This week on our podcast, we will discuss the incredible story behind John’s Crazy Socks and our mission to spread happiness. We’ll explore how John, who has Down Syndrome, and his dad, Mark, started this business with a simple mission: to spread happiness.
We’ll talk about how their business has grown and evolved over the years and how they have impacted the lives of so many. Additionally, we’ll discuss the importance of inclusion and how John’s Crazy Socks has created a community of acceptance and respect.
Tune in to learn more about this inspiring story and how you can help make a difference!
What you will learn from this podcast
[00:04:22] Mark: dad.
- Mark is a fan of Bob Dylan and recently embarked on a project to send out a Bob Dylan song of the day.
[00:05:20] John: son,
- Mark and I built a website and got a little inventory, and we were bootstrapping. The only marketing we did was set up a Facebook page.
- Brent wants to get your feedback on a joke before we get into the regular content, so he’s gonna tell you a joke and then you’re gonna tell me a joke after that.
[00:09:33] Brent: Oof
- Mark: I don’t know if you’ve ever had to participate in a mission statement writing exercise, but it drives everything we do. We’ve created a social enterprise that has both the social and the business purpose, and they feed off of each other.
- Mark: It’s about giving back, supporting causes, and creating customer experiences. And so we’re spreading happiness.
[00:12:23] Brent: happiness.
- Brent: Yeah, I’m a big believer in the entrepreneurial operating system, so we do mission statements and we set up our core values.
- Mark: I’m familiar with E os and we have our five pillars, and everybody knows that, so if you walk around here and you say, what’s the mission, everybody will be able to tell you and they’ll be able to tell you why their job matters.
- Mark: work. We have to make this a great place to work, and we can start by making sure people know why their job matters.
- When you buy socks from us, you are helping us employ people with different abilities, give back, and spread happiness. You get a thank you note from John, and on the packing slip, you see the picture of the person who picked your on.
- Brent: I agree that happiness has to start with the staff and then bring it out to the customers.
[00:15:51] Mark: happiness?
- Mark: We believe in what we’re doing and we’re committed to making our customers happy, so we go the extra mile for them. We give things away, we refund money, we give a guarantee of happiness, and it’s good business.
- Mark: We get happy employees, happy customers, and loyal customer. We have a great website, great selection, great products, and great service, so we frequently hear from new customers how surprised they were and how quickly they got their product.
- Mark: We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over in Amazon, and we do it because we hire people with different abilities.
- Brent: I think businesses overlook two of the five pillars, the social and the environmental, and also the community. Maybe you could touch a little bit on the community side of it?
- Mark: we work with people with different abilities, and we make products that celebrate causes and raise money for those causes.
[00:19:39] Mark: You
- Mark: Socks raised money for the National Down Syndrome Society. We work with the local schools, we host school tours, we get involved in the local chamber of commerce, and it turns out to be good for business.
- Brent: I get that, and I volunteer for a running organization that helps incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people start changing their lives through running. The community aspect is even more important than the running part, and you have to make sure that you’re maintaining that and being part of it.
- Brent: Leaders should always try to serve others rather than getting something from them. Mark: Leaders should work for everybody else and give them what they need to succeed.
- Mark said we were going to sell crazy socks, and John’s Crazy Socks became somewhat anachronistic, but it’s about the joy and the passion and the energy.
- Mark: When you get tossed ass over heels, you got your north star, and your values help keep you on track. So when we got hit by a pandemic, we knew we had to take care of our colleagues’ health.
- Mark: We moved our tours online, we made socks to say thank you to frontline workers, we sold masks to spread happiness, and we made healthcare superhero socks to raise $50,000 for the American Nurses Foundation.
- Mark founded SOS to spread happiness and started a Facebook live show and a podcast. He says that if you know what you are really, you can adapt no matter what the circumstances are.
- John and Mark are the owners of johns crazy socks, which makes great socks and helps people with different ability. By buying from them, you’re also helping them spread happiness.
- Please rate this episode wherever you download your podcast and sign up for the Free Joke Project to help promote your business.
