Alejandro Velez is co-founder of Back to the Roots (www.bttrventures.com), a 100% sustainable urban mushroom farm that transforms coffee ground waste into the growing medium for gourmet mushrooms, mushroom kits and provides sustainable DIY products for families and kids. Velez is also founder and board chairman of the largest UC Berkeley non-profit organization, The Sage Mentorship Project Inc. (www.sagementors.org), a 1,000+ member mentoring program that creates individual, one-on-one pairings between UC Berkeley mentors and low-income Berkeley and Oakland elementary school students
Velez is a May 2009 summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education. Prior to changing career paths when he co-founded Back to the Roots on his last semester in college, Velez had worked as a summer financial investment banking analyst at various financial services institutions and a telecom company including Citigroup, UBS, Morgan Stanley, and Qualcomm.
Velez was born in Medellin, Colombia and moved to the states with his mother, brother and $5K in his mother’s pocket. He learned English from scratch in a small town in Michigan and after overcoming cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) through 4 successful rounds of chemotherapy, his academic and athletic success led him to UC Berkeley’s Men’s Tennis Team. He once again had a Hodgkin’s scare at 18 but after one month of tests and biopsies he was told no cancer was present. Velez was named the 2009 Cal Alumni Association Undergraduate of the Year and was awarded the Chancellor’s highest honor for a graduating senior: the 2009 Good Citizen Award for his highest commitment to the community.
Velez has been named 2010 PODER Magazine’s 20 Influential Hispanics Under 40, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders and one of the 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners.
Nikhil Arora is a co-founder of Back to the Roots (www.bttrventures.com), a 100% sustainable urban mushroom farm that transforms coffee ground waste into the growing medium for gourmet mushrooms, mushroom kits and provides sustainable DIY products for families and kids. Nikhil also serves as chair of the board of directors for Alpha Epsilon Zeta, a South-Asian professional network and serves on the board for the Sage Mentorship Project, a one-to-one mentorship group connecting UC Berkeley students with local, disadvantaged elementary schools in the area.
A Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Nikhil is a 2009 summa cum laude graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, from the Haas School of Business and Department of Political Science. Prior to starting Back to the Roots, Nikhil spent time working in business consulting, though always with a passion for sustainability and job creation. He spent 6 months in Ghana in 2007 working to implement a profitable, job-creating recycling program for the 30,000+ student University of Ghana campus. Additionally, Nikhil worked in the summer of 2008 to bring solar powered LED Lanterns to rural Sierra Leone to offer village communities a chance for expanded self-reliability and enhanced productivity. After graduating, he foregoed offers in consulting to instead become a full-time urban mushroom farmer and pursue his passion for sustainability, job-creation and economic development through creative solutions.
Awards: BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, Businessweek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders. 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, Hitachi Young Entrepreneur winner, and Miller-Coors Urban Entrepreneurship competition winner.
As Chief Operating Officer, Sean Murphy ensures Inner City Advisors’ capacity to fulfill its mission of creating quality inner city jobs by managing the delivery of the organization’s high caliber portfolio and education services. With a particular focus on enhancing the organization’s infrastructure for scale, Sean oversees ICA’s financial management, impact reporting, portfolio management, as well as positioning ICA’s entrepreneurial network for smart capital investments. Sean’s leadership style bridges disciplined focus on Mission ProfitTM with a genuine interest in investing in people to achieve key results.
In 2010, Sean lead the organization to its most proficient year of operations, turning every $1 donated to ICA into $191 of inner city wealth creation—roughly a 199% Mission ProfitTM increase from 2009. Under this mission-first operating philosophy, Sean managed $145,988,343 total revenues and ensured successful program performance by rallying the right people to get things done.
Sean has extensive experience working within the inner city communities of the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area, leading sustainable operations and funding strategies in the non profit sectors, including major community foundations. Sean was the lead consultant working directly with the CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, in the deployment of an operational effectiveness study related to one of the foundation key support organizations.
Sean has also managed shareholder relations for a Global Resource Development firm. His core focus is on creating environments of quality service delivery, and co-developed an assessment tool that has been used to evaluate the operational effectiveness of start-ups. Sean earned his bachelors degree in Sociology and minor in Education from UCLA, and has also completed the entrepreneurship curriculum at Stanford University.
When not at the office, you will find Sean with family and friends, still actively studying his craft, playing sports, mentoring youth, working with independent music artists, and playing the drums.
Professor Alan Ross is a Faculty Sponsor from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Mr. Ross holds a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley and a JD from UC Davis. At Haas, he teaches “Social and Political Issues of Business” and “The Legal Environment of Business”. Alan was the Executive Assistant for the Clinton Reilly Campaigns; currently, he is the President of Almerlee Inc. Investments. Furthermore, he was elected as the Member Board of Directors of the California Common Cause. In 2005, Alan was awarded the prestigious Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching.