About Our Guests: John and Mark Cronin
Mark X. Cronin is the co-founder, along with his son John, of John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. His leadership has demonstrated that pursuing social goals – demonstrating what people with differing abilities can achieve and giving back – makes for good business.
You know how sometimes you’re just sitting there, like, “I want to start a business, but I have no idea where to start.” Well, this week on the Chasing Financial Freedom Podcast, we have special guests, John and Mark Cronin. Mark X. Cronin is the co-founder, along with his son John, of John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness. His leadership has demonstrated that pursuing social goals—demonstrating what people with differing abilities can achieve and giving back—makes for good business.
How to Creatively Bootstrap Your Business with John and Mark Cronin
[00:00:00] Ryan: Hey guys, Ryan DeMent from Chasing Financial Freedom Podcast. This week on the podcast, we have two special guests, John and Mark Cronin the founders of John’s Crazy Socks, and they have a great story of bootstrapping their business, but also helping their community to grow. And they put out some really cool socks guys.
[00:00:23] Ryan: Welcome to the show!
[00:00:24] John and Mark: Thank you, Ryan. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having us on Ryan. We’re excited to be here.
[00:00:31] Ryan: I’m excited to have you guys love the story. Can you guys tell the listeners and the viewers a little bit about your guys self, and then we’ll get into your journey and we’ll see where it takes us.
[00:00:40] Ryan: You
[00:00:40] John and Mark: want to introduce us? Yes. My name is John doing my part. My dad, mark. We are jock crazy socks and what’s our mission buddy. Really heavens. And I’ll introduce my partner. Who’s my son here a little bit. Let’s see. You are an entrepreneur. Yes, I am. And now you’re a tycoon. Yes, I you are a public speaker.
[00:01:01] John and Mark: Yes, I am. You’re a philanthropist. Yes, I am. You are a brother. Yeah, I am. You’re a friend. Yeah, I am. You have a girlfriend. So that means you’re a boyfriend, right? I’m very smooth. Very smooth. You’re an athlete. Yeah, they am. You’re a dancer. Yeah, they am. And you have down syndrome. Yeah, they am. I have done that from down that from never hold me back.
[00:01:28] John and Mark: It does not.
[00:01:29] Ryan: It sounds like it does not hold you back at all in life. And that’s really great. It’s to hear. Yeah. That’s part of what
[00:01:35] John and Mark: we wanna share with folks is, look at all the possibilities in each of us and in all the people we meet
[00:01:44] Ryan: and everybody has a different story to tell in life, and we all go through different things.
[00:01:49] Ryan: It’s how you actually handle the life that you’re in and where it takes you. And it’s, you guys are very inspirational. I’ve seen you guys all over media and I’m honored that you guys are on. But the cool thing is the socks. We gotta talk about the socks.
[00:02:03] John and Mark: We could talk about socks. yeah. What’s your line?
[00:02:08] John and Mark: Socks. Socks. Mo socks. So here’s a very neat thing. How many John’s crazy socks. How many different socks do we have? We have 4,000 D card socks, IA choices, 4,000. You know what that means? Ryan, John here is the owner of the world’s largest sock store, which is very
[00:02:29] Ryan: awesome. That is awesome.
[00:02:31] John and Mark: That’s not how it started. No I did start at a D just always back 2016. You wanna tell him how we got started? Yep. Its more love covered the word. Yes. So we started small log GAT in the woods. No, I did that back to another 16 and I. Finish at Huntington hospital. I could be my last school.
[00:02:56] John and Mark: So we’re out on long island suburbs of New York city. Yep. Oh yeah. And John here was back and forth 2016, like you said you were in your last year. I school. Yes. Trying to figure out like everybody else. What do I do next? what were you looking at? I like a job. Program. And so I Don I do I am entre.
[00:03:19] John and Mark: You mentioned it, Ryan, we all have, you wind up in different circumstances and it’s how you deal with that. Yes. And so John had worked before you’d worked with me in an office. Yeah. I worked with my dad. And you had worked at a day camp in the kitchen? I did. Oh yeah. Left up. He couldn’t find any meaningful work And this unfortunately is the reality for too many people. The statistics are out there fewer than one in five people with the disability are fully employed. It’s awful. But John here, he’s a natural entrepreneur. Yes, I am. You didn’t see your job. You wanted what’d you say I wanna create one. I wanna make one.
[00:04:01] John and Mark: And I told my dad, I wanna go be with him, a nice father, son being together. So at that same time, I was starting some online businesses. He comes and says, dad, I want to go into business with you. He had a three son and I rather work with him. I think that’s my line. I did. yes. I’m a lucky man. I got three boys and this is one I can work with.
[00:04:27] John and Mark: That’s great. And now Ryan, you work with entrepreneurs all the time, entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas. Some of were good ideas and some are not right. Yes. So there we are. We’re gonna start a business together. What was one of your ideas? One of them is food truck, a idea from from the movie chef and John Farrow.
[00:04:51] John and Mark: I really did really about a father and son baring a food truck. I gonna make all that. So this seemed like a fun idea, right? And we are talking about what we would make and where we would put it. Here’s something people can try at home. Tell your friends or your family. You’re thinking of starting a food truck, and everybody will tell you what you should make.
