When Elizabeth Greenberg’s friend was suddenly diagnosed with thyroid cancer last spring, silk flowers didn’t do the trick.
The Elon University sophomore was not allowed to bring live arrangements to the oncology facility where her close friend was receiving treatment. Her background in business and passion for helping others led to the creation of Non- Scents Flowers, an alternative to traditional flowers for those who can’t care for live plants.
“I went to Michaels, got a cup and made very simple origami flowers with funny quotes from ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Seinfeld,’ and put it together as an arrangement,” she said. “My mom helped me a lot (last summer) and by July, we had decided that it was going to be a business.”
The success the pair has found is rooted in a need for alternative sentimental gifts in oncology wards, a problem her family knows too well.
“My mom had cancer and received beautiful lilies. But she had to give them away because they smelled so potent,” Greenberg said.
This experience taught her what to do when her friend was diagnosed.
“Live flowers aren’t allowed in cancer facilities, and really, what’s a 22-year-old guy going to do with silk flowers?” she said.
With help from her mother, Mimi, Greenberg began pursuing copyrights, applying for an LLC and handling the legal and financial responsibilities of starting a small business.
Together, the two make the arrangements. Greenberg’s grandfather managed a family business that produced parts for airplane engines. The business recently passed to her mother and uncle, and the her mother’s experience in business operations and confidence has proven helpful in the process.
“It was just me and my mom building this,” Greenberg said. “We’ve always been really close and she’s pushed me to do anything I can think of and I know that she’s always there.”
According to Greenberg, the two make a good team.
“I can do the presentations to bankers, the Twitter and the blog and the Facebook, but I don’t know much about applying for LLCs or doing the accounting stuff,” she said.
Greenberg’s mother is not the only guidance for the student’s business venture.
“Professor (Gary) Palin was the one I leaned on for questions, ideas, support and help,” Greenberg said. “I had taken a course with him and Dr. (Sharon) Hodge in the marketing department in Winter Term 2011 in Argentina that focused on a startup company. It really was that experience that threw me into a startup environment and then later on when this idea came up, I could pull from that.”
Palin, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, said Greenberg came to him during concept development and together they discussed strategies and potential obstacles.
“Fail to plan, plan to fail,” he said. “A great start (for Elon students) would be to pursue a major or minor in entrepreneurship.”
This has become Greenberg’s plan. As an entrepreneurship major, she plans to use practical experience to get a job at a company after graduation before making Non-Scents Flowers her career.
“I’ve always been interested in the TOMS idea of social entrepreneurship, but at the same time I’m interested in getting experience at a pre-existing company,” she said. “Ideally, I’d work at one for a few years, and then when my mom’s retired, I’d take (the business) over.”
The success of the business has kept Greenberg busy, even at Elon. While on campus, she handles the company’s social media and works with her mother to plan presentations and partnerships with hospitals.
“It’s something that has been going really well, and it’s been surprising how quickly people are grabbing onto it,” she said.