In a small warehouse in Melville, New York — a town located on Long Island — dozens of shelves of neatly organized bins hold colorful socks featuring every playful print imaginable. There are socks featuring avocados; socks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's face; socks that look like Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting; socks with sloths.
This is John Cronin's multimillion-dollar sock business. Cronin is only 22 years old and he also has Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition with symptoms that include low muscle tone, small stature and an upward slant to the eyes, as well as cognitive delays, according to National Down Syndrome Society.
It was in fall of 2016, Cronin's last year of high school, that the idea for John's Crazy Socks started to take shape.
Like many of his peers, Cronin was deciding what he wanted to do after graduation. But unlike his classmates, Cronin's options were somewhat limited. With Down syndrome, the career paths available to him didn't exactly pique his interest; many were gigs at retail chains and the ones that weren't had long waiting lists. (In addition to cognitive delays, some individuals with Down syndrome experience behavioral problems or are prone to health problems ranging from heart issues to trouble with eyesight.)
"There are not many options open to people with disabilities," Mark Cronin, John's father, tells CNBC Make It. "All job training programs and workshop programs had waiting lists and not many employers offer jobs for people like John."
"You were asking what are you going to do when you're done with school, and we were looking around at options," Mark adds, addressing John. "John didn't like the options he saw, and in fact the options for people with differing abilities are somewhat limited. So what did you tell me you wanted to do?"
"I wanted to go in business with my father," John responds. "Because I love my dad so much."
With their creative juices flowing, the father-son duo looked at what they could do. Inspired by the 2014 movie "Chef," they toyed with the idea of a father-son, food truck business. But neither could cook. The brainstorming continued, and then inspiration struck.
The pair took note of an important date coming up — World Down Syndrome Day, which is every March 21. Traditionally people celebrate by donning crazy socks in fun patterns and colors. Mark recalls they were looking for socks specifically celebrating Down syndrome that they could sell, but they couldn't find any.
"My idea is, I want to make one," John says.
So he did. John sketched his design of a sock: purple with hearts and "3-21," the date of World Down Syndrome Day (this date symbolizes the triplication of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome).
"John had worn crazy socks his whole life. That was his thing," Mark, 60, says. "He would go and wear these crazy, colorful socks; we'd drive around looking for him. I can remember on more than one occasion, one of his older brothers coming to me and saying, 'You can't let him go to school like that...'"
"He's not the fashion police!" John says in defense of his sock style.
"Yeah, he's not the fashion police," Mark says. "John always had a sense of his own style."