Co-founder of the runaway online social enterprise John's Crazy Socks, Special Olympian and sock buddy to former Presidents, John Lee Cronin and his father Mark have discovered that the best road to profit is paved with happiness and acceptance, and they want you to share their joy.
With over $11.5 million in revenue, shipped to 85 country, and worn by hundreds of thousands across the world, including former American Presidents, John's Crazy Socks is an example to follow, not only for their financial success, but also their inspiring message of inclusion and support for people with intellectual & physical disabilities.
Says co-founder Mark Cronin, hiring and supporting disabled employees "is not altruism, it's good business", and business can be good for you too if you open your workforce to be more supportive for the differently abled.
Here's how social enterprise & inclusive hiring can make your business stronger
4:25/8:05 Recognize Your Own Potential. If you consider your brand just another one of thousands of providers of a lifeless product, simply in it for the profit, odds are you'll never break out.
Recognizing the potential in others, can help you see the potential in yourself, and seeing both necessity and opportunity turned John & Mark from internet start-up entrepreneurs into the largest sock store in the world in just a few years.
When you look at your brand, consider where you came from to understand where you really want to go.
- What opportunities lead you here?
- What opportunities are you not taking advantage of?
- What opportunities can you offer to others?
5:15/13:20 Offer A Truly Next Level Customer Experience. Many companies and brands claim to be ethical, offer exciting opportunities to be the in-crowd and make overtures to spreading positivity, but few can prove it quite like social enterprises.
There's no substitute for the feeling customers get when they are given a chance to legitimately connect commerce with charity, and they will both spend and donate freely and often to relive that feeling again and again. This has allowed John's Crazy Socks to not only raise over $140,000 for the Special Olympics, but also pull in over $11 million in online sales.
- Initially, John would hand deliver sock orders himself, in person, sometimes far outside the typical delivery hours. While having the co-founder on the road personally dropping off product to customers would seem ridiculous and costly to many business owners, it helped turn John into an overnight sensation in his home town, with customers placing orders just so they can meet him, then returning to order more so he would come back. Learn to look outside the box for ideas, and understand the importance of one-on-one outreach in building brand identity & awareness.
- People love to support a good cause, especially if it means they get a great product along with it, and won't be shy letting you know when they love something. For John & Mark, that's been proven not just in sales figures, but with over 29,000 online reviews (4.9 average rating overall) an incredible 95.7 percent of which scored 5 of out 5. No one can buy that kind of positive publicity and popularity, it can only come from being genuine.
6:45/9:15/18:30 Give Employees A Mission Bigger Than Themselves. Workers can only be so energized about making you money, beyond that attention drops off, quickly followed by retention.
Hiring and supporting workers with disabilities, and getting behind their causes, reinvigorates employees by giving them something much more to strive for, while helping to make lives better.
What's more, it can offer self-reliance, useful skills and social access to those who often have little or no choice or chances in their lives, helping to give them purpose and a living wage.
- Unemployment with the disabled community is as high in some areas as 80%. Those are not just capable & willing workers, those are people who need the support your business can offer them. In return, you'll gain the most loyal workforce available, whose joy at being included, being able to support themselves and do something they believe in is infectious, and will spread to your other employees.
- Success can also bring access, and with great opportunity comes great responsibility to take every chance you have to help others. For John & Mark, that's meant many chances to network with the nation's movers and shakers, hobnobbing with America's political elite. But they never lose focus of what matters, and that's making the world a better place, be it through spreading happiness with socks or bending the ear of the rich and powerful towards a good cause. If you offer your employees a mission bigger then themselves, never forget that includes you too.
- Tags: social enterprise