[00:05:13] John and Mark: And you gotta tell ’em get your own food truck, but. We ran into a problem. We can’t cook. Yeah, we can’t cook but then right before Thanksgiving, I had brilliant idea. I wanna sell crazy socks. Wild socks. It’s fun. It’s colorful. It’s craft. It is always made me be me. I want critic exactly my whole life. We used to drive around looking for these socks.
[00:05:43] John and Mark: So we figured this if John loved them that much, I couldn’t I, other people would too. We could find our tribe. Absolutely. You work with a lot of startups, Ryan. The tra the traditional thing to do at that point is stop everything and prepare your business plan. Do your market research, your competitive analysis your operational plan, your financial projections.
[00:06:06] John and Mark: That’s not what we did. We went the lean startup route. We said, let’s just get something up and running. And customers will tell us, they’ll let us know if this is a good idea. So we built a website, we built it on their Shopify platform. We got some inventory, right? We’re bootstrapping. And the other day we met with.
[00:06:28] John and Mark: With a program down at Texas, a and M and somebody said what’s bootstrapping mean said, it means you have no money means what you have. Yes, 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?
[00:06:49] John and Mark: I am. I dropped press. Okay. And we noticed something, people started sharing those videos and then we opened, what day did we open? We opened on a Friday, D seven ninth, 2016. Okay. And we weren’t sure what to expect, but we got what felt like a flood of orders on that very first day we got 42 orders and most of them were local and that made sense, right?
[00:07:21] John and Mark: He’s in the high school, we lived there, we had temporary office space there and what we do with those first delivery. They get red boxes and can put sock in the box, put the socks in these boxes. I puts out, I put in, I put a hundred back hundred cases. I put a in it. I put a Dick in. I borrow and I love car.
[00:07:46] John and Mark: I’ve gone. I gotta do ones. You drove around. John knocking on doors, delivering no socks. How did the customers respond? Customer respond. They loved our socks and customer took a picture with their socks and took a picture with me. And I share on soir, a word I get at spread. We had customers ordering.
[00:08:13] John and Mark: Just to get John to come back to their door. Yes.
[00:08:16] Ryan: So famous already, right out of the
[00:08:18] John and Mark: gates. It was pretty neat. So in that first month, really two weeks we shipped 452 orders and we knew we had something here, something that we could grow. And you learn things. They want people wanna buy socks. They wanna buy socks, right?
[00:08:38] John and Mark: people wanna buy sock for me, they wanted to buy from John. I relate to me. They related to John. They liked the personal touch of the thank you note in the candy. They liked the fact we had already played 5% of our earnings to the special Olympics, and it was something that caught us by surprise. We got a very emotional response from people who were inspired to see a young man with down syndrome, starting his own business.
[00:09:12] John and Mark: And you also learned by doing. So we learned that this young man, and there’s an old man, this old man. Yeah. We could sell socks. Okay. Thank you son. No problem, father . So we’ve gone from there and this December will celebrate our sixth anniversary. I’m really excited. So we already told you we have 4,000 socks we have now shipped.
[00:09:38] John and Mark: over 390,000 packages to 88 different countries. Absolutely. Wow. We have been able to create 34 jobs. 22 of those are held by people with different abilities. We’ve raised over $550,000 for our charity partners like special Olympics and national down syndrome society. Yep. The autism society of America.
[00:10:05] John and Mark: Most of all we’re off trying to spread some happiness, right? Yeah, I, yeah, we do. You like doing this? So that’s where we are. It’s a slightly different type of business model. It’s a social enterprise. So we have both a social end of business drive and they feed off of each other. Yes. We now have gone and done that competitive research and we’ve counted.
[00:10:30] John and Mark: There are exactly one gazillion sock companies. if all we’re doing is selling socks, what do you say? Ours are better than yours. Ours expect they don’t smell like yours. They’re cheaper. But because we have this purpose. Behind us. Yes. That differentiates us. And now we stand out. If all we’re doing is so and socks, Ryan, you’re not gonna have us on your show.
[00:10:59] John and Mark: We’re not gonna have, hundreds of thousands of happy customers. I say five pillar. Wanna talk about the five pillars? Can we talk about that? We go to Ryan, we’ve built the business on five pillars. Wanna tell ’em what they are. I do it. It’s pretty. And how giving back fun product you can love.
[00:11:17] John and Mark: And make it personal and make it great place to work, make it a great place to work. I mean that, one’s simple. Yes. If we wanna spread happiness, we have to start here. Our colleagues have to be happy working here. How can you spread happiness if you’re not happy? When on that, it’s make sure we offer people a mission worthy of their commitment.
[00:11:42] John and Mark: Something bigger than ourselves. Something more than just we wanna make money and don’t get me wrong. We wanna make money. Turns out. We like to leave indoors. We do and if we’re not making money, then all this goes away, but there’s gotta be some greater purpose. And for us, that’s the idea of spreading happiness and showing what people can.
[00:12:07] John and Mark: That’s the sec, the second part. Everybody has to know why their job matters. There’s no co in the machinery. There’s no make work job. Everybody’s job is important and everybody needs to know that. If we run our own pick and pack warehouse to our own fulfillment . So our entry level job is our pickers.