[00:03:35] Brent: Welcome to Tak Commerce. Today I have John and Mark Cronan. They are, uh, the founders of the Crazy Sox. Anyways, John and Mark, why don’t you do an introduction Tell me, uh, a little bit about yourselves, one of your passions in life. Correct. Any of my mistakes, and tell me, uh, tell me everything. , you
[00:03:55] Mark: wanna
[00:03:55] John: introduce us?
[00:03:56] John: Um, my name is John. This my partner, my dad, mark Aswan. Uh, we are John and our mission is spreading
[00:04:05] Mark: happiness spread and happiness. So we help bring a little happiness, friends passions. You got a lot of passions here. I do dancing. Is that one of them? I
[00:04:14] John: can’t sing and I do. Um, I, I dancing and I, um, I I love my
[00:04:22] Mark: dad.
[00:04:23] Mark: Well, that’s a passion of yours, so, okay, so what’s a passion of mine? Uh, completely non-business related. I am a fan of Bob Dylan. Fan is short for fanatic . Um, so I have recently. Well, not that recently embarked on one of the more absurd projects I’ve ever taken on Kevin’s son. I, I started selling out, sending out a Bob Dylan song of the day.
[00:04:54] Mark: Um, and I do a little write up, you know, but it frequently like a thousand words or so.
[00:04:59] John: Um, he’s son about,
[00:05:02] Mark: uh, uh, whatever Bob Dylan song comes to mind that day, and today I’m on day 211. and I suggest to people try to write something for 200 days in a row. ? .
[00:05:18] Brent: Yeah. It’s not easy. He has
[00:05:20] John: son,
[00:05:21] Mark: right? I have sons, yes.
[00:05:23] Mark: What do you want me to say about my sons? He have son and wife. I have a wife too. Yes. I told them I’m talking about one thing. . Come on now. . So Brent wants to know about John’s Crazy Sox. Um, it’s named for you because it was your idea. Give my idea. Um, we started just over six years ago. We just celebrated our six anniversary.
[00:05:50] Mark: Um, born at an necessity. Right. John, you, where were you six years ago? Uh,
[00:05:55] John: I was at high. .
[00:05:58] Mark: He was in his last year of school trying to figure out, I’m last year, what do I do next? John has Down Syndrome. There just aren’t a lot of opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. We know you have a lot of entrepreneurs in the audience.
[00:06:12] Mark: John’s a natural entrepreneur. He couldn’t find anything he wanted. He couldn’t find a job. So what’d you say? I want quit. I wanna make one. I’ll make a job.
[00:06:22] John: What’d you tell me? I told my dad I was gonna be with him. .
[00:06:27] Mark: So ultimately we just, he suggested we sell socks. We had, he had won these crazy socks his whole life.
[00:06:36] Mark: We said, okay, let’s go test the idea. So we went the lean startup route. We built a website, got a little inventory. We were bootstrapping. Uh, we recently were talking to some students and they said, well, what does bootstrapping. It means you have no money, um, and you gotta make due with what you have. So the only marketing we did was set up a Facebook page.
[00:07:01] Mark: I would take out my cell phone and we made videos. And who was in those videos? I am,
[00:07:07] John: I’m talking by socks. Socks on my sock.
[00:07:10] Mark: And we opened on Friday, December 9th, 2016. Yes. Not knowing what to expect. We got 42 orders the first day. , we did home deliveries to people. Most of ’em were local. Um, and after two weeks, after that first month, or really two weeks, um, we had 452 waters and we knew we could, we could grow something today.
[00:07:38] Mark: How many different socks do we have? We
[00:07:40] John: have 4,000 d.
[00:07:44] Mark: 4,000 socks, which means John here owns the world’s largest sock store in terms of choice, right? Not, we’re not out selling Walmart and the like, um, but we just celebrate our six anniversary, just shipped our 400000th package. Um, we’ve been able to create 34 jobs.
[00:08:05] Mark: 22 of those are held by people with different abilities and, uh, giving back is a big part of what we do. And, and. We’ve now raised $600,000 for our charity partner. So, uh, uh, things have been good so far.
[00:08:22] Brent: Yeah. That’s awesome. Um, uh, one of the things that, uh, that I prepped you with in the green room, and I noticed, uh, you, you have the banner in the background that’s spreading happiness.
