Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora. They came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, they became full-time urban mushroom farmers and Back to the Roots was born!
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- Nikhil has failed many times in the short life of Back to the Roots. His attitude is: there is a lesson to be learned here. Listen to hear about the rotting mushrooms incident…
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John Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply electrified to introduce my guest today, Nikhil Arora. Nikhil, are you prepared to ignite?
Nikhil Arora: I am excited to ignite, John!
John Lee Dumas: Alright. I’m pumped too. Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora. They came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Too cool. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh local food, they became fulltime herb and mushroom farmers and Back to the Roots was born.
This is really exciting stuff, Nikhil. I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, but why don’t you take a minute. Tell us about you personally. How old you are, where you’re from, and then take another minute to tell us about your business.
Nikhil Arora: Sure! So my name is Nikhil. I’m 25 years old. I’m one of the cofounders of Back to the Roots. You introduced it right, man. We’re an urban mushroom farm right here in Oakland, California growing gourmet mushrooms and these mushroom kits on entirely recycled coffee grounds. Our vision is kind of making food personal again and connecting people to foods and really cool experiences. In this case, it’s taking waste and how can you grow food on it. A quick backstory, like neither of us had any background [Unintelligible] any background in food and [Unintelligible] farming. We’re both undergraduate business majors at UC Berkeley. We were undergrads there and it was our last semester in college. We were in a business ethics class and we both heard our professor bring up this fact – and looking back now, a super random fact – that you could possibly grow gourmet mushrooms on different urban waste streams, with one of them being coffee grounds.
We both fell in love with that idea. We didn’t know each other at the time. He connected us both. We turned Alex’s fraternity kitchen into a mini science experiment and started growing some test buckets. We got some support from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse, a local restaurant. We got a small 5K grant from our Chancellor a couple of weeks before graduation. I had an offer to go into consulting, Alex had an offer to go into investment banking, and we looked at each other about two weeks away from graduation and kind of said, “You know what? Forget that stuff. Fulltime urban mushroom farming it is,” and we delved into it and it’s just been a roller coaster since then.
John Lee Dumas: Roller coaster is a great word for an entrepreneur, Nikhil. When I first heard and read about your story, it was either in Inc. or Fast Company or Entrepreneur Magazine. Which one was it?
Nikhil Arora: I think it was on Entrepreneur.
John Lee Dumas: Okay. It was on Entrepreneur Magazine. I read all three so they always kind of mold together, but I read about your story in Entrepreneur. It was so fascinating, I just had to reach out to you because I love what you’re doing. It’s so out-of-the-box. I’m really excited to delve more into it later. But before we do, let’s start the show off how we start every show, with a success quote. EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to get the motivational ball rolling and it’s hard to do it any other way better than with a success quote. So what do you have for Fire Nation, Nikhil?
Nikhil Arora: Yes! I think one quote that always really inspired me and kind of guides me every day is actually by Will Smith. I’m kind of paraphrasing here, but he talks about you don’t go out and try to build a wall and say like, “I’m going to build the biggest, baddest wall that’s ever been built.” You say, “I’m going to lay this one brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid,” and you do it every single day and before you know it, you have a wall. I think for me it’s always meant like you don’t build a company overnight. It’s just like you do every single thing you do, every action you take, every person you talk to, every kit you sell in this case, you do it with all your energy and all your passion, and you do as perfectly as you possibly can do that one seemingly small thing, and then before you know it, in a year, in two years, you look back and like you’ve built something of value, of substance here, but it’s that repetition of like one after another just doing small things right with a ton of passion every time. That quote from Will Smith, that sticks in my head. Even like sometimes you’re in the grind and like you’re in the weeds of actually trying to figure something out, and you go, “You know what? I’m going to put all my energy. It seems small, but if I figure this out, that’s going to make a big difference.”
