Man with Down syndrome owns multi-million-dollar sock business
Published Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:00PM EDT
John Cronin likes socks – the crazier, the better.
So when Cronin graduated in 2016, he and his father teamed up to start a business, aptly named John’s Crazy Socks.
The quirky idea quickly grew into a successful, multi-million-dollar business. Cronin now has 1,200 designs that are sold across the world and worn by the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
But what makes Cronin’s story particularly special is that he was born with Down syndrome, and now uses his position to advocate for workers’ rights on behalf of Americans with disabilities.
In fact, John’s Crazy Socks has made it its mission to hire people with disabilities, with 15 of the 35 people on the team living with disabilities, said John’s father, Mark Cronin.
“Every day, we’re out showing what people can achieve when you give them a chance,” Cronin told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
The craziness of John’s Crazy Socks is worth noting. There are taco socks, bowtie-wearing llama socks, and socks that look like library cards. There are googly-eyed pineapple socks, grilled cheese socks, and Donald Trump socks with wispy blonde hair that can be styled.
The unifying theme, John says, is that the socks represent the wearer.
“I like them colourful, fun, and they let me be me,” John said.
Zaniness aside, the father-son business also spreads awareness about disabilities. One pair of socks is patterned with the number 3-21, to represent both World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 and the second partial or extra copy of chromosome 21, which people with Down syndrome carry. Two dollars from each pair is donated to support Down syndrome.
John also designed a second Down syndrome awareness sock with a superhero that looks like him.
The business has prompted John and his father to travel to Washington, D.C. On Wednesday they met with members of Congress to discuss changes to the Fair Labour Act.
“We’re advocating for the rights of disabled people to work and retain their earnings,” Mark Cronin explained.
“In particular, one bill we’re looking to change in the states, there’s a Fair Labour Act, and section 14C of that says that workers can pay disabled employees less than minimum wage. And we think that’s outrageous. So we’re working with the National Down Syndrome Society to get that rule changed.”
North of the border, John’s Crazy Socks have graced the ankles of Canada’s most high-profile sock fan, Justin Trudeau.
“When we found out that Prime Minister Trudeau loved colourful socks – John, you sent him a whole box of socks,” Mark Cronin said.
“I did,” John added.
Trudeau responded by sending John a “lovely” note, Mark Cronin said, expressing his thanks.
In return, the business now sells a pair of Justin Trudeau socks, complete with a pattern of Canadian maple leafs.
Raising awareness is a key part of the John’s Crazy Socks. But the most important part of their mission is simple, John said.