Stepping Up

How Leaders Are Rising to the Occasion

Throughout the Small Giants Community and beyond, leaders are doing what’s right when it matters most. These are their stories.


Steven Dyme

STEVEN DYME | Flowers for Dreams

Instead of making their usual deliveries to homes around Chicago, team members from Flowers For Dreams rolled carts full of locally-crafted bouquets into hospitals and healthcare centers around the city.

It was mid-March and the global pandemic had reached Chicago. Stay-at-home orders brought their floral sales to a near halt, and all weddings and events were canceled or postponed for the foreseeable future. In a moment of uncertainty, Flowers for Dreams co-founder and CEO Steven Dyme knew he only had to look to his community to figure out their next move. It’s in the company’s DNA: do good, feel good.

Every Solution Starts with Community

In a company where every bouquet benefits a local nonprofit or charity, it was a given that any path forward would support the community. Community impact is already part of Flowers for Dreams’ business model: 25 percent of all its net flower profits go to a rotating group of nonprofits in the community — to date, they’ve donated nearly $600,000 to charities. It’s one of the reasons customers love them, and Steven and his team felt a responsibility to continue to take a stand.

“Our business is predicated on being part of people’s lives in their most exciting and somber moments,” says Steven. “But with people unable to gather, those moments are on pause. We wanted to find a creative way to be there for our customers and our community during this time.”

In the early weeks of the pandemic, most people weren’t yet thinking about the toll it would take on healthcare professionals. Steven and his team saw an opportunity to lead that movement in their community, while at the same time generating critical revenue they needed to survive. They collaborated with five hospitals in their Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit markets to deliver bouquets on behalf of customers. The third week of March, they launched the program by putting out a call to customers: will you help us by sending thanks to a healthcare worker today?

“By the end of the first week, we delivered 400 bouquets to local healthcare staff — doctors and janitors, nurses and clerks,” says Steven. “Our customers loved it. It gave them a way to reach out to the community while also supporting us during this crisis.”

Taking Manufacturing Virtual

There’s nothing remote about a flower company. Flowers for Dreams sells locally-crafted bouquets for delivery, weddings, and events. While some companies can simply send employees home to do their work, Flowers for Dreams is a manufacturing business, and they have to be touching flowers to make an income.

“We’re not a remote company,” says Steven. “We require real people to build flowers in the real world to make it go. One half of our business is weddings and events, the other is daily delivery. With stay-at-home orders in full effect, our revenue was reduced by 80 percent. We knew we had to be creative and resourceful to survive.”

They started with the tough decisions first: a temporary reduction in workforce. They figured out the minimum number of team members they needed to get through while still being able to bring people back on the other side. It wasn’t easy, but they committed to keeping in constant, transparent conversation with those laid off and set up an employee cash assistance program. In its first fund, raised from customer gift cards and creative pre-orders, the company was able to support rent and bill payments for nearly 20 low-wage workers (some 25 percent of its team), and they’re distributing even more in May.

“Transparency is so important,” says Steven. “We are candid and forthright with our team, and we treat them fairly as humans. Our goal and our hope is to return the team to its fighting weight.”

With a small, nimble team in place, they started coming up with creative ideas for safely keeping sales going. Besides flowery delivery and wedding florals, workshops are popular with Flowers for Dreams customers. Usually, they take place on-site in their studios, but the team had the idea to try out virtual workshops. Instead of refunding people for workshops they’d already paid for, they offered a virtual option instead.

“It’s blown our expectations out of the water,” says Steven. “We’ve added floral design workshops, botanical workshops, terrarium building, macrame — all kinds of things. There’s a demand for keeping teams, families, and friend groups together right now. It’s become a way for people to keep close while we’re far apart. And it’s helping keep us alive.” They’ve now taught well over 1,000 virtual workshop guests on Zoom and YouTube.

Getting Back to Business

Just over a month after the initial stay-at-home order, Flowers for Dreams is slowly but surely returning to what it does best: crafting and delivering beautiful flower bouquets. They received the green light for contactless delivery in Illinois and Detroit, and they’ve been able to bring a number of team members back on. In an effort to protect employee safety, they completely reconfigured their warehouses with color-coded teams, newly-built, dedicated break rooms, and enhanced physical distancing policies.

Just in time for one of their biggest holidays of the year — Mother’s Day — Flowers for Dreams is getting back in the game.

“There’s no flip of the switch for going back to normal,” says Steven. “But we’ve stayed true to who we are and kept our employees and community at the center of our decisions. It’s been hard on us, but I’m proud of our team.”

What do these leaders have in common?

These leaders are part of Small Giants companies — companies that prioritize their purpose and culture and invest in their emerging leaders.

One way Small Giants companies invest in their next generation of leaders is by enrolling them in the Small Giants Leadership Academy. This robust one-year certification program consists of virtual learning sessions with expert leaders and coaches, an extensive resource library, on-the-ground meetups with your cohort, a leadership assessment, and your event ticket to two Small Giants gatherings.