Ayesha Curry joins board of Oakland-based gardening startup Back to the Roots

By Martine Paris | Bloomberg

Celebrity chef Ayesha Curry has joined the board of home-gardening startup Back to the Roots, a tie-up that could help the company reach more Gen Z customers.

Curry, a Food Network host who started her cooking career by posting videos on YouTube, said she’ll draw on her expertise building brands as a board member of the Oakland -based company. Back to the Roots expects to sell $100 million worth of gardening products this year and plans to collaborate with Home Depot Inc. and the salad chain Sweetgreen Inc. on programs to expand its reach with younger consumers.

“I love watching something grow from seeds and soil,” Curry said in an interview.

The company has raised $41.6 million from high-profile backers including Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, Peter Guber, co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and actress Alyssa Milano, according to co-Chief Executive Officer Alejandro Velez. Curry has been involved with Back to the Roots for seven years and invested in its $20.2 million Series D round, which closed in April.

Velez declined to comment on the company’s valuation but said it is growing. He started the company in 2009 with his college friend Nikhil Arora after they experimented with growing mushrooms from coffee grounds. Back to the Roots now sells a variety of products, including kits to grow organic produce and flowers. They’re available online and in 10,000 retail locations including Target Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp.

Curry, who is the wife of NBA star Stephen Curry, will help bring more cachet to the company as it looks to capitalize on healthier and more sustainable food practices popular with younger people. As part of her advisory work, she helped create a model for donating Back to the Roots gardening kits to schools.

A serial entrepreneur, Curry is the co-founder of International Smoke, a restaurant chain with Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina. She is also behind the lifestyle brand Sweet July, which includes a publishing house under the imprint Sweet July Books, a subscription box business and a cafe in Oakland. And Curry is on the board of the Goldman Sachs’s One Million Black Women initiative, which oversees a $10 million fund to support Black women-owned businesses.

She and her husband share a children’s foundation, Eat.Learn.Play, and have worked together on other projects together like the HBO series, “About Last Night,” but manage their investment portfolios separately, she said. The basketball star gravitates toward tech startups, while she is more interested in food.

“I like to invest in what I know and I like to get involved early,” she said.

In 2021, she invested in another food startup, Supplant Co., which makes a sweetener from plant fibers. It has raised $42.1 million, according to Crunchbase, and is backed by Khosla Ventures, Felicis Ventures and Coatue Management, as well as Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul. Curry said she uses the product in her cooking.

“Outside of looking for the win, I look for the need,” she said. “You can’t just want to be involved in something because you know it’s going to succeed. You need to approach what you’re going to put your time into from a passion standpoint.”

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