Meet Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora, the guys who wants to help you grow gourmet mushroom from recycled coffee grounds.
Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora founded “Back to The Roots” to help you grow your own mushroom. The duo had their big AHA moment during a lecture in College about growing mushrooms from recycled coffee grounds, and the rest was history. Their product became a media sensation and has been featured on many media outlets, including ABC, NBC & FOX business news.
Today they are sharing their business story, some entrepreneurship advice and also their plans for the future.
Q: Please tell us about your company, what does it do and where did the idea come from?
Nikhil & Alejandro: Back to the Roots started with the Grow-Your-OwnMushroomGarden after we heard in a lecture that it was possible to grow mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. The garden quickly became a hit, and the mission to inspire people to grow their own food was born.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Nikhil & Alejandro: We’ve just launched our HomeAquaponicsGarden – a fish tank with which people can grow their own food on the kitchen counter. We did a Kickstarter for the project last December, and now the kits are on pre-orders. They’ll be on shelves this summer!
Q: Do you or have you ever own any other businesses, if so what happen to them?
Nikhil & Alejandro : We haven’t! We started Back to the Roots right out of college, and have been sticking with it. We’re dedicated to growing the company into a sustainable food resource for consumers.
Q: Please share a few business tips and advice for first time entrepreneurs.
Nikhil & Alejandro : Hustle! It’s always about hard work. You won’t get anywhere if you want to just sit back and relax – you have to be always moving, thinking, creating goals and doing your best to reach them.
Q: Starting out was there ever a time you thought about quitting, thinking this idea wasn’t going to be a successful business, and how did you overcome these feelings?
Nikhil & Alejandro: Running a business can be daunting – there are always times when you wonder if you’ll pull through or have enough cash. You have to just keep working as hard as possible and knowing that you can do something. We overcame those feelings by looking at the reasons we felt that way, and working to change the situation or figure out the challenge.
Q: Say I was starting my own “Back to The Roots” today, what would you say is the most important thing I need to know?
Nikhil & Alejandro: Listen to your customers – they’ll tell you what people are looking for, and then you can create it for them.
Q: What are the top 3 most useful tools or resources you’re currently using to grow your business?
Nikhil & Alejandro: Facebook, definitely! That’s been a huge driver for us, always, because it’s such an open way to communicate with our customers. We also encourage people to post pictures of their mushroom gardens and when they do, we’ll donate a MushroomGarden to a school of their choice.
Kickstarter was another huge tool for us this year – we raised $250,000 for our new product, a home AquaponicsGarden, via Kickstarter (Facebook was really helpful with this too!).
This is a bit of a different tool, but we also see design as a resource of sorts. If we employ simple, classic design in our products, people will want to use them because they’re easy and elegant. It helps to keep this in mind with everything we do!
Q: What is your definition of success?
Nikhil & Alejandro: Reaching the goal you’ve achieved, and knowing you’ve accomplished something positive along the way. We love business – otherwise we wouldn’t have started one – but we also believe that business can do good and can help consumers. Knowing that we’ve been able to donate product to classrooms and help kids learn about food is one of the best ways to define our success, but it’s never over.
Q: Can you recommend a good book for new entrepreneurs
Nikhil & Alejandro: The Lean Startup
Q: Where do you see your company 5 to 10 years from now?
Nikhil & Alejandro: We’re looking to expand and make new products to keep growing in the sustainable food space. We’re hopeful that we’ll be leaders in this area and be able to help other stay healthy and eat healthy!