Take a good look at the picture above. Notice anything?
I met Elizabeth at the Triangle Entrepreneurship Week “Forward Pitch” event and struck up a conversation with her because we had the same comments for the two student entrepreneurs who pitched their ideas to a local investor. She told me her story of Non-Scents and I knew right then that she would be featured in a future blog post.
Chief Storyteller of Non-Scents Flowers, LLC
1) How did it all start? Where did you get the idea from?
When I had to declare my major at Elon University, I chose entrepreneurship and marketing after a trip I took to Argentina that was geared around adding value to startup companies. My interest in social entrepreneurship came from two experiences: a discussion led by Blake Mykoskie that I saw as a senior in high school and a presentation given by Muhammad Yunus at Elon. I wanted to make a difference in our community and beyond – not just work to make money. I wanted to create a business that solved a problem.
When I heard the news that my friend had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer two weeks after his graduation from Elon University, I was devastated. I wanted to send him something to cheer him up, but the hospital informed her that live plants and flowers were not allowed. Bacteria grow in the water and are a danger to anyone with a compromised immune system, so I decided to make him an origami flower arrangement as special and unique as he was to me. Each blossom contained a meaningful quote that cheered him up and encouraged him to get well quickly.
From this event, Non-Scents was born; brightly colored, whimsical origami flower arrangements that can be given to anyone, at anytime, to say whatever it is you want to say. Each flower is handmade, with hidden messages or quotes within each of the six flowers.
Everyone smiles when they receive flowers. Why should allergies or an illness like cancer prevent one of life’s simple pleasures?
When we started all of this, my goal was to start a business to solve a problem. I believe it has turned into something more. I have the opportunity to directly affect a person’s mood and I feel fortunate to be in that position. I can think back to many instances when family members have been diagnosed with cancer or some other illness. I appreciate the fact that we have a product that can help them at arguably one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
2) What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?
On my desk, I have two pictures. One of me and my mom and the other of a girl who was going through cancer treatments at the Connecticut Children’s Hospital. She really wanted to leave her hospital room and she came to our workshop to help us make flowers. Seeing her picture reminds me what our company can do for people – it can uplift them in difficult or disadvantaged situations. I feel lucky to have my health and I feel for those who aren’t so fortunate. All the spreadsheets, marketing emails and all the other tedious office stuff don’t compare to the experiences I have been apart of…all of the work is worth it.
3) What do you think it will take for our society to view health more seriously? As in, why is health lower in priority to careers and education and relationships?
When I think of health, I break it down into mental and physical. I think our minds are powerful and that a lot of health problems come from what’s going on in our minds. Stress, for example, can lead to all sorts of issues. But stress is something we can control. I think about it this way: when I go on vacation to the beach and I’m next to the ocean, my problems back home don’t seem to matter as much. I think to myself, I’m next to something so huge and I, along with my problems, am so small in comparison. People sometimes have too narrow a focus in their lives, which could lead to stress. In my view, the widespread use of technology and the internet over face-to-face conversations have the potential to lead to mental health issues down the road.
As for physical health, I think it’s a case of people lacking the education or being unaware. If my friend wasn’t admitted and treated at the hospital, I wouldn’t have known about the dangers of bacteria in flowers for patients in the hospital. I wouldn’t have known that some people have sensitivities to scents. I didn’t know that there’s legislation in California, Proposition 65, which requires businesses to list cancer causing agents on their website – I was doing research on Toms Shoes at the time.
I think the two have to be addressed separately, instead of just the general term “health.”
4) What role does health play in your business and your personal life?
On a personal level, I became more conscious of my health at 20 and have led a healthy lifestyle ever since. I make a point to exercise daily and I eat relatively well. I don’t think you have to run all the time to be healthy, but I do think everyone can start where they are and just build in more activity gradually.
For Non-Scents, the core group of people we serve have been stricken with illness. Their physical and mental health are compromised. We are able to affect both the ill as well as their families and friends. It’s a small act of kindness – imagine if someone took the time to pick messages that you would enjoy – that has a huge impact. Recipients often call us and describe how much it affected them.
5) What are the current needs in Simsbury, CT and your current city of Carrboro, NC as they relate to social determinants of health (ie SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)? Social determinants of health are any factors that directly or indirectly affect health. For example, being homeless could cause stress and malnutrition which could drastically affect one’s health.
I think both communities are definitely on the healthier end of the spectrum (possibly because they are both in academic areas). Both encourage bicycling, organic foods through farmers markets, outdoor activities and community programs to encourage healthy lifestyles. I do think improvements could be made. First, I’ve heard from some students that it is a bit more expensive to eat healthier. Next is the issue of air quality – since the push is for more outdoor activities, I’d be curious to see how clean the air is in either community.