Business in Bloom: $50K Venture Fund Prize Goes to Alumna's Startup

Floral centerpieces and accents are a mainstay of the modern wedding. Brides spend an average of more than $2,100 on the beautiful blooms, according to a survey by, but what happens to the flowers after the event? Until now, they mostly ended up in the trash heap.

Having gone through the event planning process themselves, Julia Capalino '11 and Danit Zamir recognized a practical problem in need of a solution—after all, flowers have a shelf life of three-14 days and are usually discarded after a five-hour event. Bound by entrepreneurial spirit, a love of flowers and concern for the environment, the two founded this year's Venture Fund-winning endeavor, Bloomerent.

The judges were unanimous, and their decision was in full accord with the popular vote by audience members at the pitch day event: Bloomerent was awarded the $50,000 prize.

Essentially, Bloomerent helps to fine-tune the logistical and cost components of event flowers, as well as reduce overall environmental impact of the $31 billion flower industry, Zamir said.

Sharing flowers with another event reduces the amount of fuel, water and pesticides being used without sacrificing the quality of the flowers.

Their two-pronged approach matches clients with florists who are hand-picked to be part of the Bloomerent "community" and matches two events in close proximity to allow them to share their flowers and ultimately save money. Clients receive 10 percent back when someone shares their flowers, and previously used flowers are available at a 40-60 percent cost reduction.

"The $50,000 will go toward helping us with acquisition, hiring out more of our team and building out more of our platform," said Capalino.

To learn more about this year's winner, visit

Venture Fund

Five student and alumni teams competed for this year's $50,000 Venture Fund prize.

Their pitches to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs ranged from services to help pet owners find pet health insurance to an educational program to bring entrepreneurship into elementary school classrooms.

An entrepreneurial mindset is a natural match with a Davidson education, said Hannah Levinson, Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

"The difference at Davidson is that students not only get a top-ranked education, but the college gives them broad skills and unique experiences enabling them to step off campus after graduation and have an immediate impact in the world," Levinson said.

The fund accepts applications from Davidson students and recent alumni who present business plans, and a panel of judges chooses the recipients. All finalists receive educational, mentorship and networking opportunities.

The Venture Fund is made possible through a 2013 gift from the Nisbet family.

The Judges

"What advice would you give to your younger "starting up" self about 1) finding ideas, 2) staying creative and/or 3) taking risks?"

Phiderika Foust '94


Founder and managing partner of Silverpea Ventures, focused on food and ag tech, scaling technology companies and high growth consumer brands as an investor, entrepreneur and corporate executive. Davidson College game changer.

"Solve a problem that you have. Get outside of your own head. We tend to overthink things. The most important thing is, once you have an idea or a concept, roll it out and see how it works and iterate from there.

"The other thing I would say is to do one thing every day that gets you closer to whatever your goal is... Ultimately, you'll find that success comes. Not quickly, but certainly."

Mark McDowell

Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor in early-stage tech. Co-founder, Acta Wireless in 2004, special limited partner of Real Ventures in Montreal, board member at area startups and companies including ProctorFree, Payzer, Mobile Giving Foundation and MI Connection.

"Make sure you identify a bona fide, serious problem, maybe a problem that you yourself face. And then think about creative, efficient and differentiated solutions. Most of the companies we saw today [during the pitch competition] had done that in various degrees.

"There's no substitute to finding a real problem and finding a new, creative approach to it."

Chris "Startup Whisperer" Heivly


Managing co-director of The Startup Factory, the largest seed investment firm in the Southeast, and an entrepreneur-in-residence at Techstars.

"I would tell my younger self, 'Don't be afraid, make the leap earlier, take ideas and start to get them out of your own brain and talk to other people and give those ideas a life of their own.

"It's amazing what happens when ideas leave your brain. They either die or they start to go somewhere, and the ones that go somewhere are the ones you should spend time on and the ones that you can put lots of creativity around and have a lot of fun with, those frequently turn into great businesses."

The Competition

"What problem does your venture aim to solve?"

Vet Fetch

Brian Correa '13, Katrina Rodriguez '13

Lost in a sea of options to cover your pet's vet bills? VetFetch is a smart guide to health insurance for pets—because they deserve great doctors, too.


Julia Capalino '11, Danit Zamir

Where are the best florists, and what can you do with the flowers after the wedding reception? Bloomerent curates a community of top-rated florists and customers, who can then share floral centerpieces through resale for another nearby event.

SocialPreneur Lab

Jamela Peterson '13, Tianna Butler '13

Starting up start-up thinking early in the educational game, SocialPreneur Lab brings project-based entrepreneurial learning to the classroom as early as kindergarten, with activity books and an integrated crowdfunding and e-commerce platform.

Memory Crane

Drew Kromer '19, Charles Hood

Bringing the big (cinematic) picture together: For professional videographers, MemoryCrane offers turnkey cinema camera functionality by streamlining multiple widgets together for simplicity.


Paige Donnelly '14, Christina Ho

Make sure your hard-earned travel dollars earn you an authentic trip, and do well by doing good. Roots matches travelers to local guides, as well as sponsoring orientation services for people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.


  • March 25, 2017