WASHINGTON, DC (October 12, 2010) – What do used coffee grounds, blighted lands, multi-ethnic breads, and agricultural waste have in common? For The Hitachi Foundation’s inaugural class of Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs, these are not only business opportunities but means to address economic inequality in America. Nine young entrepreneurs representing six enterprises have been named The Hitachi Foundation’s first Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs, a distinction earned through a highly competitive national selection process.
The Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs, all of whom started their businesses before they turned 30, demonstrated viable business models that help create greater economic opportunity for low-wealth individuals in America.
“Like entrepreneurs everywhere, these nine young men and women are risk takers who believe they have a marketable idea. What distinguishes them is that their marketable ideas are about advancing the wellbeing of people on the outskirts of the economic mainstream,” said Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.
To be considered for The Hitachi Foundation’s Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs Program, entrepreneurs must have been 18 to 29-year olds when they started their enterprise, and operating viable businesses that create jobs, supply goods or services, or use internal management practices that offer low-wealth individuals in America a leg up.
The Hitachi Foundation’s 2010 Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs are:
ALEX VELEZ (23) AND NIKHIL ARORA (23) are converting waste into quality crops and agricultural jobs. While undergraduates, the pair founded BTTR Ventures — a 100% sustainable, for-profit urban gourmet mushroom farm. Alex and Nikhil have created a closed loop, zero-waste system that turns one of America’s largest waste streams — used coffee grounds — into a highly-demanded, nutritious and valuable food product. While diverting more than 7,000 pounds of coffee ground waste from landfills every week, their production process also creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment that is used as a plant bloomer for both fruits and vegetables. BTTR Ventures’ oyster mushrooms, grow-at-home kits, and premium soil amendment are currently sold on their website and in the Northern California, Rocky Mountain, and South regions of a global natural food supermarket chain. The organization creates high-paying, urban jobs and participates in an employment program that focuses on employing low-wealth individuals.
ANDREW BUTCHER (30) co-founded Growth Through Energy + Community Health (GTECH) in 2007 as a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to revitalizing communities by cultivating a green economy. GTECH works with land owners (community development corporations, public agencies, and private developers) to repurpose neglected land, cultivating alternative energy crops to improve contaminated soil — thereby addressing a significant health concern — and producing oilseed for biofuel feedstock. GTECH generates revenue by providing services to landowners, offsetting the cost of vacant land management by cultivating oilseeds and creating platforms for education, training, and employment. GTECH’s programming helps build the capacity of and access to opportunity for low-wealth individuals. Since 2007, GTECH has reclaimed more than 75 vacant parcels of land in urban Pittsburgh, piloted reclamation projects in New Orleans, developed a model for green jobs impacting 500 youth per year, and leveraged more than $2 million in sustainable community development funds.
JESSAMYN WALDMAN (34) founded New York City-based Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) in 2005. An artisanal bakery, HBK uses traditional recipes and techniques as well as organic and local ingredients to produce and sell a diverse line of multi-ethnic breads that are sold to pay for training and generate wealth for low-income immigrant women. As a nonprofit workforce and microenterprise development organization, HBK fights poverty by providing fair-wage paid training and individually tailored classes to the lowest paid workers in the U.S. workforce: foreign-born and minority women. The training encompasses all components necessary for success in the growing food manufacturing industry. After HBK training, bakers are placed in management-track jobs in a sector historically dominated by men. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a sound business concept, HBK provides coaching and resources to help launch independent food businesses. HBK sells breads to nearly 30 stores and restaurants in three East Coast states.
Each individual or enterprise team will receive a cash prize of $50,000 over two years, and technical resources to strengthen their business.
They will benefit from a partnership with Investors’ Circle--a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to catalyze the flow of investment to support entrepreneurs that address major social and environmental issues. Investors’ Circle staff will custom match an IC member mentor with each of the Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs, creating relationships based on entrepreneur needs and mentor expertise.
The Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs will be honored at a gala event in Washington, D.C. on November 9, 2010.The Hitachi Foundation was established as an independent nonprofit philanthropic organization by Hitachi, Ltd. in 1985. Governed by a Board of Directors composed of highly accomplished Americans, the Foundation seeks to discover and expand business practices that create tangible and enduring economic opportunities for low-wealth Americans, their families, and the communities in which they reside.