Founders: Steven Dyme and Joseph Dickstein
Company Description: On demand, socially conscious, artisan flower service
Company Site: https://www.flowersfordreams.
Date of Interview: February 2015
Steven Dyme is the CEO and Co-founder of Flowers for Dreams. Its aesthetic is quite dreamy, and they actually contribute to dreams by donating a portion of each bouquet’s proceeds to a local charity. Steven’s favorite flower changes with the season (as do their bouquets). At the time of the interview, it was poppies.
On – why flowers?
Steven is very transparent that the reason for getting into flowers has nothing to do with a love or passion for flowers. He’s not an artist turned businessman; he is a businessman turned flower expert.
As college students, he and his buddies had a side business called “Lakeshore Roses” where they would peddle flowers at local commencement ceremonies. “I don’t know if I would even call that a business. It was more a legion of college buddies trying to make a lot of money. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but from all that came this interesting idea.”
They began partnering directly with schools to sell flowers inside commencement ceremonies (instead of just standing outside); and to attract the business of the schools and customers, they donated a backpack of school supplies for each bouquet sold.
From doing that, they realized they’d stumbled across a market that was under served in many areas. They learned that there were no good flower options at low price points. If you wanted to pay less, you got crap; and if you wanted something nice, you had very limited expensive options that rarely delivered outside their neighborhoods.
“We just wanted a better way. Maybe we were a little fool hardy thinking that we could provide the better way – but in reality we could. We were buying our products for commencement events from the same places that local florists were buying their flowers. They don’t have to be so absurdly marked up.”
On improving industry processes to change the game:
Flowers for Dreams starts all their bouquets at $35/bouquet and offers free delivery within Chicago. How can they accomplish all that? The goal of Flowers for Dreams was always to “provide great flowers at a reasonable price point”. To do so, the team realized they needed to focus on 1) eliminating waste and 2) controlling the process and margins.
“Part of our value proposition is that we control the whole process and own the whole margin. We curate the products in house, we design in house and we almost entirely deliver in house. That is very intentional. It’s rare in the floral industry for a florist to control more than 2 parts of that process. Usually, if anything, they only control the acquisition of orders and none of the process.”
Apparently, in 2011, the Society for American Florists reported that the average spoilage rate for florists was a whopping 37%. “That’s the cost of doing business. 1 out of every 3 stems is dying before sale!” Steven reports that Flowers for Dreams spoilage rate is closer to 4-5%.
To reduce the average industry waste, Flowers for Dreams does a lot of complicated things, but 2 conceptually simple things. 1) They buy from local markets every day and offer an essentially “just-in-time” service 2) They limit the inventory required by offering fewer options – a menu of 6-8 bouquets that have specific designs, but not necessarily specific flowers.
“We don’t have to make the love bouquet with roses. We mimic the design that someone pays for. We use the freshest available and effectively priced flowers in the market that day to sell at that price.”
On building brand loyalty:
Steven feels that one of the big misses in the floral industry is the lack of branding. “1-800-Flowers is the opposite of brand loyalty. No one wants their bouquet to say ‘1-800-Flowers’. Local high-end florists elicit customer loyalty, but their reach is limited.”
Through growing Flowers for Dreams, Steven has become obsessed with the visual design of their brand, as is evident by their products and marketing.
“We are very careful about the discovery process and the branding. Our burlap sack packaging makes our bouquets easily identifiable out in the wild.”
On having a social conscience:
The team recognized that no one was giving for giving in the industry. Integrating social consciousness didn’t really exist in the floral industry when they introduced it.
“Doing good is really good business. That’s how we first incorporated it. That’s the honest truth. It’s difficult to do something that is purely altruistic and selfless – but you start to feel really good and it’s become such a huge part of our identity and motivation. It helps me wake up every morning.”
Each month Flowers for Dream partners with a local charity, and with each new partnership they are making a higher dollar impact than the month before.
As a young entrepreneur, Steven has learned that you shouldn’t be afraid.
“Don’t be afraid of anyone or anything. Dont’ be intimidated. You can’t enter a conversation thinking that the person opposite you is smarter. You’re losing out of the gate if you come in whimpering. It sounds easy, but it’s actually hard. Your outcome will be more desirable by being humble and by believing in yourself and talking like an equal. Don’t be a wimp.”
“Don’t be intimidated by what you think is difficult or who you think is too tough or too smart for you. Have confidence in your ability to solve a problem.”
Flowers for Dreams is currently working on expansion, a new round of funding and delivering bouquets all over the city. If you’re buying flowers for your mother, Steven recommends their newly released Spring bouquet.