[00:08:33] Brent: Um, I did say that I was gonna tell you a joke and I wanted to just get your feedback on the joke. So before we get into the regular content, I’m gonna tell you a. and then, uh, you just have to tell me if that joke should be free or not. And then as I understand it, you’re gonna tell me a joke as well after, after I tell you the joke.
[00:08:52] Brent: All right, let’s go Brent. So, um, I’m hoping I’m gonna spread some happiness. Um, alright, here we go. What does a building wear a dress?
[00:09:07] Mark: So you tell jokes like
[00:09:08] Brent: John ? Yes.
[00:09:11] Mark: I didn’t,
[00:09:13] John: ah, I don’t think you can charge for that.
[00:09:16] Mark: I’m not sure You can give
[00:09:17] John: that
[00:09:17] Mark: away. .
[00:09:19] Brent: Well, we just gave it away. Should. Alright, should we do one more? Okay. All right. I’ll do one more. Since, since that one, that one was so successful. Um, a storm blew away 25% of my roof last.
[00:09:33] Brent: Oof
[00:09:36] Brent: I know. That was a, that was, that was even worse.
[00:09:41] Mark: That is upon worthy of James Joyce, you know? Yes, absolutely. Do you have a joke you
[00:09:47] John: want to tell? I do. That’s here. Why? Why is Don wear, why has thunder
[00:09:54] Mark: wear, why does thunder wear. , why does underwear, underwear. Underwear. Okay. I’m not sure if I get it. You know, , sometimes I think you’re speaking a different language.
[00:10:11] Brent: All right. Let, let’s talk a little bit about spreading happiness. Um, tell us, tell us some of the background of that. And, and, and I mean, I, I can, I am, I’m also a believer in spreading happiness, but tell us a little bit about that. .
[00:10:27] Mark: Well, we are believers that if you wanna lead an organization, you gotta know what you’re about.
[00:10:37] Mark: You gotta know what your purpose is about. Um, and ours is spreading happiness. And so, and how do you, what do you say are the keys to spreading
[00:10:46] John: happiness? It’s gratitude for
[00:10:48] Mark: others. Gratitude and do for others. And that drives through everything we. , um, I don’t know, Brent, if you’ve ever been, if you’ve ever had to participate in a mission statement writing exercise, I, I hope not.
[00:11:03] Mark: You know, you go away and you parse the language and you come back and people put it on the wall and no one pays any attention to it. We talk about this every day, and it drives our decision making. It drives our budget process. And it has to then infuse everything we do. So what we’ve done to make that happen is we’ve created a social enterprise.
[00:11:31] Mark: So it’s a slightly different type of business model. We have both the social and the business purpose, and they feed off of each other. And, and really the, the keys for us, it’s, it’s like John says, it’s have an attitude of gratitude and it’s due for others and for us. That’s really about showing what we can do, what, what people with different abilities can do.
[00:11:57] Mark: It’s about giving back, you know, supporting causes. Um, and it’s about making those connections with our customers, you know, so we’re always looking for relationships, not just transactions. We’re looking to create customer experiences. And so what we do all. our, we’re spreading happiness and our customers are spreading
[00:12:23] Brent: happiness.
[00:12:25] Brent: Yeah, that’s great. I, I’m a, I’m a big believer in the entrepreneurial operating system, so as, as we do eos, it’s called, we have to do mission statements and we have to set up our core values, so absolutely. I’ve gone through that and I’m a big believer in living and working towards your core values and hiring for your core values.
[00:12:43] Brent: That, that’s awesome. Yes. So,
[00:12:46] Mark: yes. Yeah, go ahead. It. I’m familiar with E os and you know, we, we gotta know our purpose. We have our five pillars. Um, everybody knows that, you know, if you walk around here and you say, what’s the mission? Everybody will be able to tell you and they’ll be able to tell you why their job matters and connects.
[00:13:07] Brent: Yeah, that’s good. So tell, tell me a little bit about, uh, the happiness part. What is it that, um, just, so what is it that you’re doing to promote happiness and how, and I’m assuming it’s happiness for employees and for customers,
[00:13:20] Mark: for everybody. Right. Um, it was the old Milton Friedman line that, you know, companies and corporations only had an obligation as shareholders.