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Most people don’t realize that both Will Smith and Bill Cosby, they’re just not known for giving quotes. Both of them have been quoted multiple times on this show. I will make sure that the exact quote that you did a very good job of paraphrasing of for Will Smith is up in the show notes after the show. So I’m really just glad that you brought that one because it sends such a great message. Nikhil, take us down to the ground level real quick because that’s what EntrepreneurOnFire is all about. We want to be taken to the ground level of your life, of your story. How have you applied this quote to your life?
Nikhil Arora: Yes. I mean I think for us, looking back now where we’re at, it’s been two-and-a-half years and we’re in a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Oakland we’ve converted to a mushroom farm, we’ve on pace diverted 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds this year from the landfill and in like 2,500 retailers. It’s really coming back and seeing where we’re at now. We’re really excited about it and excited about the future, but it’s like that’s only been created for us for like day in and day out just it’s hustle. We say it’s hustle and it’s passion and we’re still working [6:00] AM to like [9:00] PM every single day. For us, like just 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds just don’t show up overnight. It’s like one bag at a time, one café relationship at a time, one morning collection at a time and doing that right and with energy and just like it’s one here. In this case, we make all the mushroom kits ourselves. It’s like a thousand pounds of coffee grounds come in and our teams touching them and everyone’s having different [Unintelligible] value to it, but we take one kit at a time and making sure that one kit is just perfect so when the customer gets it, they really love it. For us, I mean in terms of marketing, we haven’t spent a dime on marketing. It’s all been just demos in stores and talking to thousands and thousands of customers at the individual level. It’s like we take so much pride and passion. We will say like every person we talk to in this company, every demo we do, every person who walks by the demo table, we talk to. One time we talked to them with such intensity and focus and passion they like never forget that conversation. That, added up by a thousand, all of a sudden now you have like a mass community supporting, but it’s like one person at a time.
John Lee Dumas: I love it, and the quote just even applies even better now when you explained it that way because instead of one brick, you’re doing one coffee bag at a time.
Nikhil Arora: Exactly. It’s crazy. One bag at a time. A couple of pounds here, a couple of pounds there, and the next thing you know, it adds up to something of – well, that’s a lot of coffee.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] So Nikhil, let’s transition now to our next topic, and that’s failure. EntrepreneurOnFire is about your journey as an entrepreneur. Now you’re 25 years old. That’s pretty young as far as the life of a typical entrepreneur, but you’ve still had obstacles, challenges and failures that have peppered your past as they’ve peppered every past of every entrepreneur because it’s our job to fail every single day as entrepreneurs because if we’re not failing, we’re not pushing our limits. Take us back to a time when you failed personally as an entrepreneur and really share with Fire Nation how you overcame that obstacle.
Nikhil Arora: I dead on agree with what you said in terms of failings. It was like we made every mistake underneath the sun with Back to the Roots and we learned a ton from it and we’re still making mistakes every day. We always say if we’re doing the same thing for a couple of months in a row and we haven’t made any changes, there was a big problem there because we know already there’s something wrong right now. It’s just how fast can we catch that and grow and get better and better at it. I mean one big failing we had which was just in the summer, it was a big, big lesson learned, and that was around just trying to match in this case sales projections with production, and we were just flat out off and wrong and overproduced a ton, and with mushroom kits that’s not something like you’re producing steel or iron that can sit for quite a while. It’s a living plant and we lost thousands of kits and we had whole other issues that come up with that. We stretched our cash flow to the limit because you’re spending real money for making those inventory and it’s just sitting on your shelves and you’re like that’s not turning in anything for you. The last couple of months were really, really tough and a lot of lessons learned, but like you said, you learn the most by diving into it and making the mistakes, and I think we’ve come out of it now especially just in time.
Now we’re excited about – we do about 70% of our sales in the fourth quarter of this year, so it’s a big, big time of the year for us coming up in the next 8 to 10 weeks and we’re just thinking we made a big mistake in the summer and we’re like, you know what? At least [Unintelligible] thank God we made it then and not now, and now we can really kind of regroup and get our strategy together and just have an absolute incredible fourth quarter and take this company to the next level. So it’s just like I think as an entrepreneur, it’s just you got to take every failing, and I think that’s what makes entrepreneurship, it’s people who fail and as quickly as you fail, you realize the learnings from it and realize the positives from it and take [Unintelligible] with it.