[00:12:30] John and Mark: What do we call our pickers? Sock pickers, sock, Wranglers, and people go to Wranglers. Every one of them will tell you why their job is really important, right? And then third, you put people in a position to succeed. Yep. Don’t ask people to do what they can’t do. We don’t ask John to do our finances.
[00:12:51] John and Mark: Nope. And give people what they need. So if Kenny who’s our lead happiness packet. If Kenny needs a particular chair, get him the chair. If Nick, our webmaster needs a particular data collection. Let’s get ’em that tool. Now we don’t have endless resources, course put people in position to succeed. And then four recognize what people do, right?
[00:13:20] John and Mark: I Ryan organizing this podcast, you work hard. You go out to find guests, you prepare for the shows. So it feels good when somebody says, Hey Ryan, I was listening. You did a great job the other day. Recognize what people it does. Yes. Some of it is just say thank you. Yes. And the last piece on, on, making it a great place to work, stay the hell out of the way people do their jobs, no micromanagement.
[00:13:49] John and Mark: So that’s making it a great place to work. Yeah. Then there’s making it personal. So to this day, what goes in every package they have taking it for me and candy and oh,
[00:14:02] Ryan: What type of Andy goes out,
[00:14:04] John and Mark: what goes, what? We have a little story there. Uh, Yeah. What did we start? We thought when heard kids says we, which was great.
[00:14:13] John and Mark: It is amazing. Everybody loved it. You opened a package, you smell the chocolate. Then what happened, got an email from the, a woman down south you to think that down south, you can’t be saying can’t chocolate. So now what do we send out? And now we play skied and now patch kids, sour patch, kids. Okay. Things that won’t melt,
[00:14:38] Ryan: You had me at Hershey kisses.
[00:14:40] Ryan: It’s chocolate. I love chocolate. So that would’ve been ideal,
[00:14:43] John and Mark: In the winter, it’s every package on the packing slip, you’ll see the picture and the name of the person, personal packed your order. Cause once you believe in something, once we make that commitment, we’re gonna make this personal, we’re always looking for ways to do.
[00:14:59] John and Mark: So I’ll share another example and we know you have a lot of businesses that listen to to your show. One of the most valuable assets a business will have is your email list. And what eCommerce stores all know is every time they send out an email, they get a little blip in sales. Yep. So it’s very tempting to send out a lot of emails.
[00:15:23] John and Mark: I get four emails a day from some business. Nobody wants four emails a day. It’s awful. So we look at that. We’re gonna make this personal, how do what’s the right way to treat you? So we only send emails to people that want them to people that open the emails. If we send you emails and you never open ’em we stop sending ’em to you.
[00:15:46] John and Mark: We don’t wanna bother you. We only send out two emails a week. We have other flows, but two campaigns, a. One of them is John’s Friday email. Okay. It’s just an update from John on what you’re doing. No sales, we’re not selling you anything. We’re building a relationship right. In the long run that serves us well.
[00:16:10] John and Mark: Oh yeah. So here’s one indicator. One of the metrics you track with email is what’s your open rate? What percentage of emails get open? If you hit 20%? Okay, you’re doing well. Our emails have a 45% open rate. Wow. Each you know, one and that’s going out to 80,000 people. That’s.
[00:16:33] John and Mark: An example of how you have to think about how do we make it personal. If you call here, you don’t get voicemail. You actually talk to a person, right? There’s no scripts. We don’t listen in on phone calls. You’re gonna have a human conversation. So then the third pillar is fun products. You can love fun part.
[00:16:55] John and Mark: You can. And that cuts in two ways. One, what are we selling? So everything we sell is gonna spread happiness and be fun, and I’m gonna be behind. John’s gotta endorse it. Okay. There have been some times Sean has come to me and said, dad, what are we doing here? Particularly of, there have been socks that have shown up on our doorstep.
[00:17:19] John and Mark: would foul language on them. And that may be fine for other folks, but John’s no, we’re not doing this. Nope. But it also means that we have to fulfill our promises. We may have a strong social mission, but the core operations have to work well. We have to have a great website. We have to have great selection.
[00:17:41] John and Mark: We got more than anybody else. We’ve got to have great service. We do same day shipping. We do better shipping than Amazon and Jeff Bezos over at Amazon. He’s not putting a thank you note in candy in those Amazon packages.
[00:17:59] Ryan: No, he is not
[00:18:01] John and Mark: and the products have to be good. We have 30,005 star reviews. 96% of our reviews are five star reviews.
[00:18:12] John and Mark: Then there’s the giving back. And you would mention this in your talk, right? This starts with our overall mission is to spread happiness. What do you say are the keys to happiness? It criteria do for others, right? We love more. We do for others. The better off we are. And we’re so fortunate to get to do what we do.
[00:18:32] John and Mark: So the giving back is part of it. We don’t think it’s enough to just sell stuff. So we started by pledging 5% of our earnings to the special Olympics and why the special Olympic I have present Olympic at eight. What sports do you play? Basketball. Tracker, field soccer and sports.
[00:18:52] Ryan: Wow. That’s a lot of sports
[00:18:54] John and Mark: and you’ve been doing it.