[00:13:31] Mark: Uh, we believe in a different, will we have an obligation to our colleagues, to our customers, to the community, to the environment, and to our shareholders. Um, you know, I mentioned the five pillars we have. What’s our, what are our five
[00:13:48] John: pillars? Um, it’s present in hope. Give me back five prior, uh, five prior.
[00:13:54] John: You can love, make partner and make it clear to
[00:13:58] Mark: work. So, you know, you ask how you do that happiness. Well, it’s gotta start here. It’s gotta start with our colleagues. We have to make this a great place to work, and we could dive into how we do that, but much of it is about making sure we offer people mission worthy of their commitment, making sure everybody knows why their job matters.
[00:14:19] Mark: Putting people in a position that succeed, recognizing what they do, um, making it personal. We sell online, but we’re always looking to create a personal connection with our customers. It’s, it’s exemplified by our packaging. What, what do you put in every
[00:14:38] John: package? Every package Get, uh, taken there from me and Candy.
[00:14:43] Mark: So when you buy from us, right? You, you as a customer, you, you’re gonna get great socks. We’ve got 30,005 star reviews. But you are helping us employ people with different abilities. You help us give back. You help us spread happiness that’s embodied in the package. So when you get a package from us, you see John’s smiling face in the outside, you open it up, you get your socks, you get a thank you note from John.
[00:15:12] Mark: On the flip side of that is the story of John’s Crazy Socks. You get a package of candy and on the packing slip you see the picture and the. Of the person who picked your on. So you are not just getting socks, you’re getting this little dose of happiness. Right. That’s, that’s one, that’s one of the ways we do it.
[00:15:36] Brent: That’s good. I’m also a believer in that, uh, happiness has to start with the organization. It has to start with the staff and the staff then bring it out to the customers. It can’t happen the other way around if. A bunch of crabby staff, you’re, you’re never gonna have happy customers. Now how are we gonna
[00:15:50] John: spread
[00:15:51] Mark: happiness?
[00:15:51] Mark: Right. And it’s, and it relates, you know, we see it in the way people work here. Um, they believe in what we’re doing and they’re committed. So they go the extra distance for our customers, right? And it, and it frames the relationship. You know, you, you’ve heard the line, the customer is always right. Nonsense.
[00:16:14] Mark: The customer can be dead. , but we’re not in the business of being right. We’re in the business of making that customer happy, so we’ll do anything we can. We, the people that work directly with customers, their, their title is Happiness Creator. They know they can spend 200 hours on any customer for any reason at any.
[00:16:38] Mark: We give things away. We refund money. Um, we give a guarantee, a two year guarantee of happiness. You know, two years you’re happy with the socks. At any point, you’re not, you don’t have, we don’t want your socks back. We’ll make it up to you and, but here’s the thing. Here’s why it’s good business. What do we get out of that?
[00:16:59] Mark: We get happy employees. We get happy customers, we get loyal customer. and our return rate, our refund rate is less than 0.3 of 1%. Right. It’s good business. So they’re great stocks as well. Yeah, you have to, the social mission matters, you know, when people, frequently they want to talk to us about hiring people with different abilities or the giving back, but at its core we have to be at great e-commerce.
[00:17:34] Mark: You gotta have a great website, you gotta have great selection. The products have to be great, and the service has to be great. So we do same day shipping. An order comes in today, it’s going out today. You’re gonna get it right away. We frequently hear from new customers how surprised they were and how quickly they got their product.
[00:17:53] Mark: We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over in Amazon. He’s not putting a thank you note in candy in his packages. Right? It’s. And we do that in part cuz we want to show why it makes business sense to hire people with different abilities. So we’re able to achieve this because of whom we hire.
[00:18:16] Mark: Um, and we want, we want the world to see that. .
[00:18:19] Brent: Yeah, I, you mentioned the five pillars, and I’m gonna just point out to ’em from that. Often businesses, I, I feel like businesses overlook at least two of them. The social and the environmental. Certainly there’s a lot of businesses that focus on environmental.
