When visitors to the Edward A. Myerberg Center enter the Northwest Baltimore facility and notice vases of fresh-cut, vibrantly colored flowers, they can’t help but smile.
ReVased, a local organization that offers new life to event flowers, is responsible for ushering that joy into the center for senior citizens.
“Flowers brighten people’s days when they are here,” says Jennifer Osterweil, the Myerberg’s assistant director of programs. “When our members come in and see the beautiful flowers, they always comment. [Flowers] symbolize life and brighten our days. They also bring the outdoors in, which is nice for people who can’t get outside as much as they would like.”
Since February, ReVased has recycled and donated event flowers to local organizations and venues, including nursing homes, senior centers and women’s shelters.
“There’s no one in Baltimore who does this,” says Aviva Vogelstein, chief operating officer of ReVased. “We see this as a win-win for everyone involved. The customer feels good about giving back after their beautiful event. The nonprofit receives thousands of dollars’ worth of flowers at no cost, and the environment benefits because flowers that would be wasted are given a second life.”
Aviva and her younger sister, Arielle, founded ReVased after their respective weddings. The sisters married a year and a half apart, and couldn’t understand why flowers at their nuptials were discarded.
“We would like to change the landscape of events so no flowers go to waste and this becomes an obvious thing people do when planning an event,” says Aviva.
After conducting research, the sisters learned that the events industry generally discards all floral arrangements, even though flowers are the third highest expense at weddings, accounting for 10 percent of an event’s budget.
They also learned that the average life span of a flower is three to 14 days, but flowers are generally thrown out after just a few hours of usage. In addition, they note that throwing out fresh-cut flowers immediately after an event is harmful to the environment.
“Cut flowers lead to water waste and pollution,” says Aviva, a graduate of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School. “Additionally, most flowers are transported from far away, which has a negative ecological impact.”
She says studies show that the presence of flowers leads to improved memory, decreased depression and “an overall health and happiness within individuals.”
Currently, ReVased picks up floral arrangements from such events as weddings, anniversary gatherings, corporate parties and b’nai mitzvah. While ReVased charges a service fee — which depends on the size and quantity of the arrangements — donors ultimately benefit financially from their donations. That’s because ReVased only works with nonprofits that have charitable donation acknowledgments.
“We will take as much or as little as the event host wants to donate, and the donations are tax deductible,” says Aviva. “We can’t say what the deduction will be, but we are told by our accountants that it can be a significant portion of the donors’ floral cost.”
Once ReVased picks up the flowers, it creates new arrangements and donates them to one of its 20 partner nonprofits. “It’s remarkable how much people get out of flowers,” says Arielle, ReVased’s chief executive officer. “We are using these as a medium to build a community among the events and nonprofit world.”
ReVased also has teamed up with more than 40 events planners, caterers and florists. “We are creating a network with companies who want to be eco-friendly and charitable in the Baltimore community,” says Aviva. “Businesses are hearing about us and excited about the opportunity to have less waste after events.”
Aviva, who lives in Pikesville, and Arielle, a New York resident, started ReVased in addition to their full-time jobs and familial responsibilities. Aviva is director of legal initiatives at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, where she works to combat anti-Semitism in higher education through legal advocacy. Arielle serves as director of growth at VIA, a company focused on ridesharing via mass and public transit.
“My sister’s experience in the nonprofit sector and relationship-building allows for her to handle that part, whereas my experience with building companies and go-to market strategies has allowed me to build our network,” says Arielle. “We are lucky to have this complementary set of skills.”
ReVased was one of six startups accepted into the 2019 Accelerate Baltimore cohort, which helps get innovative ideas into the marketplace. Through the program, Aviva and Arielle have gained valuable knowledge into entrepreneurship.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice,” advises Aviva. “And don’t be afraid to pivot, because sometimes the slightest change in what you think your business model is can make all the difference.”
The Vogelstein sisters hope to grow their organization while bringing happiness to those who need it most.
“Aviva and Arielle have come up with a fantastic concept,” says the Myerberg Center’s Osterweil, “and I’m amazed we get to benefit from these gorgeous flowers at no cost to our organization.”
For information, visit revased.com.