Alums Launch Home-Food Venture – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alums Launch Home-Food Venture

After more than six months of development, husband and wife duo Matt Lyttle ’06 and Jess Werder ’04 recently launched the web-based company, Crimson Carrot. The company supplies urban, suburban, and backyard farmers with exciting and innovative products available to boost home food production.

“Crimson Carrot is an experiment that we really hope will work,” Lyttle says. “When we sat down and thought about it, we realized we would both be very happy building a business that not only helped people grow their own food, but also created jobs and added to our local economy.”

After graduating from HWS, Lyttle and Werder spent two years as Peace Corps volunteers in a Nicaraguan town, giving the couple a unique perspective on patio gardening and city livestock. After the Peace Corps, they moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., for the sake of their jobs, and soon found it challenging to maintain their love of home-food production. Having difficulty finding products that would allow them to continue growing their own produce, the couple took matters into their own hands and created Crimson Carrot.

The online storefront and community offers a variety of products, “We’ve started with a core set of items that help people grow, tend, preserve and learn about growing food at home,” Werder explains. “As for the future, we hope to expand our products to offer even more options and we’d love to become a place where home growers can showcase their success and vent their frustrations in the process.”

The company is also committed to promoting products “designed and manufactured with integrity,” featuring many products that are made from recycled or recyclable materials and ensuring that all of their growing medium and plant food is 100 percent organic.

Noting that a vibrant online storefront and community are top priorities for Crimson Carrot, a web-based business seemed like the most viable option for the couple, who both have full-time jobs and manage to spend time with their daughter.

“It means we can manage it remotely over our lunch breaks or after our daughter has gone to bed,” says Werder. “It’s been tiring for sure, but we have gotten so much support from friends and family since the launch that we feel reenergized.”

The two attribute much of their time management and business skills to the many leadership opportunities they had while at HWS. Both were involved with honors societies and an impressive number of activities on campus. Werder was the treasurer of William Smith Congress and held leadership positions in both Day of Service and Orientation. She was also a speaker at Moving Up Day 2004. Lyttle was a member of club lacrosse, Hobartones, and the recipient of several awards from HWS, though most of all, he credits the Colleges with instilling a sense that he and Werder could “do anything.”

“We like our jobs, but we both knew we had to try to make this dream a reality before we became too entrenched in our careers,” Lyttle says. “We are going to give Crimson Carrot all that we can over the next six months to see if we can make it successful. If we make it that far, then the sky is the limit!”

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