John & Mark Cronin Are Spreading Happiness One Pair of Socks At A Time
Learn how this Father and son duo are empowering people with differing abilities at their company and continuing to build a crazy sock empire with one mission in mind: to spread happiness.
John & Mark Cronin, creators of John’s Crazy Socks
What was the thought behind the idea to create John’s Crazy Socks?
John: All the way back in 2016 my dad was setting up some online businesses and I was in my last year of school and I was looking at options for after graduation.
Mark: We looked at some potential jobs and some agencies that had potential programs and a college but we discovered there weren’t great choices and John didn’t really love the choices he saw.
John: So I said, “I want to go into business with my dad!”
Mark: He had worked with me before so he came and said, “Dad, I just want to work with you! What can we do?” I joked because, I have three sons, but this is one I could work with! So then we had to come up with an idea.
John: Our first idea was a fun store. Our next idea was a food truck but we had a problem—we can’t cook. But then I said, “I want to start ‘Crazy Socks.’” Why socks? I’ve worn crazy socks my entire life because it always made me be me.
Mark: He liked the colors and John has a sense of style and we would always drive around looking for them and so—he’s very thoughtful with what he’s wearing—it struck me as something that could work! And you know, he loved them so much, so if you love something, chances are that there will be other people love it too. So we went the lean start up route—we didn’t do a business plan, we didn’t do a lot of research, all we did was say, “Okay, we’ll test it!” We set up a website, we got some inventory and the only marketing we did was to set up a Facebook page with some videos where John was talking about his socks. And John even came up with a catchphrase…
John: “Socks, socks more socks!”
Mark: When we opened it was just the two of us and we were doing everything—we opened at 10:00 in the morning and the website crashed. So I had to rebuild it…because that’s what happens, right? So we reopened at 3:00 in the afternoon and we didn’t know what to expect. We were lucky that we got a lot of orders—that first day we got 42 and almost all of them were local. So what did we do with those orders?
John: I wanted to do home deliveries so we got boxes and for the socks…
Mark: But we knew we needed something else so that’s when we added the candy and a thank you note, loaded up the car and drove around so John could knock on doors delivering the socks…it’s pretty funny to be knocking on someone’s door at 9:30 at night and seeing how they react; the customers loved it!
John: We knew they loved it because they would take a photo!
Mark: We found out that people wanted to buy socks and that people wanted to buy socks from John—people related to the personal nature of it all and we were immediately getting emails saying that John’s an inspiration and they just connected with John. They also liked that we had pledge 5% to the Special Olympics. So by doing, we were testing and seeing how people were responding to what we were offering. Plus, we learned that this young man and this old man could sell socks.
John: I’m a sock tycoon!
Why is it important for you to do?
Mark: That’s like asking John, “Why does a fish swim in water?” John is the perfect entrepreneur—he came up with this idea and it was just obvious to him that we should go do this. He had no hesitancy, there was no doubt and we just thought, “We’re going to go do it and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.” But what we’ve found, and it’s our ethic here, we’re going to “do”, we’re going to take action and that doesn’t mean we’re just going to do things “willy nilly.” Sure, we’re going to do some planning, but we’re not going to overthink and wait for things to be perfect—we’re going to get it up and get going and we’re going to find out. And we’re going to find out because people are going to let us know. And then we’re either going to fail fast and look at it and say, “This is not going to work,” or we’ll get the information and tweak it and work to figure out how to make it better. We encourage people to take action. We let them know that failure is part of the game—not everything is going to work. Not everything is going to turn out right…but we might as well go try.
What is your overall goal?
John: Our mission is to spread happiness!
Mark: Our goal is to make you feel good and to make you feel happy and the socks are part of it. It may sound almost trite sometimes, but I’ve been around long enough and have been on corporate retreats to come up with mission statements and you end up parsing the language to come up with things and you go back to the office and no one knows what it’s about and nobody cares. Happiness drives us—everything we do is evaluated in the light of, “Is this going to spread happiness?”
If you’re having a bad day, what’s something you say to yourself to keep going?
Mark: Part of it is that I get to look out at my colleagues and see what they’re doing and that will carry me. I’m absolutely driven to do more—we have 39 permanent employees today. We had 70 working here over the holidays. If we can have 39, why can’t we have 300?
I’ve gotten to watch John flourish. I’ve gotten to watch John grow up and come up in a learning curve. He deserves credit for how hard he works and how much he learns but at the same time, I know that this has happened because John has had this opportunity. We need to give others the same opportunity—and we see it here every day—we see minor miracles every day simply because we gave people meaningful work to do. So, if you ask me what motivates me on a bad day? I look out and I see my colleagues and I know what they can do and I know how much more we have to do.
What are your favorite songs to put you in a good mood?
Who are your heroes?
John: I am! And my dad.
Mark: Listen, I don’t believe in heroes, but people that I look to for the way they’ve achieved things…one is John, Bob Dylan and Bill Belichick. It’s people like that who have a new vision and they live what they do and they’re able to achieve. And Paul Niles and my aunt Jean Connolly who worked on the Bowery where the homeless congregated—she worked in the men’s shelter on 3rd Street for years. And also my friend Maureen who works with immigrants. I like to watch the steadfastness and the purpose and the giving to others—those are people that I admire and hope to emulate.
What are the next goals?
Mark: To do more, to reach more people and find more ways to show what people are doing here so we can hire more. We’re thinking of greeting cards and possible other products but we’re very much a content company too. Something we’re going to do this summer is recreate some classic game shows showing off what the the folks here can do. Another thing we’re thinking of doing is getting a tour bus to go across country doing pop up shops.
All of this has succeeded because this guy [John] said we should sell socks and he believed in it and all I had to do was believe in that and here we are. We’re very fortunate, we’ve had a lot of great help along the way, we have really great people working here where you learn that skills matter but you only have to be good enough with the skills…what matters more is the culture. The socks are just part of it—the mission is bigger. There’s a richness to it and it really comes down to conviction—you have to know what your mission is and what your values are and you have to believe. Because if you believe and you have that conviction, that will infuse into everything you do. From the way you answer the phone, to how you hire people, to how you work together. It shows up in everything you do.