[00:18:56] John and Mark: How, when, what age did you start? I finally saw 2000. Soccer season has now started up. He’s been doing this for 21 years. Wow. 20 years. And the lessons he’s learned in special Olympics have made possible Johns crazy socks, but we’ve also gone on to create products that raise awareness and celebrate causes.
[00:19:21] John and Mark: So what were our first awareness socks? Down the Trump down the Trump, when socks and who designed those? I did, I design at for, and I cover ideas. Cause what they do is so celebrate people with down syndrome, they make people aware. And they raise money for the national down syndrome society. Okay.
[00:19:45] John and Mark: We’ve gone on, we have a whole line of down syndrome related products. So autism related products, they raise money for the autism society of America. I got an email today, an update from one of our partners, the Williams syndrome association. During the height of the pandemic, we made healthcare superhero socks.
[00:20:04] John and Mark: Yep. To say, thank you. Frontline workers, those raised over $50,000 for the American foundation. Okay. We sponsor an autism can do scholarship. Yeah. It’s the giving back is baked into everything. We do our customers know. So that becomes part of the shared experience. They know when they’re buying from us, they’re supporting the special Olympics, but our most important pillar is great and hope.
[00:20:38] John and Mark: We wanna show the world what people with different abilities can do. So we saw what my partner here, John you’ve got down. I do. We don’t put John in the back. We hire him. No, I could be in the front. I am a face I fit up in that company. You’re the face of a business right now. Yeah. Dad, we’ve been able to, we told you we created 34 jobs.
[00:21:02] John and Mark: 22 of those are held by people with different abilities. , but that’s not enough. We wanna show what they can do. So we’re always creating content that we share on our social media platforms. , one guide, there is no broccoli, nothing. Your mother says, sit down and eat this. This is good for you.
[00:21:23] John and Mark: It’s gotta be fun. It’s gotta be engaging. We host tours and work groups from schools and social service agencies. We’ve had more than a thousand students come through. Here we take on speaking engagements. We just came back from Texas where we spoke at the Bush the presidential library and at the Bush school of go.
[00:21:47] John and Mark: Last week we week before that we’re in Fargo, North Dakota later this week, we’re gonna be speaking to a business group here, long island. Wow. We’re so that’s one of the reasons we’re appreciative of you having us on your podcast. It’s because every time somebody hears John present, It helps change their mind.
[00:22:08] John and Mark: Absolutely. Every time we get to tell our story about what people with different abilities can do, it helps change their mind. So we are speaking we’ve now, in fact, today we finalized an agreement to speak to the employee resource group at Kohl’s the department store and Microsoft reached out for us to speak to their employee resources.
[00:22:32] John and Mark: And part of that is also advocacy. We’ve been able to build a platform where people listen to us and that creates an obligation for us to make the most of that, to speak for those who can speak . So we’ve testified twice before Congress, we’ve spoken at the United nations. We meet with legislators on a regular basis to advocate for the rights of people with differing abilities, all that adds up to John’s crazy socks.
[00:23:02] Ryan: That’s a wonderful story. And there’s so many pieces I want to tear apart in there, but can we go back to the beginning cuz it’s near and dear to my heart because as I say, I’m a two time business failure as entrepreneur, I was. A long time, 25 year veteran of the finance world. I worked in corporate America and corporate America.
[00:23:20] Ryan: Didn’t teach me how to be a fisherman. I failed several times and had to go back with my tail between the legs and learn it all over again. So I’m on my third, I’m on my third business and I’ve got a few coming after it, but the startup piece in the bootstrapping is near and dear to my. can we talk a little bit more about that and what that looked like for you guys while you’re trying to get everything up and going?
[00:23:43] John and Mark: Sure. And we can give the full depth and breadth of it. The story we tell normally focuses on John, right? That John couldn’t find work, but here’s where I’m at. And I can relate to this I had been working with my wife most recently, so that had become our family business. And then for somewhat complicated reasons, it shut down that business shut down overnight.
[00:24:14] John and Mark: So there I was in October of 2016 we had no family income and like yourself, I’m an entre. Which means I’m unemployable. , can’t pretty much can’t go back and work elsewhere. So I’m starting some businesses, some online businesses, and that’s when John comes to me and here’s the thing I thought John was asking for my help.
[00:24:42] John and Mark: I now realize what he was doing. He was helping me. He was saying, dad, I believe in you. Dad. I know we can do
[00:24:50] Ryan: this.
[00:24:51] John and Mark: I, he lift me up because he is so grateful and I he’s gimme much drink, but, and how I can become, some of it to you I’ve led. Over the years I spent much of my career in the healthcare field.
[00:25:06] John and Mark: So I led some startups and some restarts in healthcare management. At one point I started a software company called new Gutenberg software. We put out baseball for windows 94, got Ray reviews, lost every penny we had. But had I not done that there would be no drawings, crazy sock.
[00:25:26] John and Mark: It’s it. Failure is only failure if that’s the end, otherwise it’s just some of the tuition your parents want.
[00:25:38] Ryan: Amen to that. That’s huge. The other thing I say about failure equals success because when you don’t give up and you keep on going, ultimately it’s gonna lead you to that success or that next chapter in your life.
[00:25:49] John and Mark: It’s there’s the boxing analogy. The champion is the one who gets up to fight another round. Exactly. Uh, Seth Goden, I think it was Seth Goden. Who said, those who succeed are the ones who have failed the most. Yes. Cause they keep getting up.
