Back to the Roots





Back to the Roots is an Oakland-based startup developing products that connect families with their food. Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez founded it straight out of college in 2009 after they learned in a business ethics class at UC Berkeley that gourmet mushrooms could be grown from recycled coffee grounds. Inspired, they turned down their finance and consulting job offers to become full-time urban mushroom farmers. BTTR has since grown to distribute two award-winning products, the Mushroom Kit and AquaFarm, in over 2500 retailers nationwide. The Mushroom Kit is a small brown box that grows up to 1.5 lbs of oyster mushrooms in 10 days, and the AquaFarm is a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows food! BTTR was recognized at the White House during last year's Empact Awards, and the co-founders have been awarded Inc’s 30 Under 30, Forbes 30 Under 30, and Businessweek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs.

  • Industry: Consumer Products & Services
  • Year Started: 2009
  • Organization Type: For-Profit
  • # of Employees: 11 ( as of Dec 31, 2013)
http://www.backtotheroots.com/
 

Nikhil Arora

Co-Founder

Nikhil Arora co-founded Back to the Roots in 2009 as a senior at UC Berkeley and gave up a potential career in consulting to become an urban mushroom farmer. He and co-founder Alejandro Velez have since created two award-winning products, the Mushroom Kit and AquaFarm, that are sold in over 2500 retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Home Depot, Costco, and Nordstrom. Nikhil oversees the marketing, product development, and operations half of the business, and with his co-founder, Alejandro Velez, has led the company to triple digit annual growth over four years. Since co-founding BTTR, Nikhil has been named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, Inc.’s 30 Under 30, Forbes’ 30 Under 30, and CNN’s 10 Next Entrepreneur’s to Watch. BTTR was named one of Martha Stewart’s American Made companies and has been recognized for its innovation by President Obama.

  • Age: 30
  • Ethnicity: South Asian
 

Alejandro Velez

Co-Founder

Alejandro Velez co-founded Back to the Roots in 2009 as a senior at UC Berkeley, giving up a potential career in investment banking to become an urban mushroom farmer. Alejandro oversees the sales and finance half of the business, and with his co-founder, Nikhil Arora, has led the company to triple digit annual growth. Alejandro also founded the Sage Mentorship Project, a 1000+ member non-profit that is the largest student-run organization at UC Berkeley. He has been named one of BusinessWeek's Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, BusinessWeek's Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, 2010 20 Influential Hispanics Under 40, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners. Alex graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education. He is originally from Medellin, Colombia and is also a proud Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer survivor.

  • Age: 30
  • Ethnicity: Latino & Hispanic
 
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