Come learn what mushrooms, fish poop, and cereal taught Alex Velez about starting a successful business!
Alejandro Velez (“Alex”) and Nikhil Arora founded Back to the Roots when they discovered how to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009 (Go Bears!) Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking and consulting, they came across their innovative idea during a class lecture about the possibilities of potentially growing gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh, local food, they experimented in Alex’s fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse, and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers!
Since then, the company has evolved from urban mushroom farming to a thriving business with a mission to undo food and reconnect families to it through fun, innovative, and delicious Ready to Grow and Ready to Eat products. Back to the Roots currently sells its products in more than 14,000 stores worldwide, including Whole Foods Market, Target, Costco, The Home Depot, Nordstrom, Petco, and other major retailers.