[00:26:05] Ryan: They
[00:26:05] John and Mark: keep on getting up. It’s one of the things, we speak to a lot of entrepreneurial groups speak at a lot of universities.
[00:26:11] John and Mark: And in Dels. Matter how hard you work, no matter how much you plan things will go wrong. Yep. And sometimes it’s small and comical, with our, with this business, just, some little anecdotes we said we opened on March on December 9th. What time were we gonna open?
[00:26:29] John and Mark: Because you open. At 10 in the morning, except our website fast, the website crash. I just I’m. My dad cause our webmaster who was me screwed something up. So we opened a three in the afternoon and we only had a little bit of inventory. And by the second day of Saturday, now we’re running out of inventory.
[00:26:49] John and Mark: Wow. What do you do? Wow. We drove to every Kmart store in Suffolk county and bought all the socks. We. Just so we would have some inventory to sell. We told you the story about the about the candy and getting the, know, yes. The note from the woman in Florida, you have to you keep learning and my Lord who predicted a pandemic, no one, right?
[00:27:11] John and Mark: You get hit with that. And part of what. We think we benefit from, you have to know what you’re about. You have to know what really matters and it’s not where we sell socks. Yes. That’s what we do. But what are we really about? And you need to know that purpose and really you have that conviction about it because when you get thrown ass over Hills, you, that will be your north star to keep you.
[00:27:43] John and Mark: You gotta know that purpose. You gotta know what your values are. They’ll keep you straight and moving forward
[00:27:51] Ryan: and it’s excuse me, amazing how many people don’t actually have that they get into business for. I call it the G factor, the greed factor. It’s all about the money. And unfortunately the internet has made that a lot easier today to where I, I say kids because I’m, approaching 50 years old and they reach out to me, through the podcast and say, Hey, I wanna be like you.
[00:28:12] Ryan: And I said, oh, so you want to be an eight year overnight success then? And they get quiet. And they’re like, what does that mean? I’ve had eight years of troubles and pain and eating peanut butter and jelly to get where I’m at. And that’s just life as a business owner, that’s life as a human being and it’s, we all go through those trials and tribulations, but they think that they put out one video on TikTok or Instagram or wherever they’re at, they’re gonna be go viral and they’re gonna become, the.
[00:28:38] Ryan: Sensation. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not, no, it’s just crazy.
[00:28:43] John and Mark: You’ve got other purpose and I’m pretty adamant about this. Your purpose cannot be. We gonna get rich. Exactly.
[00:28:54] Ryan: You don’t get me wrong.
[00:28:55] John and Mark: We wanna make money of course, but to be sustainable, to be able to persist in the difficulties that will come there has to be something larger.
[00:29:09] John and Mark: Yes. And nobody,
[00:29:16] John and Mark: you might buck into something. We, we did right. Here’s, part of our story that first year, first four year we in business, we had a couple of viral experiences watch what you asked for. You may get it. And then we put us outta business. We went in March of 2017, that first weekend of March, this was actually a funny story.
[00:29:40] John and Mark: We, we had been growing the business and we’d gotten up to about 40 orders, a. And we held our popup store event on a Saturday, the first Saturday. And that went well. And that evening I was taking John out to one of his favorite restaurants. Oh yeah. Meet Beba place. The meatball place. we driving? We had to drive a distance and the Shopify app, when you put it on your phone, the default.
[00:30:10] John and Mark: Is to give you that little ding every time you get a sale. Yes, my, my eldest says it, it gives you a pone release. All of a sudden my phone starts going crazy. Ding ding, and we’re sitting at this restaurant and I’m trying to figure out causes just really the tool of us. Trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
[00:30:32] John and Mark: I’m looking at our Shopify stats or Google analytics. And I start telling John, I say, you know what? It is, John, it must be all that SEO work I was doing.
[00:30:47] John and Mark: an online journal called the mighty, which had done a, an email interview with us. They put together a video, it’s a slideshow video. Taking images that we had shared last, I looked at video, got over 20 million views. Wow. So we went from doing 40 orders a day to over a thousand orders. Almost put us out of business.
[00:31:13] John and Mark: I could, here’s one anecdote. Remember going up to best buy the local best buy. They had two more computers to, so we could have additional packing stations. And I recruited two of their employees to come work for us the next day. It was we went up and then down, we found out nobody buys socks in the summer.
[00:31:34] John and Mark: So now we’re running outta money and we finished strong. So we did 1.7 million our first year, except, but I had no money in my bank account. That was all in inventory and infrastructure. The next year we did even better. We had multiple viral videos and TV appearances. Oh. We went through the roof at the end of the year.
[00:31:57] John and Mark: I’m still looking. I got no money in my bank account. My accountant is saying, but bark, look all your inventory. It’s. Turned out. It’s hard to eat socks. The third year we’d come back down to earth and I had made mistakes. I had let the bus, I had grown the infrastructure for the larger business. Now we’re letting people go.
[00:32:21] John and Mark: We’re running outta money. I got investors coming in and what they wanna do is buy the business so they can shut us down and keep the. know, Yes, we you can share these, we can, I’ll show you my scars. Wow. Scars for now, right? You, by the end of the year, we were for all tents and purposes, bankrupt.