John Lee Dumas: That is a great attitude to have, Nikhil. Thank you for just being so open and honest with Fire Nation about a failure that you had because that can be a very sensitive subject for a lot of people, but it’s when we’re able to talk about it and to dissect it that we’re really able to improve upon it for the next go around and I have no doubt that that failure is going to turn into a success because you’re willing to do so. So congratulations for that. Can you pull out one specific lesson that you learned from that failure that you’ve applied to your business?
Nikhil Arora: One of the biggest lessons learned from that, maybe it’s really specific for manufacturing, but I think it’s in the startup, how lean and flexible you got to be in terms of production and production projections. The truth is [Unintelligible] and we don’t have the luxury in a startup of having an annual fiscal plan and things like that. One big new account that hits or misses can totally change everything. It’s just being able to react to that a lot quicker. So our biggest lesson learned is we’re not asking our whole sales team, production team much more weekly meetings now, like checking our projections or our assumptions every single week now just so we know we’re on top of it. We had quarterly goals over the summer and we’re like, “Oh, here’s our Q3 goals” and didn’t really reevaluate those fast enough and weren’t flexible enough on those, and now it’s like lesson learned, we just got to be every week just on it. I think it’s more for manufacturing, but very, very real for us.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. Just a little side note to Fire Nation, you guys are actually hearing an entrepreneur at work right now, which I love and I just think is so fascinating. This isn’t just some abstract guy talking about abstract theories. This is a guy who is actually applying his theories, his desires, his passions to his business in his business right now, and you can hear it behind him. He is working. It’s all around him. Just a great atmosphere. I’m loving it, Nikhil. So let’s just continue to drive forward and now go to the other end of the spectrum, which is the aha moment. You shared with us an aha moment that you had in college when your professor said that random comment, and entrepreneurs live and die on aha moments. We have these every single day in small doses, but every now and then we do really have that one major light bulb that comes on and really shows us the way and just is something that we know is going to resonate so well with our audience, with our clients, with our future clients. Can you share with Fire Nation an aha moment that you’ve had at Back to the Roots that’s just been amazing?
Nikhil Arora: Yes, absolute. I appreciate your support for our surroundings because I’m literally in the middle of our mushroom farm right now.
John Lee Dumas: I love it! I wish it was video.
Nikhil Arora: I’ve got [Unintelligible] right next to me. They’re being mixed with the seeds. The whole production is happening right here. It’s a small, little area, but it’s fun. It’s all hands-on. In terms of the aha moment, I mean our definitely number one aha moment was that idea in college, and I think that was where we got the inspiration from and then realized there’s something really cool with that idea of turning waste into food and we ran with that for a while. I think the second kind of maybe more practical aha moment that we had was for a while, we started off growing the fresh mushrooms and we would sell them to local farmer’s markets and Whole Foods and the bulk of wholesale produce, and then along the way we had a lot of people ask us, “Okay, that’s kind of cool, but can we do it ourselves?” That’s where this whole idea of the grow at home mushroom kits came about, which is now our main product.
For a while we were doing both of these and we had a warehouse split 50/50, half of it for the fresh mushroom production, half of it for the mushroom kit production. We thought we could do both of them, and for a while, we were trying to [Unintelligible], and probably maybe at the end of it, this was mostly a year-and-a-half ago now, about two or three weeks away from going out of business and we quickly realized that what was happening was that these were two very, very different business model. We had one where we were growing fresh just wholesale produce, and the second thing, the mushroom kits, was a consumer branded item that took a lot different type of work to get that going. We ended up having to make that decision that we got to pick one of these and one [Unintelligible] and we thought we could build like a national brand, a movement around the kits in the kitchens across the country versus in 20 years it will be like a 5 mile radius mushroom farm, and we decided to kind of stop the fresh mushroom production, which at that time was our baby. It was one of the toughest decisions we had to make, and just run fast with these mushroom kits that are still so new, but it’s incredible seeing the response since then and putting all your energy and focus into one thing. In this case, just these mushroom kits and going from one [Unintelligible] Whole Foods, Home Depot, Safeway and soon Toys “R” Us now as well. I think that aha moment for us was like in a startup, it’s all about focus and like you got to pick one thing and just [Unintelligible] that one thing better than anyone else on this planet and put all your energy and soul into it. I think when we made that decision and started seeing the benefits of it, we quickly realized the power of what focus can do.
