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Back to the Roots co-founder on social entrepreneurship and sustainability, Jan. 31

Poster promoting the speaking event with Alejandro Velez, co-founder of Back to the Roots.

Alejandro Velez, co-founder of Back to the Roots, will speak at CSUEB on Jan. 31. (Photo: ASI)

  • January 29, 2013 11:15am

Back to the Roots was founded in 2009 by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley. Velez will share his company’s philosophy of social entrepreneurship and sustainability with the CSUEB community on Thursday, January 31, at 6pm in the University Union’s multi-purpose room (MPR). 

Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking and consulting, Velez and Arora came across the idea of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh, local food, they experimented in Velez‘s fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse, and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, launch “Back to Roots” and become full-time urban mushroom farmers. 

Back to the Roots is now a $5.4MM eco-conscious company that sells do-it-yourself mushroom growing kits at 1000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Home Depot and several online retailers. The co-founders were also featured on the 2012 INC Magazine "30 Under 30" list.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Associated Students, Inc. by email: or by phone: (510)885-4843.


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