In this high-energy talk, Back to the Roots co-founder Nikhil Arora shares his unconventional methods for launching his company from a college experiment to a fully functioning social enterprise. Arora shares how candid transparency (and pictures of ugly fungi) helped his company’s mushroom growing kits become a hit among children and on Facebook. For each kit sold, Back to the Roots also donates one to an elementary school. The good will and social media generated sold more kits, which resulted in more donations.
“Google made headlines by saying they would make money without doing evil,” he says. “That seems like a cop out. In business today, you can make money and do good.”
Nikhil Arora is the co-founder of Back to the Roots, an urban mushroom farm in Oakland, California. He and co-founder Alejandro Velez created the company during their senior year at the University of California, Berkeley from a belief that business can be used for good. After graduating summa cum laude in 2009, they founded the mushroom farm that now makes grow-your-own Mushroom Gardens using entirely recycled coffee grounds as the soil – an idea upon which he and Alejandro came across in a business ethics lecture.
Arora was always interested in sustainability and job creation, and during college worked in Ghana for six months to implement a profitable recycling program at the 30,000+ student University of Ghana campus. He has been named one of 2012 Inc 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs, a CNN Generation Next Entrepreneur to Watch, Forbes’ 30 Under 30, and one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs. The company has grown from a handful of employees to 31 employees, and was honored in Fall 2012 with an Empact100 award from the White House, recognizing Back to the Roots as one of the top 100 entrepreneurial companies in the US.