[00:32:41] John and Mark: I remember meeting with a bankruptcy law firm and they said, oh, you, you needed declare bankruptcy and we’ll help you rearrange. And all you have to do is give us $50,000 up. Guys, if I had $50,000, I’m not talking to you. Yeah. And somehow you persist. And we found a strategic partner, third generation family business that gives us the manufacturing after the sustainability.
[00:33:10] John and Mark: And then, okay. We’re getting some traction and then along comes a pandemic. Yeah. That’s your overnight success.
[00:33:18] Ryan: And you’ve got scars and stories to tell, but you also have both of you been persistent and consistent through this journey, and I can see it in your guys’ face. I mean you it’s the same thing I feel inside.
[00:33:33] Ryan: We’re at that point again, in, in one of my businesses to where a city has asked us to start developing 16 affordable homes. Crap, I don’t know how to develop 16 houses. Give me infield lots. I can develop ’em until the cows come home. I have no clue about land development. So guess what? I’ve gotta go out and shop, for people to help me it’s life, but that’s what you have to do, but it.
[00:33:55] Ryan: I could just give up and say, ah, I don’t want to do it, but the joke and I say this jokingly. We make money. We put people in houses and we give them a roof over the head, but it’s something that’s generational. And then there’s a side, there’s a side anecdote to this. Oh, by the way, we’re a for-profit so we do make money, but it’s never at the expense of our homeowners.
[00:34:17] Ryan: It’s at our expense. Everything has to be done upfront for us. And we are, we’re playing in a world that nonprofits do very well. And for profits do horribly. And we’ve changed that tide to where most of the nonprofits we compete against really don’t want to talk to us because we have a bigger mission and we have a bigger calling.
[00:34:35] Ryan: But we’re not gonna sit there and take free money from cities. Like for example, When we go into a city, we’ll work with an affordable housing trust fund where they won’t grant us the money. I, by no means I have a nonprofit that does financial coaching to help these people buy homes. But that’s a whole separate entity that just focuses on that.
[00:34:55] Ryan: We will go in and borrow money from a city, pay the money back. Most nonprofits. When they’re doing that, they’re asking for a hand. and they’re getting a handout from the city as a grant and never paint it back. But when you look at their operations, they’re upside down literally. Today last week when I last checked, we can build a better quality home for almost 40% less than what a nonprofit is building in some of these cities we’re in just for the simple fact of we’ve bootstrapped ourselves.
[00:35:26] Ryan: Marketed. We’ve also learned the different nuances, but then we’ve partnered with three gr great general contractors that understand our mission and our vision of what we’re trying to develop and that and that’s why I can relate to you guys, everything you guys are doing starts back with your vision and your mission in how you guys want your business to help your community, your tribe.
[00:35:49] Ryan: That’s big when you get that. Everything else. I know it’s tongue in cheek, but once you get that, everything else just falls into place because now you’ve got that higher calling, like you said, and it just keeps going
[00:36:02] John and Mark: and going. Yes, the, it sounds right. It is John’s inspiration of the more we do for others.
[00:36:10] John and Mark: The better off we are. Yes. Here’s, and that. We get asked sometimes, oh, what’s the one piece of advice you’d have for somebody to, to do what you’re doing, and the first piece is really easy. I would kidnap John, but beyond, you gotta know what you’re about. You have to have that.
[00:36:32] John and Mark: Yes. And then when you have that conviction, who you are makes itself manifest in everything you do in every aspect of what you’re doing. So here’s one small example. We have a full money back guarantee for two years. Wow.
[00:36:53] Ryan: You,
[00:36:53] John and Mark: No matter what. We tell our happiness creators.
[00:36:57] John and Mark: Those are the folks that deal directly with customers. You could do anything. You can spend $200 on any customer, something goes wrong. We have very low error rates, less than 0.5 of 1%, refund money, send people, things just, we’re not, like you’ve heard the line. The customer is always.
[00:37:18] John and Mark: Nonsense. The customer could be dead wrong, but we’re not in the business of being right. We’re in the business of making them happy. So what are the results of this? Our people feel a lot better because they’re doing for others that makes ’em feel good. The customers love it and then tell other people.
[00:37:35] John and Mark: So we have that policy. You know what our refund rate is, it’s about 0.5 of 1% of our revenue. Wow. Because we take care of people, right? So don’t be that penny wise pound foolish know what matters, know what you’re trying to do. And there is nothing better than to be around here during the holidays when we’re doing very, we do 40% of our sales on the last two months.
[00:38:03] John and Mark: And this place is four people working and it’s Santa’s work. There’s nothing better than seeing
[00:38:10] Ryan: that. So do you have to ramp up your staff during that time? We do.
[00:38:15] John and Mark: In fact, as soon as I’m done with this call, I’m going into a meeting on our hiring. But here’s an advantage we have and it’s something we try to share with people all the time.
[00:38:27] John and Mark: Hiring people with differing abilities is not Altru. It’s good business. Yeah. So here on long island, we were just recently in Fargo. They’ve got, here, we’ve got a labor shortage, they got a labor shortage. We’re down in Houston and college station. They got a labor shortage. We have no trouble filling our positions because we hire people with different abilities.
