late, dad. You’re late. Where are you?

John Cronin: Yeah. At this morning.

Mark Cronin: And you did it this morning to me. And then I am, I would in, and I’d sit next to him and I’d lean over to say something to him and he’d go before I pay attention. And so I realized that if we were in high school together, we were not gonna be friends. he follows the rules. And there’s a little, I suppose this is an insight into our relationship in, in the town where we live in the village. Um, there, these parking lots that are connected and there’s, there’s this one pathway that connects two parking lots, but it’s only a one way. So it’s got big signs do not enter one way, but it’s about 15 feet long. So I’ll go the wrong way of this Adam, this drives John Adam, his mind, he gets so mad. And as a result of that, I look for every chance I have to do it the wrong way.

John Cronin:

Peter Kersting: That’s that’s great.

John Cronin: Alright, but we were talking about serious stuff. Start of the business.

John Cronin: Yeah. Yeah. Come on.

Mark Cronin: So, so this does relate to, um, to your idea of, you know, just go and roll with things. So, all right. He suggests socks and it struck me just intuitively that you know what? John loved these socks so much, surely other people would too. Yes. And a typical way to go then is, is to stop everything and prepare that business plan. Now, do your market research, your competitive analysis, do your operational plan, your financial forecast. Uh, that’s not what we did. We said let’s go the lean startup route, which is gonna get something up and going and we’ll see, we’ll see what the customers tell us. So we, we built, you had the name.

John Cronin: Yeah. I, I got a name I drew up our website and I tell my ideas.

Mark Cronin: We built a website on the Shopify platform. We got a little bit of inventory. We were bootstrapping. So you gotta be creative. You gotta make use of what you have. So the only marketing we did was to set up a Facebook page and I would take out my cell phone. We made videos. And who do you think was in those videos?

John Cronin: I am. I’m talking about socks, socks, socks, more socks.

Mark Cronin: That’s how we got started. Right. Um, and he, but here’s how that goes. Right. Uh, we tell this story and it all sounds so easy and, and smooth. What day did we open?

John Cronin: We opened on a Friday, three, seven ninth, 2016.

Mark Cronin: So we spent no more than three weeks preparing to launch this business. Um, we didn’t know what to expect when we opened. And we were very fortunate. We got a flood of orders. On the first day, we got 42 orders and most of them were local, which made sense. Right. People knew us. And yeah. And so what’d we do with those first orders?

John Cronin: We do our home delivery.

Mark Cronin: We got red boxes. Yeah. We put the socks in the boxes and we looked at it and said, you know, it needs something else. So what else can we put in?

John Cronin: I put on a sticky note I wrote and I put in candy and Hershey’s Kisses

Mark Cronin: We got bags of Hershey’s kisses and poured them in right loaded up the car. And we drove around and John knocked on doors. And how’d the customers respond?

John Cronin: Customers loved it. They took a picture and posted it on social media around the world.

Mark Cronin: Word began to spread. We had customers ordering again, just to have John come back to their house. Yeah. You know, and there were some nights we were out after 10 o’clock at night, John’s knocking on doors, you know, just John with your socks. Don’t shoot. But you asked about the emotional connection. We had just some exchanges there that, you know, just, just, wow. You, I mean, floored us. We had one woman we had delivered to on the very first night. Yeah. And a week later we came back, she had ordered again. And then she said, you know, I have to apologize the first day you were here. I was, I was short with you. But my husband had undergone an operation that day. And I had just come back from the hospital. But I ordered again because seeing John made me so happy and feel so good that I just wanted to feel that way again.

Mark Cronin: And, and you know, what do you say? We had a woman. I remember this one. Well, it was over in Northport and the house was up on a hill. He had to climb wooden stairs to get up there. Oh yeah. John goes up, she comes following him down. Yes. And she comes down and says, you know, I, I just gotta thank you that, um, my mother had passed away over the summer and I’ve been very down and depressed and I wasn’t even gonna celebrate Christmas, but I started watching some of John’s videos and here I am, I’ve had socks and I’m happy. And I called my family and we’re doing Christmas again. Well, what do you say? Cause you know, remember now we’re just these knucklehead selling socks. Right buddy.

John Cronin: It does.

Peter Kersting: John. How do you handle having this big platform? You’re like a celebrity. Do you like all the attention you get?

John Cronin: Yeah. Um, I just get stopped and recognized. I just get stopped at the airport.

Mark Cronin: He does get recognized. We’ll go out. You can see, people start looking. We’ll be at airports. People come up to him, want to get a photo with him.

John Cronin: Yeah. I went in the street.

Mark Cronin: You liked it right there. It was one time. Yes.

Mark Cronin: We were going. Our eldest son was performing some impro theater and we’re in Manhattan. We’re across in, uh, I guess from Google street. And as we’re looking across the street, there’s this huge SUV, this huge black SUV barreling down the street and we kind of scurrying outta the way. And he slams his brakes on and I’m thinking, oh, you know, I don’t want to have any trouble. And a guy opens the door and he comes out and he’s about the size of a small mountain. And like, oh no. And then he points, are you John? The sock guy? And he comes over hugging John, can I get my picture with you? And, but you like this, right.

John Cronin: I really do. I really like this,

Mark Cronin: But here here’s the thing, Peter, this is something that we recognize, right? We’re so fortunate to be able to do what we do.

John Cronin: Absolutely.

Mark Cronin: The business has created a platform where people will listen to us. Look at this. You’ve invited us on your podcast. You’re taking time to do this interview. How, how lucky are we? And that creates an obligation on our part that we have to use it for something important that we have to take advantage of that opportunity. Cause we’ve in our little way, we’ve made a big promise. We’ve said you can build a social enterprise, that you can build something based on happiness and, and really on love on that. We can start. And we could talk about our five pillars. You know, that you can really care about your colleagues and treat them well, that you can really take care of customers, that you can build a business, hiring people with different abilities and build BA giving back into everything you do. And this will be a success. So we’ve told people that, well, guess what? Now we have an obligation. We have to keep living that at making that happen.

Peter Kersting: Wow. I think this is a great spot for us to take a break. This has been a really edifying so far meeting with John and mark Cronan of John’s crazy socks. Next week. We’re gonna be touching on more about that business and social mission and the social enterprise. Stay tuned for that next Monday on Alone with Peter

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