[00:18:32] Brent: I think there’s less businesses that’s focus on the social. And then you did, you mentioned community as well. I think a lot of businesses, especially business owners, tend to overlook the community side of it. Maybe you could touch a little bit. On the community side of it. And then, and we, if we have some time, we could talk a little bit about the environmental and the social.
[00:18:53] Brent: So social. Well
[00:18:54] Mark: let’s talk about community and defining community. So part of our community are working with people with different abilities and so we’ll do that’s important to. So we make products that celebrate causes, raise awareness and raise money for those causes. And we, and, and that also drives our giving back.
[00:19:18] Mark: So in that community, we started by pledging 5% of our earnings to the Special Olympics. And, and why the Special
[00:19:26] John: Olympics? I, I pick Athlete
[00:19:29] Mark: John’s been doing Special Olympics for 21. No Special Olympics. There’s no Johns Crazy socks, but, but we have these awareness socks. What was the first awareness sock?
[00:19:39] Mark: You
[00:19:40] John: created Down Awareness
[00:19:42] Mark: Socks. And they raised money for the National Down Syndrome Society. So that’s part of the community. What can we do to advocate? What can we do to support them? But there’s also the local community and we’ve gotta be good. And we call it corporate citizens. So we work with the local schools.
[00:20:03] Mark: We host school tours coming through here in work groups. We’ve had more than a thousand students come through here on tours. You, we get involved in the local chamber of commerce. Um, we get involved in our local towns and the local community cuz we have a presence. This is where we live. And I, I think that’s important, uh, that, that you play that role.
[00:20:28] Mark: It comes back to spreading happiness. , what can we do for others? The more we do for others, the better off we are. And then, oh, by the way, it turns out to be good for business because people know us. So they order direct and we, we, we sell to other businesses. So we get companies calling us up because they want custom socks or they want to give packaging services.
[00:20:51] Mark: We offer, or we’ve created a a, uh, a charity fundraising program. Uh, it was great for, for nonprofits and so PTAs and special education PTAs like that. And I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sell stuff, but you were asking, you know, why do you do this? Um, that’s why it’s
[00:21:12] Brent: all of a whole. , you know, I, I get that. Uh, I, I volunteer for a running organization that helps incarcerated, formerly incarcerated people, uh, start changing their lives through running.
[00:21:24] Brent: And one of the things that we’ve noticed is that the community aspect, the fact that you’re talking to somebody and sometimes you’re spending an hour or two hours with them, that that community is even more important than the running part. The running part is just a byproduct of the community. Right. Um, and I, I, I.
[00:21:43] Brent: Y you’re saying you’re, you’re telling the same story that the community is, is maybe as important as the business itself and, and making sure that you’re maintaining that and being part of it. You’re not just sitting there in your own little perch.
[00:21:58] Mark: No. It’s our, our overall strategy is drive the mission that drives our brand and that drives sales.
[00:22:10] Mark: But it starts with that focus on, on others, you know, on what can we do for others, what can we do for you? If we have that focus, the business will follow and it’s more sustainable.
[00:22:25] Brent: Um, I I, I just want to key on that. So what can I, what, what can we do for you? I think a lot of times, um, a, a lot of times business leaders often get that back.
[00:22:38] Brent: Especially with their own team, they’re saying to their team, what can you do for me? Right. As a, as a leader, I think the, the trajectory should be, as a leader, you’re always trying to serve others rather than trying to get something from others. It’s,
[00:22:55] Mark: you know, you talk about servant leadership and if you, if you ask about our role, well, some of our role is to set the vision and the tone in the overall direction, but other.
[00:23:07] Mark: It’s to serve everybody else. I work for everybody else here. My job is to put them in a position to succeed and to give them what they need. Oh man.
[00:23:20] Brent: That, yeah, I just,
[00:23:21] Mark: yeah, go ahead. I think that’s the type of leadership we need. It’s, it’s not about self-aggrandizement. It’s not about beating your chest.
[00:23:31] Mark: It’s about what can I do for others because that multipl. The impact. And that’s really what lets us get things done.
