‘The Little Flower Shop That Could’ Flowers for Dreams, an online flower delivery startup, shares a quarter of its profits with local charities – after 10 years, the $1m donation goal is in view – Chicago Tribune
A friend saw himself becoming a CIA agent. He thought, maybe he would be in the FBI or a diplomat in the Middle East.
The other friend was almost certain that he would be involved in the business side of professional sports.
Both ended up working – and thriving – in the flower industry.
Steven Dyme, 31, and Joseph Dickstein, 32, have an online flower delivery startup. Over the past 10 years, Flowers for Dreams has given over $990,000 in donations to organizations that address housing and homelessness, mental health, BIPOC communities and gender equality in education, nonprofit fundraising, and the arts. Dyme and Dickstein hope to reach the million dollar milestone on Valentine’s Day.
“Our college hustle at 19, just to make a little money in the summer, really made a difference for 175 organizations,” Dyme said. “It’s the small flower business that could.”
Dyme and Dickstein befriended when they were in high school in Winnetka. Although they went to different colleges, the two stayed connected. During the summer vacation of their freshman year of college, Dyme and Dickstein were looking for ways to make some money. That’s when they came across flowers.
“A good friend of mine in college came from the flower industry,” Dyme said. “His dad was a huge wholesale florist in Boston, so when he was a kid, he worked with his dad with boxes, calling at the checkout.”
His friend explains to him that at the end of the week, a florist has to get rid of the excess flowers. Instead of throwing them in the trash, the friend and his brother would wrap the flowers into bouquets and sell them outside the schools whenever there was a football game or graduation.
Hearing about the commotion was a lightbulb moment.
“I wasn’t a business student,” Dyme said. “Jo wasn’t a business student, but we knew that buying something for $0 and reselling it for $20 or $30 was a decent business model and could actually help us earn money for school. .”
Dyme and Dickstein cycled through the streets of Chicago, peddling flowers. They mostly stopped at schools, where parents bought a bouquet of mixed flowers for graduates.
“And for every bouquet we sold, we bought a little backpack with school supplies for a student in need,” Dickstein said. “We created this one-to-one type model.”
A quarter of the profits from the sale of these bouquets also went to local organizations, mainly neighborhood associations.
Dyme and Dickstein continued to work during their summer vacations, learning more about the flower industry, wholesale, design and distribution each year. Selling flowers has become more than just a way to earn money.
“We saw the impact we had in the city of Chicago in this one-for-one model that could give away thousands of backpacks just on the sale of flowers,” he said. “We’re committed to really doubling up on more than just helping with education and going to the delivery side of the floral industry that’s created the similar model to what we do, it’s a quarter of our profit. “
In 2021, Flowers for Dreams donated to six organizations. Digs with Dignity, a nonprofit that helps people get out of homelessness, was one of them.
Kim Hannay, co-founder of Digs with Dignity, said the organization at the time had only been open for a year and a half and the “substantial” funding had helped them grow.
“Their grant donation that ended up exceeding $33,000 really catapulted us to the next level at DIGS,” Hannay said. “We were able to continue our growth to hire five staff members and increase our impact by increasing the frequency of our work to serve one family per week, totaling 38 over the year in 2021.”
Now the partners are approaching $1 million in donations, a journey that “started with a simple backpack,” Dyme said.
For the next steps, Dyme and Dickstein decided to plant roots outside of Chicagoland.
“We decided to try Milwaukee because of its proximity to Chicago,” Dickstein said.
Then they branched out to Detroit.
But all was not well, as business slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For sure our business has suffered a lot from a financial standpoint,” Dickstein said. “We are not considered an essential business, (so) we had to close our doors for a month and not deliver anything.”
Instead, Dyme and Dickstein focused on their mission of service. Among these efforts were encouraging people, mostly those living in swing states, to vote in the 2020 presidential election. They also handed out bouquets to frontline workers as a thank you.
When more events and weddings were booked and their services were once again in high demand, their online flower startup was able to blossom again.
Since 2022, Flowers for Dreams has a team of 100 employees in three cities. Overnight shipping will be available in eight Midwestern states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Indiana.
And on Wednesday, Flowers for Dreams raised $993,007, closing in on the $1 million goal.
“It’s not about deliveries or designs, it’s about making a difference that drives us,” Dyme said. “If we ever lose that, we won’t be who we are.”
Dyme and Dickstein encourage organizations and charities to go to their website and apply for funds.
“Now we want to make another million in a much shorter time, that’s the goal,” Dyme said.