Nikhil Arora:A Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Nikhil is a May 2009 summa cum laude graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, from the Haas School of Business and Department of Political Science. Prior to founding Back to the Roots in 2009, Nikhil spent time involved in business development and operations advisory. He also spent nearly six months in 2007 studying and working at the University of Ghana, Legon to setup a campus-wide recycling program for the 30,000-person campus. Since co-founding Back to the Roots, Nikhil has been named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, one of the Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners. Nikhil also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Sage Mentorship Project. Alejandro Velez:
In addition to founding a 1000+ member non-profit & largest student-run organization at CAL, The Sage Mentorship Project, Inc. (The Sage Mentorship Project | sushi.localhost
), being awarded the Chancellor’s 2009 Public Service Award and being named the 2009 UC Berkeley Alumni Association Undergraduate of the Year, Alejandro Velez spent time in investment banking and business development with Morgan Stanley and Qualcomm. Alex is a May 2009 summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education. Alex has also been named 2010 PODER Magazine’s 20 Influential Hispanics Under 40, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners . Alex is originally from Medellin, Colombia and is also a proud Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer survivor.
What are you working on right now?
Back to the Roots (BTTR) was founded in 2009 as a 100% sustainable urban mushroom farm. Since, Back to the Roots has transformed into a unique company focused on bringing sustainable grow-at-home products into households across the country! Our vision is to serve as a standard bearer of innovation and responsibility in our community in order to inspire others to work towards a more sustainable future.
3 trends that excite you?
1) Ability to use the convergence of mobile technology and social networking to really start making a positive impact in our community.
2) Increased awareness about the importance of sustainably and locally grown food to help fight so many of the health and environmental problems facing our nation and planet.
3) Seeing the internet and cheaper access to technology beginning to work its way into the educational system and give all kids across the globe access to the all the world’s information right at their fingertips.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Hard work, an understanding that there will be a lot of failures along the way and you can’t let that stop you, and having a great team surrounding us!
What inspires you?
The natural goodness in people. We’ve been so fortunate to have so many people support us in our endeavors, and it only inspires us to want to do more and work harder to make a bigger, positive impact in our community!
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
There is a time to be scrappy, and there is a time not to be. We’ve paid the price for being ‘too scrappy’ at times!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Mushrooms can grow well on coffee grounds
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
Great book: The Alchemist
One Tool: A good speaker system (can’t work without good music!)
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Arjun Arora, Founder, Retargeter
Dan Velez; Founder, Dream Big Casting
What’s the key to success?
What can you not live without?
Good music / good speakers!