Where Are They Now? – Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, Back to the Roots

Re-defining the "Future of Food" for a whole new generation.

By Sarah Achler July 16, 2015

Back to the Roots was founded in 2009 by then college seniors Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora after discovering how to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. Since then, Back to the Roots has evolved from urban mushroom farming to a thriving business on a mission to undo food and reconnect families to it through fun, innovative, and delicious Ready to Grow and Ready to Eat products. Back to the Roots currently sells its products in over 14,000 stores worldwide, including Whole Foods Market, Target, Costco, and The Home Depot.

We catch up with Alejandro and Nikhil to find out how their entrepreneurial journey has evolved in our latest installment of “Where Are They Now?”.

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What’s the biggest challenge you have faced since being featured on Trep Life: Season 2?

A big challenge for us over the past few months has been rapid product expansion–we’ve gone from 2 SKUs over 4 years, to now having 11 SKUs. That’s created a host of challenges, from managing new co-packers, new distribution, cash flow management, and the elevation of the brand. Opportunities and challenges are one-in-the-same though, so we’re looking forward to tackling these new challenges!

How has the Grind evolved since then?

The grind is the same–focus on one thing at a time, and to your absolute best at each and every single task, no matter how small. The great wall wasn’t built overnight, but brick by brick, each perfectly laid down.

How has the Hustle evolved? Where were you spending your time then vs now…

A lot of our time recently has gone to launching these new products–the commercialization of them, the marketing of new products, and selling them into distribution. We only did this hustle 2x over 4 years, and now we’ve done it 9 more times in the past 3 months!

BIG Picture: What are you Hustling to make happen right now?

Back to the Roots is working towards re-defining the “future of food” – one that is all about the “undoing of food” back to its simplest ingredients and least processed versions. How do we create and promote food that is made in a kitchen, not a lab, and reconnect families back to their food? Our R&D team isn’t biochemists and food scientists, it’s our grandparents! We think there’s a powerful movement that’s just starting up around simplicity and un-doing. It is our vision that what “organic brands” were for baby-boomers, radically transparent and simple brands will be for millennials and our kids. Food is the most personal thing there is – it’s what we put into our bodies 3x a day – and yet we’re so disconnected from it. We know what works – simple, real food – we want to inspire a whole new generation to get excited about that!

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What’s the biggest Payoff you’ve experienced since being featured?

Biggest payoff – we just had our biggest retail launch to date two weeks ago. The entire Ready-to-Grow line (Mushroom mini Farm, Water Garden, and Garden-in-a-Can) is now in 1,000 Target stores nationwide!

If you were a character on Silicon Valley/Game of Thrones who would you be and why?

I haven’t watched those shows! Oops!

What’s your current theme song?

Last year’s most played song in our office was Magic by Coldplay.

Recent/favorite quote (Words of Wisdom):

“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden