BY COLLEEN PATTERSON
It takes years to build an audience, so let’s rewind a little bit. Nearly twelve years ago, a team of researchers spanning the disciplines of Psychology and Evolutionary Genetics undertook a 10-month double blind study to unearth the connection between happiness and — you guessed it — flowers.
Every day, the team at Rutgers University noted behavioral and emotional responses brought on by the gift of floral arrangements, concluding that flowers are indeed natural moderators of our mood.
In other words, the impact of the flowers lasted. Not only did the blooms generate immediate excitement, gratitude, and joy, but participants of all ages reported that the presence of the flowers effectively warded off feelings of anxiety over time.
The flowers facilitated connection.
If one bouquet can have such a profound effect on the enduring emotions of an individual, then why not take it a step further and spread the restorative power of flowers on a wider, community level?
Flowers for Dreams does just that. Having recently expanding beyond Chicago to Milwaukee, the floral arrangement and delivery company has pursued the goal of affecting positive change to astounding results. They didn’t set out to build an audience; their audience found them.
Since their launch in 2012, the company has donated $194,716.29 to local charities, each month focusing drawing awareness to different local cause. Hence the name. They do more than flower delivery, they fulfill dreams.
“People want to support a company that’s bringing change to the community,” says a Michael Zucker, Director of Business Development at Flowers For Dreams. “We get a lot of orders just saying, ‘hey I like to know that my contribution is actually supporting a meaningful cause.’”
It turns out, charity is good for business. In the five years since the launch of their delivery service, Flowers for Dreams has hired 25 new full-time employees plus seasonal employees, among them, refugees. It’s that very spirit of community uplift which initially propelled their growth and helped to build an audience great enough to necessitate an expansion into deliveries.
Co-founder and CEO, Steven Dyme started out selling bouquets during high school graduations and commencement ceremonies before it occurred to him to incorporate one-for-one donations. For every bouquet sold, he decided to donate one backpack full of school supplies to the Chicago Public School system. Local schools and colleges loved it. To date, Flowers for Dreams has donated an estimated twelve thousand backpacks.
“Nonprofit work is in his DNA,” says Zucker of Dyme. “So as the business started to really grow, he came up with the idea to donate one quarter of our profits to a different charity each month. That way we cast a wide net bringing about change and drawing awareness to different local causes.”
Of the 1.5 million non-profits registered in the U.S., Chicago is home to thousands. Flowers For Dreams would like to reach most of them. In that spirit, every October, the team shares a submission form on their website comprised of a few simple questions to validate and vet their prospective non-profit partners. Then, as a company they review each one by one and pitch their favorites. The rest is the heart of their business:
Last Valentine’s Day, Flowers for Dreams gifted several bouquets and boutonnieres to the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. They also became intimately involved with RefugeeOne, January’s designated charity, an Uptown organization which which assists in every aspect of the acclimation process from housing to English-learning, to obtaining healthcare and citizenship.
The team organized a promotion for customers to purchase hand-delivered bouquets for newly arrived refugees at the O’Hare International airport, before taking a trip to the airport, bouquets in hand, to greet an inbound family of refugees alongside their Chicago hosts.
They even even hosted a workshop to train refugee women on floral skills before hiring them to assist in making arrangements during their busy season.
“That was a really special moment for us,” says Zucker. “They had their first pizza with us, their first snowfall. To go from a war-stricken environment to making floral arrangements in Chicago is quite the journey. ”
That’s the power of Flowers for Dreams: community involvement. These aren’t isolated charity initiatives. This month, one year later, they continue to assist in refugee relocation efforts by employing refugees from all over the globe (Syria, Eritrea, Congo) during their busy season.
Flowers For Dreams may deliver each of its bouquets “by hand, on bikes, and with real people,” as the site touts, but the team isn’t going for quaint. They’re driven by very deliberate principles: compassion, ethical consumerism, personal connection, positive change — all of the goodness we associate with flowers in the first place. Flowers for Dreams has done so much more than “build an audience.” They’ve begun to empower and build up their community.
Forget one-time gestures. Flower for Dreams is focused on delivering a lasting impact and the returns have been incredible: emotionally, monetarily, socially and otherwise.
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