Psst! Wanna buy some mushrooms?: Nikhil Arora in the alley outside Back to the Roots’ warehouse. Photo: Bart NagelWhen two good-looking 23-year-olds give up careers in investment banking to grow mushrooms, oysters and shiitakes aren’t the first fungi one imagines.
But Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez are on a different trip. Their business, Back to the Roots, turns coffee grounds into food, first as mushrooms they sold wholesale and now as grow-your-own gourmet mushroom kits.
It all started with a “random fact” tossed out by their business ethics professor in February 2009, in the last semester of their senior year as UC Berkeley business majors — that gourmet mushrooms could be grown in coffee grounds. That seed of an idea landed in the brains independently of both Arora and Velez, who didn’t even know each other at the time.
Fun guy: Alex Velez Photo: Back to the Roots“We both understood the potential scope for it,” Arora says. “This country is addicted to drinking coffee day in and day out. We knew if we could turn this waste into something of value, it could make a huge impact.”
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