[00:23:41] Brent: Uh, talk, just take a few minutes and talk about just the name John’s Crazy Socks. Where did you come up with the name? I mean, I know John is sitting there. What your name? I’m
[00:23:53] Mark: John. John. Um, he’s the one who came up with the name.
[00:23:57] Mark: He said, we’re gonna sell crazy socks. John’s Crazy Socks. Um, we have upon occasion, , we thought that a little bit because of negative mental health implications. But in the end, even if it says become somewhat anachronistic, it’s about the joy and the passion and the energy. Um, and it’s John, right? Yeah. Dad, I did suggest Mark’s Murray sauce for Mark Sirius socks, but that was going nowhere.
[00:24:33] Brent: Yeah. Mark Sirius socks doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Um, so if, if you have, um, if you had a little piece of nugget or some kind of advice, I hate the word, we don’t use the word advice usually in entrepreneurship or in our preneur group. We’d like to, we like to say we don’t should on people. We like to share experience.
[00:24:53] Brent: If you could share your experience on helping others understand why those five pillars are so important in your business. Is, is there anything that, that you could offer somebody to get started?
[00:25:07] Mark: I, I do. I, you have to. I, I, I believe this. You have to know what you are about. You have to know what your purpose is.
[00:25:16] Mark: That becomes your north star and your values help keep you on track. So when you get tossed ass over heels, as you will be, you got your North star, you know where you’re going. Well, here’s a concrete example. So we roll into 2020, and then you may have heard, we get hit by a pandemic, right? It was awful.
[00:25:45] Mark: For our business, it cost us hundreds of thousands of times. What do you do? Well, as long as you know what you are about, you’re gonna be able to steer the weight. . So we knew first we had to take care of our colleagues. We could stay open, but we had to make sure we took care of everybody’s health, particularly because so many of our colleagues were vulnerable.
[00:26:09] Mark: Then you say, okay, how do we adapt to this? Well, we do a lot of speaking engagements. We moved those online. We moved our tours online. Turns out that opened the. . We now have student groups from around the world come and take tours. Um, we make socks. What could we do? Well, we made healthcare superhero socks to say thank you to frontline workers, and those raised over $50,000 to the American Nurses Foundation’s Covid 19 fund, because we knew what we were about.
[00:26:48] Mark: But then you also say, all right, well our mission is spreading happiness. How do we do. In a pandemic. Well, we did something new. We sold mask. But how do you spread happiness? So what do you do every Tuesday
[00:27:03] John: afternoon? Uh, every Tuesday I hold, I dance, pray every, every Tuesday. Um, Is the time
[00:27:11] Mark: he hosts an online dance party.
[00:27:13] Mark: Yes. What better way to spread happiness. And we started a Facebook live show. You know, a voter shut down. How can we reach people? How can we share some happiness? And that’s, we still do that. And that’s evolved also, we now have a podcast. Um, so you don’t immediately say you’re a sock company, you should have a dance party.
[00:27:36] Mark: But if you know what you are really. , then you can adapt no matter what the circumstances are. Right? And and for us, yes, we’re the world’s largest sos but at the end of the day, we’re not really a soman. The SOS become the physical manifestation for the mission and the story.
[00:28:04] Brent: Yeah, I like that. Um, John and Mark, as, as we close out the podcast, they give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like.
[00:28:14] Brent: What would you like to plug today?
[00:28:17] Mark: Well, where, ask for your support. Where can people find us?
[00:28:22] John: I’ll go at john’s crazy
[00:28:24] Mark: socks.com. Johns crazy socks.com. And here’s the thing, if you buy from us, you’re gonna get great sock. You’re gonna get whenever you want because we have such great choice. But more than that, you’re gonna help us hire people with different ability.
[00:28:43] Mark: You’re gonna help us get back and most of all, you’re gonna help us spread happiness. So that’s as shameless as we get.
[00:28:51] Brent: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Uh, John and Mark, I will put all these also in the show notes so they can find john’s crazy socks.com as a link as part of the podcast. And it has been a pleasure to speak to you today.
[00:29:06] Mark: Well, thank you very much.
[00:29:08] John: Thank you so much.
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