“When I had my idea to start my own social impact non-profit, I didn’t have all the answers but I knew how to get them.”

Caroline Anderson, founder BloomAgainBklyn

We met Caroline Anderson, founder of BloomAgainBklyn, through a Stage2Startups member. We were so impressed with how Caroline leveraged her prior experience and network to build her social impact organization, we wanted to share her story.

Caroline Anderson

Caroline always had an entrepreneurial urge to find new opportunities that others might overlook.  When she was in her twenties, Caroline saw an opportunity to reprint vintage photographs from museum and historical society collections and sell them with a percentage of the proceeds going back to the institutions. When Caroline sold an early photograph of Rose Kennedy’s childhood home to an investor (who then donated it to the Kennedy Library), she took the proceeds from the sale and established one of the first vintage photography galleries in the country. 

Caroline then moved to New York and joined Scholastic Publishing where she became head of visual content for the school and library division. After retiring from Scholastic, Caroline went back to representing artists and setting-up pop-up shows at unique venues.  

An “ah-ha” moment for her came when she was doing a pop-up show at the floral design shop, Opalia Flowers.  Caroline learned from Phoebe (the owner of Opalia Flowers) that there is limited use for unsold or once-used flowers, but that the industry would be thrilled to find a way to take them out of the solid waste stream. That’s when an idea blossomed in Caroline’s mind about how to reuse and recycle these flowers.  

So she set about educating herself about flowers and the industry, including taking classes at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and creating bouquets with flowers she purchased at Trader Joe’s to give to her friends.  When Caroline learned that Trader Joe’s would not sell a bouquet of flowers if there was even one bad flower in the bunch, she asked them if they would donate the flowers so they could be refurbished into new arrangements for people who do not ordinarily receive flowers.  Trader Joe’s liked the idea of donating these flowers to a non-profit organization which could lift the spirits of less fortunate people with the gift of flowers. 

After testing the concept, Caroline was ready to launch BloomAgainBklyn, a non-profit dedicated to bringing new life to flowers and joy to others. But she knew she had very little experience running a nonprofit organization. Her solution?

She invited her friends who had these skills to join her board including a former global marketing executive from Merck who sat on several non-profit boards and had extensive hands-on experience. She then turned to a good friend who had just retired as CFO at the nonprofit National Resource Defense Council who brought tons of knowledge about sustainability and non-profit management. She also leveraged the skills of her husband, a financial public relations consultant, to handle Bloom Again Brooklyn’s marketing and promotion.

Today, BloomAgainBklyn, is a community-based, non-profit organization which repurposes unsold and once-used flowers into new arrangements which are distributed to former trauma and homeless survivors, homebound seniors, nursing home residents, and others in need. Since 2014, BloomAgain has diverted more than 1.5 million flowers from the solid waste stream and created over 80,000 flower arrangements which have delivered joy to more than 15,000 recipients. To learn more, go to https://www.bloomagainbklyn.org

Bottom line?  Older founders bring a wealth of life lessons that can be repurposed when starting a business.  They often know what they are good at, realize that they don’t have to know everything, and have extensive personal and professional networks they can tap.

Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

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