Skip to main content

Petals With Purpose: How Flowers For Dreams Is Helping Local Communities Bloom

Petals With Purpose: How Flowers For Dreams Is Helping Local Communities Bloom

by ESG Business Institute -
Number of replies: 0

Steven Dyme found himself in the flower business by accident. During his teen years, just after graduating high school, he and his future co-founder, Joseph Dickstein, started selling flowers at graduations to help pay for college while donating a portion of the profits to help outfit Chicago area students in need with school supplies. In 2012, they co-founded Flowers for Dreams, an online flower-delivery startup, with the goal of adding a modern twist to one of the most traditional of gifts: to use beautiful bouquets to advance causes of justice & charity in the community (the company donates 25 percent of its profits each quarter through the Flowers for Dreams Foundation).

Named one of Business Insider's 20 Most Inspiring Companies in America, today, Flowers for Dreams is ushering in a craft flower movement. They provide locally crafted flowers at reasonable prices across locations in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit, as well as overnight shipping throughout the Great Lakes region. And every bouquet benefits an amazing local charity. 

Flowers for Dreams has also become a leader in ethical business locally and is the first florist to earn B Corp certification nationally. Just this past year, they also successfully lobbied for a $15 minimum wage with Business for A Fair Minimum Wage, restorative cannabis justice, reproductive rights, and more through their floral brand activism.

Steven Dyme: It started when I  was 19 years old, as a college freshman. Myself, Joseph Dickstein (my co-founder), and a few of our buddies were looking for a way to make money during summer break in Chicago. Thanks to a friend from the floral industry, we got this unique idea: you can buy a florists spoilage, their excess stems, for pennies on the dollar, then resell them as bouquets at nearby graduations, or gas stations, or even outside dance recitals, and make a killing in a short period. So that’s exactly what we did. A few guys, a couple of street carts, fanny packs with cash for change, hawking bouquets outside your high school graduation ceremony. 

We had a special hook. Cause marketing before we knew what that was. I had been volunteering for many summers at a student-run nonprofit called Supplies for Dreams. We packaged backpacks & school supplies for Chicago Public Schools students in need. So the pairing felt natural, and an easy sell. If a graduation would host us, actually give us permission to sell at their ceremony, we would donate a backpack for every bouquet purchased. One parent’s congratulations, another student’s opportunity. It caught fire and we had every PTO and PTA calling to have us do their ceremony or event. Before we knew it, our little flower gig had turned into hundreds of backpacks donated to kids in need.

Marquis: I know that a big part of the company’s mission is giving back. Can you tell me a bit more about this and how Flowers for Dreams is helping local communities?

Dyme: Today our mission touches a lot more than just backpacks. Flowers for Dreams uses beautiful bouquets to advance causes of justice in the communities we serve, donating ¼ of all our flower profits to local charities. As of this month, we’ve raised more than $1 Million dollars for 175 amazing small nonprofits in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee where we operate.

Marquis: Since its founding in Chicago 10 years ago, Flowers for Dreams has become a staple throughout the Midwest. How has the business grown over the past few years and, with the influx of dtc brands launching nationwide, how do you remain competitive?

Dyme: We’ve certainly set ourselves apart with our values, our activism, and our commitment to community. We were the first B Corporation florist in North America. We’ve had several viral moments condemning hate in Charlottesville with flowers, standing up for reproductive justice, shipping influencer voting kits in the 2020 elections, funding the first rehabilitative flower farm at a jail site in Cook County, and more. Our bouquets aren’t just a smile for their recipient, but a donation and a vote on values. 

Marquis: What is your plan for future expansion?

Dyme: We’re focused on going deeper in the Midwest right now. More communities in new states like Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana now touched by our flowers and donation model. Our goal is to be the best, not necessarily the biggest.

Marquis: Flowers for Dreams has become a leader in ethical business, specifically as the first florist to earn B Corp certification nationally. Why was this important to you?

Dyme: It’s a badge of our values, our commitment to giving. We get audited every other year by B Lab and have been twice award a Top 150 Best for the World B Corp. Charity is not an extracurricular activity. It’s not something you do after work or on the weekends like the corporate generation before us. We think its important to build it into our everyday DNA.

Marquis: What did you learn about your business from going through the B Corp process?  Any specific changes or improvements you made?

Dyme: Yes, definitely. A big investment in composting, for one. We continue to need to do a lot more in the environmental stewardship category given our product is often resource intensive. Since the beginning, we’ve had a low waste model and local sourcing orientation that is very different than our larger peers.

Marquis: I know the company just achieved a milestone $1M donated to local charities – congrats! What impact do you hope to make moving forward?

Dyme: Thank you! We’re right there. It is a huge milestone for us and something we’ve had our eyes on for a while now, but there’s so much more work to be done. Flowers for Dreams is trying to pave the way for an ethical, craft flower movement nationwide. For the more thoughtful flower lovers and greenthumbs to enjoy their blooms without the same negative waste, climate, or labor externalities. Offering a more local approach, small batch production, higher wages, and a full circle model that gives back with every sale, we hope to give a more social conscience to an industry that hasn't always been known for that.