Co-founder of Back to the Roots
Established: 2009 | Number of employees: 11
Website: backtotheroots.com | Instagram: @backtotheroots_official // Facebook: facebook.com/backtotheroots // Twitter: @backtotheroots // Pinterest: pinterest.com/backtotheroots // YouTube: youtube.com/user/bttrventures
“Back to the Roots is reconnecting a new generation back to food and where it comes from. We want to help every family and kid across the country experience the magic and wonder of growing their own food—no green thumb or big backyard needed!”
Why did you and your co-founder, Nikhil Arora, decide to start Back to the Roots?
We started Back to the Roots during our last semester at the University of California Berkeley. We were both taking a business ethics class, and our professor shared a random fact that gourmet mushrooms could be grown using recycled coffee grounds. We had to try it out ourselves, and before even finishing school, we had decided to leave behind our lucrative job offers in investment banking to become entrepreneurs and start an urban farm in Oakland!
What’s your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs?
Dream big! But do your homework before getting started. We spent a lot of time actually growing mushrooms ourselves, selling them at farmers markets, and getting to know the industry of gardening. Success does not come overnight. It takes hard work and dedication, so patience really is a virtue when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur.
What has been your most impactful interaction with ICA and why?
Working with Sean Murphy, who was the CEO of ICA at the time, and ICA investment team member Jim Harris. Sean is like an entrepreneur’s best friend—he’s emotionally with you. And Jim is an entrepreneur’s tough father—cares deeply, but it is shown through tough love.
How do you envision your business contributing to a more equitable small business ecosystem?
Being minority business owners ourselves—Nikhil is Indian-American and Alex is from Colombia—we are always very mindful of having an impact on the ecosystem for small businesses and how to encourage other minority owners to live their dream. We try to put our story out as much as possible to inspire other entrepreneurs and let them learn from our journey.
Our focus is to start with early learning and donating to underfunded schools in Black and brown communities. Hopefully, creating a more equal playing field for children can help over time to eliminate disadvantages and provide access to a small business system of capital, network, and services that all entrepreneurs need.
25+ years of impact.
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