[00:38:52] John and Mark: It’s this great untapped pool of labor. We don’t lower our standards. We don’t lower our pay. But we’re able to get great employees.
[00:39:01] Ryan: And so those employees are available when you guys need to staff up for your busy
[00:39:05] John and Mark: season. Yes. And that’s one of the things that we have some flexibility. We’ll have a roster of people that we can call in.
[00:39:12] John and Mark: We add more people during the holiday season. And that’s, we don’t start hiring the day we need. , all of our marketing is to sh we share who we are, what we do. We’re very active in the community. So people know us, those tours, we do those work groups. Yes. That introduces people to us.
[00:39:33] John and Mark: And then they walk out saying, oh, I’d like to work there someday. We work with a lot of social service agencies. So when it comes times to hire, we share it on our social media. We contact those social service agencies and we have a plethora of candidates.
[00:39:50] Ryan: That is, that’s awesome that you guys continue to go back to that, but you’re also introducing them on the front end to what you guys are doing.
[00:39:57] Ryan: That’s bigger than just mission that’s community and you’re building your tribe over time. It’s why you’re gonna thrive and grow. That’s awesome. In some of the neighborhoods we go into, I’ll be honest. People think we’re the big, bad. Because we’re gonna come in and they use the word gentrification, which they really don’t understand the definition of that.
[00:40:15] Ryan: But we’re coming in and bringing new homes or rehab, rehab homes to individuals that have been renters all their lives. And they don’t realize that you can have a beautiful home that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. But also start creating and changing your generations under that roof.
[00:40:34] Ryan: Because most of the time, these individuals have not been given the tools to be financially successful, be successful in the job market. And if they wanna go to college or whatever they wanna do, they haven’t been given those tools. We can help them with all those pieces. Once you start putting that roof over their head, there’s so many other things that open up and it’s safe, it’s affordable and it’s high efficient, and it’s just.
[00:40:57] Ryan: The very, I could still remember the first house over eight years ago that we put on and I was on a regional television being interviewed. And I started crying because it was a single mom, two small kids living in a one bedroom studio, home or studio apartment. And she was paying like $1,100 a month.
[00:41:14] Ryan: She got herself, a three bedroom, one and a half bath home. About 950, almost a thousand square feet. And she was paying $550 in her mortgage. She got down payment assistance from the state. She got assistance from us on closing costs and she was able to get some discounted points on her mortgage because she did all the work upfront to get her credit.
[00:41:35] Ryan: And it just, I broke down and I cried on television. I have it on our website. I put it out there. It’s rewarding. It’s, that’s the best part in my. It goes crazy. And it just, that’s why I’m doing this. It’s that piece. And like you said, by no means , we don’t work for free, but that’s the biggest reward of being able to put somebody in a house that’s never had one before and then, oh, by the way, there’s a byproduct.
[00:41:58] Ryan: We make money.
[00:42:00] John and Mark: Yeah. It’s, you’re one of the things that we’ve learned is it all comes down to that individual. And I’ll give you two quick anecdotes. One, we do these tours, we got a phone call from a teacher high school that brought her special ed class in. She said, we had this one student didn’t want to go on the trip.
[00:42:21] John and Mark: He can be very difficult. He walked in the next day. He was a young man on the autism spectrum. OK. And he had printed out a picture of him and John. He went up to the teacher and handed it to her and said, I can do anything. How awesome is that? That’s great. Or, tell him about Thomas.
[00:42:42] John and Mark: Sure. So Thomas is one of our sock Wranglers, Thomas. His mom called us in October of 2017. And said, I hear you hire people like my son, you have to give my son a job. And one of our colleagues spoke to her and said we’re not hiring now, when we have an opening, we’ll post it and share.
[00:43:05] John and Mark: She called every day. Wow. Cause she’s a mom, right? We had an opening and at one point I spoke to her, I said tell me about Thomas. I said Thomas is in a bad way. He’s a young man on the autism spectrum. Early twenties. He’s very depressed. We have trouble getting to come out of his room.
[00:43:24] John and Mark: Doesn’t want to shower or shave. Can’t get him to join any programs hasn’t spoken to his father in over six months said, oh, sounds like a wonderful. And when we had an opening, we said, bring Thomas out now to get the sock Wrangler job here, we’ll provide the training, but you have to pass the so Wrangler test, you have to pick six orders in 30 minutes or less.
[00:43:49] John and Mark: You gotta show us, you can do the job. Okay. Thomas passes that test as if he was put on this earth to be a wow today, Thomas is up at six 30 in the morning, showered and shaved and waiting for his father to drive him one hour each way to work. Wow. When he that’s here, the young man who wouldn’t look at you or talk to you, goes around and says, good morning to everybody here.
[00:44:18] John and Mark: And I wanna be really clear on this, right? We did nothing. We have no special programs, no special training. We have no government support. All we did was give Thomas an opportunity to earn a job, but it’s transformative. And how awesome is that?
[00:44:37] Ryan: That is the best thing. It’s the biggest reward. Why we’re in business is impacting others, impacting your tribe.