John Lee Dumas: That is so powerful and it’s such a great message because so often on EntrepreneurOnFire, the aha moments are just these wonderful things, and the fact of the matter is aha moments are not always wonderful. Sometimes they’re painful realizations like oh God, this is where we should be going with the product or with the service or with our business, and you just defined that so perfectly. You’re right, it’s tough to kill your baby sometimes because that’s what you guys started the business for and that was your passion, that’s what your energy is going into, but now you realize that if you really want to make the impact that you want to, if you want to really make the impact to your surroundings and Mother Nature in general that you’re really embodying as a business, scalability is huge for you. So you guys are going in that direction. I absolutely salute you for sacrificing your baby to the greater good. It’s really impressive to see, and I just want to say thank you.
Nikhil Arora: Thank you, man. I appreciate that. That means a lot.
John Lee Dumas: So Nikhil, have you had an I’ve made it moment yet?
Nikhil Arora: I don’t think so. I think we’re really excited with where things have gone, the response from the community, from our retail partners, from our team, like having an amazing team around us now, but I think one thing that drives Alex and I both is the sense that we have a constant I think passion and ambition where we know where we want to take this company. That’s no less than a household name, a household brand. When you think about connecting the food, you think about Back to the Roots. I think we’re almost afraid of having that thought of we’ve made it because we don’t ever want to have made it. That takes away your passion and your hustle, and we’re still as hungry as we were the first day to keep on working our butts off and growing Back to the Roots. So I’m excited, but I definitely don’t think we made it. I don’t ever want to think that, to be honest with you.
John Lee Dumas: Again, I’m just continuously impressed by your attitude because I hesitate to even ask you that question because such a young entrepreneur and so young in business, I pretty much knew what your answer was going to be, but I thought it still was an important one to gauge the type of entrepreneur you are. I just always stress to Fire Nation that it’s so important to set lofty goals because that’s what drives you forward and to make your passion just work with those goals is so important and so powerful. But once you reach those goals, it truly is important to step back and just really appreciate the journey that you’ve come and the achievements that you’ve accomplished because it’s all about the journey, and those people that just breeze through their goals and put their heads down and just hit another goal even higher and then just drive forward to that, they miss the journey and it’s so important. I know for a fact you are not missing the journey. You’re enjoying the ups and the downs and the roller coaster. How do you do that?
Nikhil Arora: I totally agree with you, I’m having an absolute blast, and Alex, my partner and cofounder, we both I think a lot of times attribute it to us and our relationship, to be honest with you. I think we just since day 1 clicked so well. We always say that when we’re working together, it doesn’t seem like work. It just seems like fun. We both just are on a very same mindset of our values, of our mission, of our vision and the attitude we want to bring to work and I think it’s so important, the idea of like a partnership and having a partner when you’re starting a business because it makes it so much more just funky if you have someone you can constantly bounce off things with. I have a blast working with him. I mean we worked for two-and-a-half years every single day, [6:00] AM to [9:00] PM, and we’re still so excited the next morning to kind of see each other again and get back to work and get back cranking again. I think as we’ve grown our team around us, like they’re a really young, super energetic, super passionate team. That just makes coming to work so much fun around people who just share the same values and passion and it makes work so much fun. It’s one of the big things we highlight to people we want to work with, and not just work with but like want to spend time with and hang out with because at the end of the day, I think when you’re an entrepreneur, there’s not much separation between like personal and professional life. Like this is your life where your company is your life and we always say you better be damn well sure you’re having fun doing it because that’s all you’re doing pretty much. So it’s people you’re around, long story short.
