Hospital visit leads Elon student to origami venture

When Elizabeth Greenberg was prohibited from taking flowers to a sick friend, the entrepreneurship major discovered a business opportunity.


Elon University sophomore Elizabeth Greenberg wanted to brighten the spirits last spring of a friend in the hospital receiving treatment for cancer. What Greenberg didn’t immediately realize was that flowers were prohibited in the oncology ward.

The native of Hartford, Conn., paused. What? Why? As it turns out, with weakened bodies, the allergens in certain bouquets could trigger severe complications for patients receiving care. Greenberg chose instead to fashion a colorful arrangement from pipe cleaners and paper.

Tucked inside the petals were unique messages of encouragement.

Her friend liked the gift. So did Greenberg’s mother. And with those reactions in mind, “Non-Scents Flowers” was born. Motivated to grow her idea, Greenberg worked with her mom over the coming months to develop and market their business of selling origami flower arrangements with personalized notes.

“They’ve been popular for teacher gifts, for parents’ friends, and also for children. We’ve even looked into incorporating educational elements with the flowers,” she said. “There’s a lot of room for creativity.”

The entrepreneurship and marketing double major said she has signed agreements with gift shops in the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the University of Connecticut Health Center. The Non-Scents website is also taking online orders.

She and her mother established a limited liability corporation and filed patents for their burgeoning business whose motto is “With Ever Fold a Story is Told.” The process from start to finish, or from flat pieces of paper to a colorful display, takes about 45 minutes. “Even though each arrangement is personalized, we already have flowers folded so that when orders come in, we’re ready to put messages in their bases,” she said.

Greenberg sought counsel on Non-Scents from one of Elon University’s top authorities on developing new ventures, Gary Palin, the executive director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Together, the duo discussed market penetration strategies, and which specific segments she should initially address.

They also talked about manufacturing strategies that would allow Greenberg to self-fund the venture as opposed to securing external capital, allowing her to retain a higher percentage of equity as the business moves forward.

“She’s very focused with a keen intellect and a strong desire to succeed,” Palin said. “The venture has strong potential. The aspect that makes it most viable is that she’s identified an interesting niche and void in the market.”

Greenberg said she hopes to one day have Non-Scents mentioned in the same breath as 1-800-FLOWERS and Edible Arrangements. The mother-daughter team already employs one full-time employee.

The irony, Greenberg likes to joke, is that origami isn’t even a skill she’s fully developed.

“I’ve learned, but I don’t have the patience, and I’m pretty sure I almost ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome,” said Greenberg, who also participates with the university’s horse-riding team when not tending to her company or her studies. “It’s amazing what you can do folding paper, though!”