Mark and John built their sock business on four pillars: Inspiration and Hope, Giving Back, Socks You Can Love and Making it Personal.
“Really, it’s the hope and inspiration that matters the most,” Mark said. “We want to show what’s possible when you give someone a chance. That involves both doing and showing. It’s doing the work and hiring people with differing abilities…it’s running a great e-commerce enterprise. The videos are meant to share and to show…here’s what’s possible.”
Johns’ Crazy Socks has created 35 jobs, and 18 of those positions are filled by people with differing abilities. From the outset, they pledged to donate 5% of their earnings to Special Olympics. They’ve also developed theme socks for other charity partners, and proceeds from the sale of those specific socks are donated to those specific charity partners. To date, in just two years, John’s Crazy Socks is nearing $200,000 raised for Special Olympics and their other charity partners.
“Giving back to Special Olympics is important…I’m a Special Olympic athlete,” John said.
“We benefit and we want others to benefit,” Mark said. “We’re successful because of the people we hire. It’s not charity or altruism…it’s good business.
“We’re finding that the more we do for others, the better off we are,” Mark continued. “Charity is not an add-on, it’s an essential part of what we’re doing. For our customers, it’s part of what we’re sharing. It’s not enough to sell stuff. You have to have a mission and a purpose. You have to give back. Yes, our customers are buying great socks, but it’s more than that. They are buying into an experience. They are sharing giving back to people.”
Mark always maintains part of his focus on the metrics of the business. Every month, the company provides a detailed report, on the website, of the charitable giving for the month, which is a tremendous demonstration of accountability to their mission. They conduct 5-6 school tours a week, and their videos have been viewed more than four million times. One video, by the BBC, has over 35 million views.
To add to their philanthropic roster, in September, they created the “Autism Can Do Scholarship.” This program will present a $3,000 scholarship to a person on the autism spectrum in the United States to use at a college or a trade school.
Part of this amazing story happens because of John, and the other part of it happens because Mark and his wife have been amazing parents.
“My wife and I took the same approach with John that we did with our two older sons,” Mark said. “Promote independence, give them confidence, set expectations, and raise those expectations of what they can do. With John, every day he’s doing things that, if you would’ve told me a few years ago, I would assume he couldn’t do.
“Parenting is very humbling,” Mark continued. “There’s so much we want to give our kids, and there’s really not much we can give them. They’ve got to learn and do things on their own. We need to be willing to let them fail, and to take risks so they can learn. It’s particularly hard for parents with a differing ability. We want to watch out for our kids and sometimes we do a disservice. They gain confidence by doing…you can’t get self-esteem by somebody telling you over and over again that you’re good. You get that by achieving things and accomplishing things.”