[00:44:42] Ryan: That’s. That’s rewarding. That’s awesome. That is that’s. That’s great. I can’t stop talking about it. I know we are short on time and we’re running a little late best way everyone can get ahold of you guys. And I know it’s through your website, but is there any other way that they can actually get ahold of you guys?
[00:45:00] John and Mark: Why don’t we tell ’em first? What’s the website at Johns crazy socks dot. John’s crazy.com and at the bottom, you’ll see all sorts of links. You can join the dance party, right? What do you do every Tuesday? Every Tuesday, I host a dance party every Tuesday 3:00 PM. John hosts, an online dance party every Tuesday.
[00:45:20] John and Mark: Okay. At PM Eastern time. Or we have a, we have our own podcast now, like half of America. What’s it called the spring happy podcast, the spreading happiness podcast with John and mark. So all those links are there, but you can also find us on all the social media platforms. Just look for John’s crazy socks.
[00:45:42] John and Mark: We’re particularly active on Facebook, Instagram, and now TikTok, right? Yeah. That you like that TikTok. I too, you’re doing TikTok videos all the time. Aren’t you? Absolutely. And. You can get us on LinkedIn. If somebody wants to talk directly to us, just send an email to service it. It’s at the site.
[00:46:03] John and Mark: Okay. But service at Johns crazy. so.com and we’ll respond, we do you’ll get all sorts of things out there. Dance, videos, jokes. Here’s a neat thing. The end of the month, you are very excited about this. Oh yes. John is gonna fly to Washington DC by himself and oh, traveled a lot, but he’s never flown by himself.
[00:46:25] John and Mark: You’re very excited. And you’re gonna make a little video, a little like little vignettes at every step along the way to show. Yeah, I have down syndrome. I can go fly. Like everybody out now your arms will get tired from all that flapping. Oh yeah.
[00:46:44] Ryan: that’s great. You, I definitely I’ll find out how to share it or look for it, but that’d be awesome story to share.
[00:46:52] John and Mark: Yeah. We’re very fortunate, and look at it. You have us on your show. We get to have this convers. And that creates this obligation that we can do something positive.
[00:47:01] John and Mark: And we can, tell an anecdote of one time we’re down in Washington, DC. And we got a call from a customer in Houston and the customer said, my mother works on Capitol hill and she’s a big fan of John’s and she would like to meet. Do you think that’s possible? And our colleagues said, sure.
[00:47:22] John and Mark: Here’s Mark’s cell phone number. Just have your mom text mark. Her contact info. Okay. Who was mom? Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi. Wow. So now we get an audience with Nancy Pelosi and we’re at a bad time in our country. We vilify our elected officials. We forget their humanity. So put aside all your politics for a moment.
[00:47:47] John and Mark: Nancy Pelosi is an Italian grandmother. So we go in to meet her. She takes out pictures of her and former president Bush, bushy, elder George H w Bush and socks that she gave him because John had somewhat famous. Become sock buddies with the former president and all this is warm and nice. And you take photos, everybody’s happy, but you see now that we have that opportunity creates an obligation.
[00:48:18] John and Mark: It’s miss Pelosi, this is very nice, but we have to talk to you about repealing section 14, C of the fair labor standard act of 1938. That allows upwards of 200,000 people with a disability to be paid as little as 25 cents an hour. And we have to get rid of that. Because if we get that opportunity, we’re gonna speak to power and we’re so fortunate to do this.
[00:48:43] John and Mark: You know how to talk to people? Don’t you
[00:48:49] Ryan: well, gentlemen I know you have to run off I’m doing the same, but I want to thank you both to come for coming on the show. One, two, sharing your story. It’s very inspirational. I can’t wait to hear more about it and be able to talk to you guys more in the future, for sure, because you, what you guys are doing is near and dear to my heart and building a tribe and giving back being the first steps of your business is.
[00:49:15] Ryan: By far the best thing you can actually do. And now look at you guys are blowing up and things are going great. And that is, that’s just, that’s awesome.
[00:49:25] John and Mark: We’re fortunate. There’s still bumps. There’s still, here’s one, we had a deal to be. in a major we’re entering a wholesale channel for the first time to zone in the retail stores.
[00:49:39] John and Mark: And we had reached an agreement to be in a nationwide retailer in 856 of their stores. In the fourth quarter, we had to deliver the products by mid-September . We put everything on a boat on July 18th. It was due to arrive August 18th. Plenty of. It turns out that it’s literally a slow boat from China.
[00:50:02] John and Mark: It has not. It is just arriving now. Wow. So that, as a result of that, we are fortunate. We’re still gonna be in that nationwide store, but not until the first quarter of next year. And that’s true. Just an example of the challenges you get never go away
[00:50:23] Ryan: and you just gotta keep on going. Yeah, you gotta keep going and grinding away and being persistent for sure.
[00:50:30] Ryan: All right,
[00:50:30] John and Mark: Ryan.
[00:50:30] Ryan: Thank you very much. Thank you guys. I hope you guys have a great day and you guys have a great end of the year and kick some serious butt
[00:50:39] John and Mark: and we’ll when you post this, we will share it on our webpage and our social media.
[00:50:45] Ryan: We thank you guys, both for coming on. Great. All right,
[00:50:49] John and Mark: bye.
[00:50:49] John and Mark: Thank
[00:50:49] Ryan: you. Bye bye.