We talked with Nikhil Arora from Back to the Roots way back in January but their insights were so profound that we had to revisit this story again today and get some key takeaways to help you grow. Nikhil and his business partner Alejandro have built a multi-million-dollar conscious food business. So, today, let’s review the key lessons from this Podcast interview.
Starting a Company: How do you discover that multi-million-dollar idea?
Back to the Roots found their idea in a classroom at UC Berkley. When co-founders Nikhil and Alejandro learned mushrooms could grow entirely on used coffee grounds, they both knew that they had to explore this idea further. Their curiosity led them to experiment on their own and discovering that coffee grounds, a throwaway resource could be used to create mushrooms. The idea of growing sustainable food was born and they never looked back.
Key takeaway: Ideas can come from anywhere if you have the intense curiosity to learn, and explore.
Growing a Company: How did you get your first sale?
While they were experimenting growing their own mushrooms, they built excitement in the process. With some mushrooms and a narrative, Nikhil and Alejandro demonstrated their mushrooms, process, and ideas to a local Whole Foods. The idea that people could be connected to their food on a whole new level is what gave them their first sale. 3.14 pounds from Whole Foods was their first order.
“I still have our first invoice”, Nikhil says, “That’s all we could grow consistently.”
Whole Foods became a champion for them and a financial backer, all from that one initial sale and of course, their story.
Key takeaway: Before you scale up production, build your brand narrative. It’s the story that’s going to sell your product, now and in the future.
Scaling a Company: How did you grow your company from one distributor to making millions?
There’s no simple answer for this one, but we’ll share an insight that led to their scale. When the team discovered that people were more excited in their story, in their narrative they capitalized on that right away:
“People were more excited about ‘how’ we were growing the mushrooms, than what we were growing. That’s why we created DYI mushroom kits so people could grow their own mushrooms at home, which also meant we were connecting people to their food on a great level as well.”
Not only did DYI mushroom kits fit their mission – to get people conscious about where their food comes from—it gave them a sellable product they could take to the marketplace or promote their crowdfunding campaigns.
Key takeaway: Listen to your audience and create products that they want, not products you think they should buy.
In Conclusion: Find Your Squad and Grow Baby!
It’s not easy taking an idea – mushrooms can grow in coffee ground – and building it into a multi-million-dollar business, but hey, these guys did it, so maybe you can too?
“It’s was a long journey from the two of us and this idea to scaling up a product for retail stores and a team of around 20 right now. Manufacturing, design, sales – it takes a village to raise a product.”
If you want to build a conscious food business or any business, you need a village. Find your supporters. Find your tribe, your pack, your crew. That’s how you can scale.
The final takeaway from Nikhil Arora is this: When you find your core audience. Deliver. “We thought that our audience was the foodie audience. We were wrong. We quickly realized that it wasn’t chefs that were excited about growing their own food, but families. That changed everything.”
“We thought that our audience was the foodie audience. We were wrong. We quickly realized that it wasn’t chefs that were excited about growing their own food, but families. That changed everything.”
Thanks for talking with us Nikhil! We’ll be watching you grow mushrooms and a company for many years to come!
Want to hear our full interview with Back To the Roots? Check it out here.