Father-son team creating opportunities for those with different abilities
Co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks spoke to attendees at the annual Disability Service Provider Network conference in Rothschild
ROTHSCHILD, Wis. (WSAW) - Nearly five years ago, John Cronin turned to his dad with an idea.
“I said, ‘I want to go into business with my dad,’ and we started a father-son business together,” said John.
From there John and his father, Mark, created their new passion project, John’s Crazy Socks.
“Why socks? It’s fun. It’s colorful. It’s creative,” said John. “It’ll always let me, be me.”
The mission isn’t just to sell socks. It’s to spread happiness wherever they go.
“Part of that mission of spreading happiness is showing what people with different abilities can do,” said Mark.
John is one with different abilities.
“I have down syndrome, but that has never held me back,” said John.
Mark and John have made part of their business into advocating for those with different abilities. They travel the country to share some of their success stories and why it’s important to give opportunities to those with different abilities.
“We hope to be able to share some of our experiences and lessons that we’ve learned and help show them some of the products of their hard work of folks like John,” said Mark.
John’s Crazy Socks has been a leader in that regard.
“When people buy from us, they help us hire people of different abilities,” said Mark. “We’ve created 31 jobs. 21 of those are held by people of different abilities.”
Mark and John’s journeys brought them to Wisconsin Thursday to speak at the annual Disability Service Provider Network (DSPN) conference held in Rothschild. DSPN works throughout the state to provide services of all sorts to those with disabilities.
“We exist to support our members through advocacy and education resources so they can provide the highest quality of life and the full array of services for people with disabilities in Wisconsin,” said Lisa Davidson, CEO of DSPN.
Some of the services provided by DSPN include financial, residential and employment aid to those with disabilities and working closely with organizations to make that happen throughout the state.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided challenges to DSPN as a lot of participants weren’t coming in for services. However, according to Davidson, there’s been a gradual return.
“Fortunately we’re seeing a lot of participants return to services, especially in a safe way where people feel comfortable,” said Davidson.
Northcentral Wisconsin has been a leader in providing employment opportunities to those with disabilities. Julie Strenn is the President and CEO of Opportunity Development Centers Inc. (ODC) which serves an area stretching from Oneida County down to Adams County.
“We have an amazing community in Central Wisconsin,” said Strenn. “In 2020, we partnered with 333 local employers in our community who have all chosen hireability.”
That choice to hire inclusively isn’t just beneficial to those getting hired. It can be a solution to labor shortage issues. Kate McSweeny works on a national level with disability service providers. She’s the Vice President of Government Affairs and General Counsel for ACCSES. She says it’s a smart choice to hire inclusively.
“Businesses would be wise to work with disability service providers to help expand their work forces to help include a lot of the people disability service providers serve,” said McSweeny.
The conference in Rothschild wraps up Thursday, but their mission to connect those with disabilities to opportunities continues year-long.
As for John and Mark, they continue their booming sock business while traveling the country and sharing their message of positivity and success. However, a return to Wisconsin is hopefully in the cards for John.
“I love Wisconsin. It’s so beautiful. I want to move here!” said John with big smile.
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