John Lee Dumas: Great point. Let’s use that to transition now to our next topic, which is your current business. You have a lot of great things that are going on. A lot of fun activities. It just seems like it’s hopping and bopping. A lot of stuff is going on behind you. We can hear it. We’re living it with you right now. That’s exciting. But what’s one thing that’s really getting you pumped up about your business right now?
Nikhil Arora: The short term is we’re about to hit a big, big [Unintelligible] I think we’re seeing 70% of our business is coming in the next two-and-a-half months. That’s a big thing in mind right now. Like it’s just I love that pressure of the mistakes you make right now are amplified where they’re really bad and the good things you do and successes you have are amplified and they’re amazing right now at this time of year because there’s so much on our minds. So it’s something that I think Alex and I both are just really fired up for it – for that challenge, for that pressure, and it’s fun. It’s fun having that. It’s just like a constant adrenaline rush right now for the next two-and-a-half months to like execute head down, let’s see where we can take this thing in these two-and-a-half months. That’s one thing in mind right now.
Then I think two is just we’re really excited about new developments, where the company is going. We just actually got approval. We’re going to be launching to Toys “R” Us actually in about a month. So that’s a huge new challenge for us, something we’ve both been personally really excited about for a while as part of our vision of really connecting kids to this whole movement of making food personal again and growing your own food fun and easy. So that’s a big thing we’re really excited about, is going deeper into the education and kids route, and we’re launching a new product Q1 of next year. So a couple of exciting things a little more medium and long term, but short term it’s just that it’s a fun time of the year. I feel like it’s a constant adrenaline rush right now.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. You’ve alluded to focus a couple of times now, and that’s such a valuable word to me. I love it. I use it every single day in my business, and I use the acronym that I just loved when I heard it years and years ago for focus, which is “Follow One Course Until Success.” I’ve always loved that acronym. It doesn’t mean that you’re just doing one particular thing, but you set your mission and you drive after it and you just don’t get distracted by all the bright, shiny objects around you. You’re in a very busy time right now, Nikhil, and your time is valuable. So I really appreciate you taking the time to join us here at Fire Nation at something like this and you’ve decided this was worthwhile your venture. I can tell you right now, I truly believe that you’ve made a good decision. Right now, we’re getting over 100,000 individual downloads every single month and the audience is growing. It’s full of passionate entrepreneurs and people that just really resonate with people like yourself who want to support what you’re doing in your business venture. So the Fire Nation community is a powerful one and I really am glad you joined us here today.
Nikhil Arora: Oh, thank you so much for having us. It’s an honor and your support means a ton to us. I think at this stage too, it’s just what gets you up in the morning is people like you, man, a community like this that just you feel like has your back and is supporting you through those ups and downs. So we really appreciate inviting us on and excited to kind of connect more with the community and stay involved as well.
John Lee Dumas: It’s a very powerful community, Fire Nation itself, because it’s full of entrepreneurs and the entrepreneur community in general is such an impressive and powerful community. It’s just really exciting to see how it’s growing and how it’s changing just with how the world as it’s getting more and more flat every single day as more people, not just in the country but in the world, are having access to podcasts like this, to the Internet, so they can get to your website and just see what you’re doing and experience that first hand too. It’s a very exciting time. I’m not going to let you go yet. We still have a couple more things we want to talk about. One thing in particular, where did Back to the Roots come from? Tell us the story of the name of your company.
