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Longtime friends start web, graphic design firm together

By Eric Reinhardt


SYRACUSE — They’ve known each other since they were teens. Now, as young adults, they own a new business in downtown Syracuse.


Arboxy Creative Group, a firm specializing in web and graphic design, branding, and e-commerce, is operating in a 2,300-square-foot space in the Galleries of Syracuse at 441 S. Salina St. in Syracuse.


Corin Zimmer, Matt Rusch, John Zell, and Robert Mayott founded the company as equal owners last Nov. 1.


The company principals spoke with CNYBJ on Feb. 18.


Arboxy says it can provide small businesses and entrepreneurs access to web-design services. “Something that can compete with large corporations, [and are] affordable to small businesses,” says Zell.


The firm also seeks to help its clients adapt to the changing trends in website design, noting that websites can become “outdated” in less than two years. 


“We stay up on that, and we try to make it accessible to our clients … on an affordable scale,” Zell adds. 


Zell handles web design and project management. Zimmer oversees sales and project management. Rusch serves as a graphic designer. Mayott handles business and program development.


They started the firm in the basement of the home that Zell and Zimmer share in Syracuse. The company moved into the Galleries space on Jan. 1, they say.


The firm now occupies a space that Auxygen, LLC, a Syracuse University startup, had previously occupied in the Galleries. 


Zell had previously worked for Auxygen, and when that firm moved out to pursue another business venture, Zell seized the opportunity to secure the space for Arboxy, he says. 


The four owners are Arboxy’s lone employees as of now, but the company hopes to add as many as five additional full-time employees during 2015, they say.


Arboxy hopes to put together another four-person “team” with a graphic designer, a web designer, a project manager, and a sales manager, says Zimmer. 


“Basically, what we do now and doubling it,” he says.


The four principals already owned a lot of their equipment, so launching the business didn’t require much money, they say.


Arboxy currently services about 15 clients, ranging from small proprietorships to larger, multi-employee firms, says Zell. The clients include Hay House, Inc., a publishing company headquartered in Carlsbad, California. 


Only a few of the firm’s clients have operations in Central New York.


Arboxy hopes to generate about $200,000 in revenue during 2015, the owners say.


When asked about the name Arboxy, the company owners said they believe they think “outside of the box,” so they tried to find a word that included the syllable “box.” The firm has a logo that also includes an image of a box, with the letter ‘b’ breaking out of it.


Keeping in touch

The four owners of Arboxy have known each other since they were teenagers.


Rusch and Zell liked to play paintball as high-school students. Rusch also met Zimmer through the same activity. They’d play paint ball at Headrush, Inc. on Walters Road in Van Buren, which is no longer in operation, says Zell.


Zimmer, Zell, and Mayott grew up in a neighborhood near Westhill High School. Rusch grew up in the Moyers Corners area of the town of Clay, he says. 


Zimmer, Zell, and Mayott all graduated from Westhill High School in 2009. Rusch graduated from Liverpool High School in 2007. 


After high school, Rusch pursued and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Central Florida in 2011. He wanted to work as a personal trainer.


At the same time, Zimmer, Zell, and Mayott remained in the area and worked in retail jobs.


Even though they started exploring life beyond high school, the foursome stayed in touch.


“We’ve always collaborated on different ideas,” says Zell, noting they’d ask Mayott for development ideas or Rusch for design help. 


Zell referred to himself and his colleagues as “freelancers” in graphic and web design beyond the work they were handling in their early jobs.


At the same time, Zell and Zimmer operate a separate, online clothing company for extreme-sports enthusiasts called All Things Adrenaline, which they started while students at Westhill in 2008.


Road trip and reuniting

Zimmer, Zell, and Mayott decided in June 2013 they wanted to explore the possibility of moving to California.


“Sold all of our stuff and packed everything that was left into cars [and] just drove across the country,” says Zimmer. 


The group had intentions of moving to the Golden State but it eventually just turned into a road trip that last just about a month-and-a-half with stops in Colorado, Las Vegas, Wyoming, and the Grand Canyon. 


“We didn’t enjoy the atmosphere that was there, and [came to the conclusion] that Syracuse was actually a very promising place to start a business,” says Zell. 


Like Zell and Zimmer, Rusch also operates an online clothing company called Lifted Apparel Co. It offers shirts and hats for people interested in physical fitness, but, as of now, he considers it more of a “hobby.” 


He started the company in 2012 with a business partner who lives in the South, says Rusch.


He’s also pursuing an associate degree in graphic design from Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway, South Carolina, which he’ll finish this spring.


Arboxy is Rusch’s first job in graphic design, he says.


Rusch decided to move back home last August as the group started discussing their business venture. They began to organize themselves for business in October, and launched on Nov. 1, says Zimmer. 


“We talked about it a lot, and … realized that we each had our own set of skills to focus on,” says Zimmer.


“The beautiful thing about our business is that it doesn’t necessarily matter where we’re located,” says Zimmer, noting it has clients nationwide. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to be here and still work anywhere.”

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