Nine Young Entrepreneurs, Each Building a Viable Business that Helps Alleviate Poverty, Named The Hitachi Foundation's Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs

Oct 12, 2010, 14:30 ET from The Hitachi Foundation

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 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.  

The Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs will receive a $50,000 cash prize over two years, technical resources to strengthen their business, and benefit from a partnership with Investors' Circle -- a nonprofit membership organization that provides investment to support social entrepreneurs.

The Hitachi Foundation's 2010 Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs are:

BTTR Ventures (Back To The Roots), Berkeley, CA

ALEX VELEZ (23) AND NIKHIL ARORA (23) founded BTTR Ventures, a 100% sustainable, for-profit urban gourmet mushroom farm employing inner-city residents. The farm is a closed loop, zero-waste system that turns 7,000 pounds of used coffee grounds each week into a highly demanded, nutritious, and valuable food product that can be grown at home.

GTECH, Pittsburgh, PA

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 landowners to repurpose neglected land, cultivating alternative energy crops to improve contaminated soil and produce oilseed for biofuel feedstock.

Hot Bread Kitchen, Brooklyn, NY

JESSAMYN WALDMAN (34) founded Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) in 2005. This artisanal bakery uses traditional recipes and techniques as well as organic and local ingredients to produce and sell a diverse line of multi-ethnic breads. HBK is also a nonprofit workforce and microenterprise development organization, fighting poverty by providing fair-wage paid training and individually tailored classes to foreign-born and minority women.

The Intersect Fund, New Brunswick, NJ

ROHAN MATHEW (24) and JOSEPH SHURE (23) founded the Intersect Fund while undergraduates. This urban-based nonprofit enterprise empowers aspiring low-wealth entrepreneurs to start businesses, build assets, and generate income. The Fund's core product is an eight-week business-training course that teaches clients how to write a business plan, market products, register a business, and manage cash flow.

La Cocina, Inc., San Francisco, CA

CALEB ZIGAS (30) and LETICIA LANDA (26) have been integral in building La Cocina, Inc., a nonprofit, full-service, shared-use commercial kitchen and microenterprise incubator with a mission to help low-income food entrepreneurs formalize and grow their business. La Cocina provides subsidized commercial kitchen space, professional food industry technical assistance, and facilitated access to market opportunities.

re:char, Austin, TX

JASON ARAMBURU (25) launched re:char, a cleantech company that designs and builds low-cost, biochar plants for low-wealth agricultural or forestry communities across the United States, in 2007. Its patent-pending technology converts waste biomass into energy and biochar without the use of subsidies. Biochar is a carbon-negative soil amendment that can be tilled into agricultural or forest soils, improving crop yield by as much as 200%.

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Photos are available upon request.

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.

SOURCE The Hitachi Foundation