Evanston florist donates some proceeds to supplies for Chicago students

A staff member at Flowers for Dreams sorts bouquets. The Evanston business opened in March.

Photo courtesy of Flowers for Dreams

A staff member at Flowers for Dreams sorts bouquets. The Evanston business opened in March.

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

An Evanston florist is partnering perennials with public education in a business that donates a portion of its profits to Chicago Public Schools.

Flowers for Dreams,  a for-profit business started in March whose warehouse is located on Greenleaf Street, donates a backpack filled with school supplies to CPS students for every order over $27, said founder Steven Dyme.

The seeds of Flowers for Dreams started when Dyme was just a college student.

Dyme was introduced to the flower industry by his roommate at the University of Wisconsin and had his first experiment in floral sales the summer after his freshman year when he attempted to sell 300 rose bouquets in Chicago. Dyme and several acquaintances traveled to schools throughout the Chicago area to sell the bouquets at commencement ceremonies.

The project failed.

“We did terribly,” he said. “A ton of our product spoiled, and I thought, ‘This was a nice visit to the flower industry, but I’m going to move on.’”

Still, Dyme said he kept coming back to the idea of selling bouquets at events where people would really need them, like ceremonies.

Dyme revived the business, which he called Lakeshore Roses, and made contracts with local dance studios, so when he sold bouquets at recitals, the studios would get some of the profit.

This business model, however, still failed, and Dyme said he knew that consumers needed a more compelling reason to buy flowers. Dyme then decided to partner with his childhood friend Hiro Kawashima, a now-Northwestern alum who co-founded Supplies for Dreams, a nonprofit organization that supplies CPS students with supplies and support to succeed in school.

Dyme started the Roses for Dreams initiative, an earlier version of Flowers for Dreams. After graduating a year early, Dyme officially started Flowers for Dreams in March 2012.

DePaul University student Andrew Desmarais, who worked at Flowers for Dreams last summer, said he hopes to continue working there after graduating. Desmarais said he was attracted to the business because it combines a sensible model with a commitment to serving the local community.

“I think the business scheme is kind of brilliant,” Desmarais said. “You buy bouquets for celebration and then that profit goes into giving backpacks and supplies for kids in need.”

Today, Flowers for Dreams operates as a socially conscious, for-profit business.

For every order sold over $27, Flowers for Dreams will donate a backpack to CPS students, Dyme said. This initiative culminated in Build A Backpack Day in August, when Dyme’s organization partnered with Supplies for Dreams to package nearly 1,800 backpacks for CPS students. Flowers for Dreams contributed 50 percent of the funds for the backpacks created this year.

Supplies for Dreams currently partners with three CPS schools, providing them with backpacks, school supplies and field trips to Chicago museums, as well as mentoring from and tutoring with Northwestern students.

Edward Roberge, who works for Supplies for Dreams, said that the group proves that college students really can make a difference.

“Supplies for Dreams was created in the belief that college students can make a difference,” the SESP sophomore said. “And Steven (Dyme) and Flowers for Dreams have been a huge asset in making that happen.”