As a physics major, Carl Chappell ’09 enrolled at SUNY Oswego because of its equipment and reputation. But soon after his college career started, he launched a textbook resale business that led him to change his major to finance.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak,” said Carl, who was a first-generation college student. “I figured the finance major would be more practical for whatever my future holds.”
His textbook resale company quickly grew from serving students at SUNY Oswego to students at 25 colleges across the state with 50 student workers, and the business became a lucrative job for him for the first three years after graduation.
“In 2012, we saw the writing on the wall with the book rental industry hurting the secondary market,” he said. “So I started to wind down the business.”
He shifted gears and became the eighth employee hired at Spin-Car, a Syracuse-based startup whose subscription-based software enables auto dealers to display 360-degree images of their inventory online. He gained experience handling the accounting, finance, legal, human resources and facilities management at the company—which grew to now more than 85 employees.
Meanwhile, in January 2018, the Canastota, N.Y., native started a new side enterprise of his own that sprung from his years of working on his now parents-in-law’s farm. The new company mixes his long-standing passion for farming and working with his hands with his business acumen.
Adopting the subscription-based model, Carl launched Off the Muck Market, a delivery service of locally grown farm products to a four-county region in Central New York.
Initially, he worked with three mid-sized farms to help those farmers find a new market for their goods while providing a seasonal home delivery service to make life easier for customers who range from busy soccer moms to homebound elderly or sick or those who just want to eat locally grown fresh produce.
In April 2019, he left SpinCar to pursue his company full time. He now partners with 25 farms, and he and his staff deliver produce from his warehouse in North Syracuse to a growing customer base year-round.
“Overall the market is clamoring for solutions,” he said. Companies like Wegmans, Walmart and other grocers and chains hire a third party to deliver the goods for them and the customer pays extra for delivery, he said.
“We’re cutting out the middle man,” Carl said. “During the summer season, we deliver farm to doorstep in 48 hours, and even in winter, 75 percent of our produce comes from local farms and greenhouses.”
The company supplements locally grown food items with produce from food distributors to offer produce that is out of season or unavailable locally.
The company sends out a weekly email to subscribers with a list of items included in that week’s box, as well as recipes that can be made from the ingredients. Customers can sign up for weekly or biweekly deliveries and can customize their box before each delivery.
Carl said he has plans to expand his company to serve the Rochester and Buffalo regions soon. In the meantime, he said he is focused on improving his customers’ experience. That’s why he said he makes a point of going out on deliveries himself.
“I want to be out there talking to the customers,” he said. “You can never rest on your laurels.”
He thinks that is particularly true for entrepreneurs and people who run their own businesses.
He said witnessing opportunities drying up for people during the country’s economic recession in late 2000s fueled his belief in making his own opportunities.
“I believe the best way to make a living is to work for yourself,” Carl said. “I’m not afraid of chasing a big dream.”
Why People Subscribe
Convenience: Brings the freshness and quality of the farmer’s market to your front door
Customization: Swap out or add items based on your personal preference
Quality: Keep fresh, nutrient-rich produce in the kitchen
Community: Support local farmers and businesses
Sustainability: Use your purchasing power to reduce food miles, support farmers who employ sustainable practices such as crop rotation, water conservation and organic growing methods
How It Works
Step 1: Pick a Box Size (starting at $26.95)
Step 2: Receive a Menu and Customize Your Box
Step 3: Pay (Pricing is 20 percent cheaper than leading grocery stores and includes free delivery)
Learn more at offthemuck.com or 315-216-7651.