WVU Tech student Nima ShahabShahmir is making strides in the local entrepreneurship community and the national stage.
His project, Future Fungi , aims to replace everything from plastic plates and cups to Styrofoam packing products using sustainable, biodegradable mushroom materials.
Future Fungi first won a $500 research grant in the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Common Grounds Competition in 2017. After that, the project landed a $10,000 grant in the prestigious Robert C. Byrd Institute Vanguard Agriculture Competition. That funding helped ShahabShahmir with product development, business coaching and the patent for Future Fungi.
ShahabShahmir also participated in a number of pitch competitions where young entrepreneurs shared their work with investors. He was a finalist in Saint Louis University’s Real Elevator Business Pitch Competition (where he had to present his short “elevator pitch” during an actual elevator ride) and WVU LaunchLab’s Show of Hands business pitch competition in Morgantown.
His most recent Future Fungi venture included a trip to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in late June. As a winner of the Commission for Environment Cooperation’s Youth Innovation Challenge, Nima represented the United States at the commission’s council session, where he pitched his idea to former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Assistant Deputy Minister Isabelle Bérard from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Enrique Lendo Fuentes, Head of International Affairs at the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
“As a kid, I was always around gardening, and the way roots of plants grew always fascinated me. Once I learned about how fungi grows in nature, I knew it was an idea worth following.”
“It definitely is a lot of work at times, but knowing that these materials could replace many non-biodegradable plastic items is what drives me. Probably the most encouraging moment was when the very first stage of prototypes were grown successfully and exactly how I was predicting.”
“I see entrepreneurship as a game of trial and error. You have to learn from your earlier mistakes along the way in order to progress. The best lesson I’ve learned so far is that it might not work eight out of ten times, but those two times that it does work are so valuable that you just can’t give it up.”
“We have many environmental problems facing us, but on the other hand, I believe that we are progressing towards a future where most of these concerns will be solved efficiently. By sharing my work as a representative of the United States on an international level, I hope that other young entrepreneurs are inspired to pursue a business idea that could be helpful for enriching the environment and our natural resources.”