Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora, co-CEOs and co-founders of the organic gardening company Back to the Roots, didn’t start their company with a business in mind, but rather with a shared curiosity around food and where it comes from. It was in a business ethics class at UC Berkeley about 10 years when the duo stumbled upon the idea that gourmet mushrooms could grow on recycled coffee grounds….and everything grew from there!
Fast forward a few months into their last semester at college, and the two decided to forego their job offers in investment banking and consulting to instead become full-time urban mushroom farmers.
Since then the brand has evolved from a local urban mushroom farm into a national brand with hundreds of products sold in over 10,000 stores, providing millions of millennials and kids the opportunity to create their own organic gardens. From easy-to-use grow kits and pre-grown live plants for beginners, to a wide array of 100% USA Grown and Organic seed packets, Back to the Roots is helping new gardeners grow no matter their experience level and space. No backyard? No problem.
With accelerating trends of urbanization, rapidly shrinking backyard spaces, and a generation who grew up disconnected from the garden, the design process to create a brand that would give a new generation confidence and joy in growing their own food was a big challenge for the Back to the Roots team.
So how did Alejandro and Nikhil reinvent the entire gardening category and disrupt the $48 billion industry?
“During this process the whole garden had to be redesigned – rethinking where people grow, what they grow, why & when they grow and how they grow,” said, Alejandro, co-founder and co-CEO of Back to the Roots.
“We had to reimage the entire gardening experience for a generation that is growing up with less and less space, but still demanding more transparency on sourcing, organic gardening, and more edible plants, not just flowers.”
Through a new and innovative line of 21 diverse small-space gardening kits and over 90 varieties of seeds that are now more accessible than ever in thousands of retailers nationwide (including Walmart, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, HEB, Whole Foods, and more), those living in apartments & small spaces can grow their own organic food, year-round.
Most recently Back to the Roots became the first national 100% USA Grown Seed brand in the country, as it expands nationwide with The Home Depot & HEB.
Helping bring gardening into school curriculums has also been a key part of the company’s mission since the early days. The company’s #GrowOneGiveOne campaign has helped reached tens of thousands of kids over the years, as every time a customer tags a photo of their own grow kit on Instagram with #GrowOneGiveOne, Back to the Roots donates a gardening kit + STEM curriculum to a classroom of their choice.
Gardening is so much more than just seeds and soil — it’s about reconnecting to our food and where it comes from.
“Gardening is a way to experience some of nature’s magic in our own homes. says Nikhil Arora, co-founder and co-CEO of Back to the Roots. “And we can’t think of anything more important to teach our kids than the sense of community and connection to each other, to the Earth and to our food that comes from gardening. We want to make gardening & cooking a part of every school curriculum.”
What Nikhil and Alejandro started in their fraternity kitchen at UC Berkeley has truly bloomed, and they are now reshaping not just a massive category in partnership with the world’s largest retailers, but also helping a whole new generation experience the magic of gardening.