Turning Coffee Grinds Into A Fertile Business

November 15, 2011

business history

Back to the Roots founders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora have proven that you don’t need  Wall Street to be successful, nor smelly compost piles to use coffee grinds creatively.  The Company uses one million pounds of coffee grinds as  a growth medium for their retail kits — Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden–gourmet mushrooms that is.

Instead of becoming investment bankers and consultants, these UC Berkeley MBA students in 2009 started testing the concept of growing gourmet mushrooms entirely with recycled coffee grounds.  They had help — a $5000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation and interest from some local stores Whole Foods and Chez Panisse.  Their business grew, but they reached a crossroads.

Given the economy, did they try to become huge mushroom growers OR empower the public to grown their own?  They chose to develop the Grow Your Own Mushroom kits, which today are sold at Whole Foods, Home Depot, SkyMall and Wegmans.  Revenue has exceeded $1 million this year.  Last year, it was $240,000.

Now these firebrands are collecting wastes from spent tofo, spent grains and hops, and even spent tea leaves.  What will be left for our landfills?!!!

With a stated vision for their company “to create a movement, to constantly inspire, innovate and facilitate and promote community responsibility,”  looks like we have an American home grown operation that is using business for social change.  Check them outwww.backtotheroots.com

These mini-gardens could be yours!

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