Maybe The Greatest Entrepreneurial Story Ever
Some entrepreneurs have one goal: make as much money as possible.
Everyone wants to bring home the bacon, to earn big bucks for our work. And cold, hard cash can be a strong indicator that the work we do is valuable.
But money isn’t everything.
If you only focus on revenue, you forget about the joy that comes from pushing yourself to learn, to be part of a team, to build something legendary, to give back.
One of the greatest entrepreneurial stories I’ve ever heard is about a father and son — Mark and John Cronin — who created John’s Crazy Socks, a thriving sock business. Mark has an eclectic background in law, education, technology, healthcare, and innovation, and his son, John, is a young man with Down Syndrome.
Together they’re on a mission to spread happiness through an unlikely product: eye-catching socks.
Their company offers more than 1,200 socks, donates five percent of its earnings to the Special Olympics, and counts former president George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and me, among its many fans.
Their story is inspiring and life-affirming. And their story made me tear up.
Let me tell you how these extraordinary entrepreneurs focus on making people happy, and how you can learn from their incredible story.
Imbue everything you do with happiness.
At the end of the day, John has overcome a lot.
As Mark’s youngest son, he was born “differently-abled” and had challenges with speaking. Rather than dwell on his communication problem, John learned sign language to communicate with his preschool class.
This is one example of how Mark, John and their family don’t view this as a challenge or an obstacle to living, running a successful company, or being happy.
Instead, they’ve turned it into a major asset — their business. John, like so many entrepreneurs, is following his different. Those of us who can’t find our place in the world have to make our place in the world. And like so many company founders, entrepreneurship was the way for John to capitalize on his different and bet on his own potential.
John, whose official title is Chief Happiness Officer, always loved wearing fun, colorful socks to express his creativity. And he wanted to share that feeling of happiness with other people, to make them feel good and have fun with socks, too.
His goal was simple: make people happy. And the mantra for John’s Crazy Socks — “spread happiness” — is admirable in its clarity and purity.
Father and son realized how powerful their message on their very first day of business.
After getting a ton of local orders in their hometown of Long Island, they decided to make their opening day special. They packed the socks in boxes, added chocolates and thank you notes written by John, and made home deliveries.
Customers loved seeing John show up at their front door with socks so much that they took photos and shared their excitement on social media.
From day one, Mark and John made happiness a priority.
Start with the aim of spreading hope.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said the meaning of life is to go out in the world and make things better.
It’s not enough to just sell products — you have to show people what’s possible, to empower them to aim high and improve the world.
John never let Down Syndrome stop him from anything, especially not founding a business. He designs some of the socks, makes videos for his fans, and serves as the face of his company.
And his success has given people hope that anything is possible.
As a social enterprise, John’s Crazy Socks employs 33 people, including 15 with disabilities or differing abilities.
Mark and John are using their platform to improve life for workers with disabilities. Outrageously, the current U.S. law makes it legal for employers to pay differently-abled individuals less than minimum wage. On top of that disgrace, people like John who earn too much money can actually lose their benefits.
In other words, there are legal disincentives for differently-abled Americans to start businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.
So the father and son team are trying to spread this message, in addition to hope, by testifying in front of Congress to encourage lawmakers to change these arcane laws so that everyone, particularly the differently-abled, is empowered to do incredible things.
Send thank you cards.
John writes a lot of thank you notes, and he loves telling people how much he appreciates them.
Besides presidents and prime ministers, John and Mark have sent notes (and socks) to football players injured on game day, activists who support their cause, and everyday people who buy their socks.
Expressing gratitude to someone makes them feel better, and it also lifts you up, boosts your own mood. So if you’re happy about something, let people know. Share your joy and gratitude with others.
The more they can do for others, the better.
Mark and John’s message is powerful because it reminds us to always look for opportunities. At the end of the day, their multimillion-dollar company came from a simple goal: to share the joy John felt when wearing a nice pair of socks.