Nikhil Arora: Oh, the name? Okay. A funny story and it’s another lesson learned. I was in Ghana in my junior year in college, studying abroad. When I was there, I fell in love with the fabrics out there, the designs out there. I actually got like a hoodie made out of this really, really cool traditional fabric from Ghana and this idea kind of struck me, like that’s a really cool concept. You can take indigenous, traditional designs and turn that into western clothing. The first idea that I had was a company like a Better Clothing, Better World Clothing and BTTR and just create a company called “BTTR Ventures.” That was kind of the background we had for a while, and then as we started this whole mushroom business up, we didn’t have a name for a company for a while, and then we’re applying to that grant for our business plan competition where we got $5K from our Chancellor. It was all super last minute and we had to submit the application like in a couple of hours to meet the deadline and Alex and I were like, “Crap! We need a name. What are we going to call this company?”
At that point, I mean we were just still trying to figure out the science of it. Does it even work? Does it even grow? I just said, “You know, a while ago I was thinking of a company called BTTR Ventures. What about that?” Alex just said, “Cool! Let’s do it! We have to submit something. This will do right now.” We put that down and it kind of stuck since then, and we started off calling the company “BTTR Ventures,” which stood for Back To The Roots, but it’s more of a play on words. Like better mushrooms, better this, better that, as we grew, and our goal was to have that BTTR be our big brand.
The lesson learned as we grew, our first box we launched, our first mushroom kit, we launched it in stores. We were so proud of this thing. This is going to be it, it’s going to solve everything, and it said “BTTR Mushrooms” on there. I don’t know, within like a couple of weeks, there’s a ton of feedback coming in from people that were like, “Is it butter? Is it bitter? What is this thing?” and we just like smacking our heads and we’re like, “Oh man, how did we not catch that?” and then realizing, you know what? Let’s drop the whole full name and just go with what it stands for, what it means – Back to the Roots. We rebranded everything and we’ve been running with that since then. So I think it was a great decision since then because it means something a lot because when you hear “Back to the Roots” I think it creates some kind of emotion in people’s minds which is really cool and something we wanted to create, but we definitely learned a lot of lessons on branding and naming through that whole process.
John Lee Dumas: As entrepreneurs, we often try to be so clever, and oftentimes, that gets the best of us. It just brings me back to my Army days of the acronym “KISS,” which is Keep It Simple, Stupid. That’s so true in business and I could just sit here for a couple of hours and tell you the initial names that I came up with for my company, and obviously, EntrepreneurOnFire, just that phrase, it speaks to what we do here. You, you’re an entrepreneur on fire. If I tried to be clever, people just wouldn’t get it and that just wouldn’t resonate with people and that initial click to get people in and hooked may never happen, and the same with you. So now that people understand your brand and your name, you’re going to reach even a larger audience.
Nikhil Arora: Yes. Thank you. You’re learning through mistakes, right? If you do them and you move in so quick, I feel at times as an entrepreneur you’re moving 100 miles an hour and it’s just you’re going to make mistakes and just how fast you can react.
John Lee Dumas: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s now move into the last topic. This is my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions and you provide us with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Nikhil Arora: It sounds good.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Nikhil Arora: I think a partner. A partner who I enjoy working with because ideas would run through my mind. I think when Alex and I met, that was a big thing with our relationship. So I think it’s finding someone you could really enjoy working with every day.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business advice that you ever received?
Nikhil Arora: It was a quote. We got a grant from Hitachi for $50,000, business line competition. We got the chance to sit down with the CEO and ask him the question, what’s the key to success from the CEO of Hitachi and he said, “Two simple things. It’s good health and it’s good partnerships.” That stuck with us and it’s so simple. He’s an older guy but he’s super fit with tons of energy, and it’s just good partnership and good health stuck with us. It’s something we never forget. So we try to make sure we always keep ourselves healthy. At the end of the day, if we’re not healthy, nothing else matters.
John Lee Dumas: What is something that’s working for you or your business right now?
Nikhil Arora: Transparency. It’s the biggest thing. Transparency in marketing and transparency in everything we’re doing. Our customers have responded and rewarded us for doing so.
John Lee Dumas: So you’re a young guy, Nikhil. Do you have an Internet resource like an Evernote that you just are in love with that you can share with Fire Nation?
Nikhil Arora: It’s music, man. Our whole team, we can’t live without it. Pandora is right here in Oakland and it’s an easy answer, but our company’s filled off of music. We’re constantly bumping throughout the day and it’s like a little party in here nonstop. [Unintelligible] to Pandora, our Oakland neighbors right here, for creating an awesome space to let us keep the party going 24/7 at a mushroom farm.
John Lee Dumas: It goes back to your best advice – you got to stay healthy, you got to stay energized, and music helps you do both because you’re probably bopping around a little bit, you’re dancing, you’re energized. It’s all in one.
Nikhil Arora: Exactly. Yes, you got to have fun. If you’re not having fun, nothing else matters. I think if you have fun, your customers feel it, your buyers feel it, everyone feels it. They want to have fun too. So you just got to have fun doing what you’re doing.
John Lee Dumas: What is your favorite business book?
Nikhil Arora: Favorite business book? You know what? I think one book that I thought was really powerful is from Chip Conley. He wrote a book called “Emotional Equations” recently. He’s been a good mentor of ours and he’s given us some amazing advice. We respect him so much for what he’s built and I think it was so powerful of him bringing emotions into business. That’s something which I feel is not really talked about that much. A business is supposed to be like you’re supposed to be cut and dry and you’re making these stern decisions. It’s just so cool to see him bring emotions into business and the power that emotions have in business. At the end of the day, it’s all relationships and it’s all personal, and if you can understand that part of it and understand the emotions, you’re so much more successful at business. So Emotional Equations by Chip Conley.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful! So this next question is the last one, Nikhil. It’s kind of challenging so just take your time, have fun with it, and come back with us with an amazing answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, it’s identical to earth, but you knew nobody. You still have all the experience and knowledge that you currently have, but only $500 in your pocket and a laptop with Internet access. All your food and shelter is taken care of, but what would you do in the next seven days?
Nikhil Arora: My mind goes when you’re saying that is building community. That’s what I’d want to do. I’d want to spend that 500 bucks to gather people around me, to throw an event to meet people. I think that’s the biggest thing. That’s all life is. It’s relationships and it’s people. So I’d use that 500 bucks to get online, create an event, invite people and start building relationships and getting things going again. So I think that would be the biggest thing I would’ve missed and that’s the thing I would have wanted to get back to the most, is relationships and people. So I’d spend that money throwing a kick ass event and getting people out here and building a community again.
John Lee Dumas: That is a great piece of actionable advice, and you’ve given us some great actionable advice this entire interview, Nikhil, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Nikhil Arora: A parting piece of guidance? The one thing I got to say is the one thing I think I’ve learned about business is that there’s no real key to success. It’s just two things. It’s hustle and it’s passion. Are you willing to work your butt off for something you really believe in? That’s just the two quotes, two of my values on our walls – hustle and passion. We have a massive [Unintelligible] the whole company. That’s simple. If you’re willing to work your butt off for something you believe in, good things will come and people will come out to support you.
A plug for the company – an amazing holiday gift coming up. It’s really cool. Our grow-at-home mushroom kit. Check it out at backtotheroots.com. A little brown box. It grows up to a pound-and-a-half of pearl oyster mushrooms right out of the box, all grown on recycled coffee grounds. It’s $19.95. It’s a really cool under $20 green gift idea for your parents or kids or family members just trying to get people involved in growing your own food. You don’t need a green thumb or a big backyard. You can put it on your kitchen windowsill and in 10 days, have your big crop of fresh mushrooms growing right out of the box. You can throw in some pastas and tacos or soups and enjoy them. So that’s our plug. Check out backtotheroots.com or go to your local Whole Foods or Home Depot and pick one up!
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! I will link all those up in the show notes, Nikhil. Fire Nation, support this young, passionate entrepreneur. Great Christmas gift! You can’t go wrong. It’s unique. Everybody loves a good mushroom, or at least 99% of people that I know do. So Nikhil, thanks again so much. Fire Nation, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.