Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friend's last request turns into memorial services business that celebrates life

Showcasing recent entrepreneurs has a twofold purpose. One is to offer an added marketing communications or social media element to help promote their businesses. The second is to provide a forum through which they can guide other aspiring business owners around avoidable obstacles and toward a path of attainable goals. Sharing insights starts with hearing their stories firsthand such as through this conversation with

Deborah Williams, owner
Loving Touches Memorial Services

I began Loving Touches in July of 2009. What motivated me to start this type of business was that I had lost two of my best friends to breast cancer. One had asked me to handle her memorial service to take the burden off her two sons. She specifically said she didn’t want the traditional morbid funeral, but something fun that focused on all the good times of her life. That wasn’t something normally done at the time, but with the input of her sons, I took on the challenge. I created a DVD of her life, developed a huge photo collage, booked a hotel ballroom and brought in a band. The eulogy was a celebration that covered five areas of her life delivered by five family members, neighbors and friends. At the end, we all toasted her with a shot of Bailey’s which was her favorite. When the event ended, everyone approached me saying that I had missed my calling – and that planted the seed for Loving Touches.

Our services are offered both as a package or ala carte. We customize our memorials based on the particular interests and events of the person’s life. Some families have requested bagpipers, flag ceremonies, and a Japanese white butterfly release. Our number one requested item is our eight to 10-minute DVD which is an uplifting life-story summary depicting an era or various life celebrations of the loved one. Each service can be as unique as the person whose life is being celebrated.

The beauty of what we do is that it is very cost effective. Combining cremation along with our memorial service is about half the cost of a traditional funeral. – very appealing in this economy. In addition, cremation and what we do are 100 percent environmentally safe which is of great importance to many people, today.

That would be people in the age range of 45 to 65 primarily because they are looking after their parents, or those who are above 65 and in the position of having to make their own memorial decisions.

Currently, about 95 percent of my business has come through referrals from cremation societies or people who have known or used us. The other five percent has come from the Internet thanks to a great website and some Google Adwords. I also advertise in the Pioneer Press and the Daily Herald. I have been featured in Crain’s as well as in the Daily Herald and I will be featured in Our Family Magazine in Barrington.

What surprised me the most was the traditional value systems of everyone and their resistance to change. Initially, we had surveyed residents of the northwest suburban area who had recently dealt with the loss of a loved one. We found that 73 percent said they were dissatisfied with the service that they had, yet their resistance to making a change was surprising. They were nervous in thinking that a memorial service could be a happy occasion.

The one thing that I might have done differently would be to have marketed the business in advance of starting it. I tried to get it up and running first and then did my marketing. I find that the Midwest is a more conservative area. Change is difficult here. Had we started on the West Coast, we might have taken off a little more quickly.

I’d advise budding entrepreneurs to do your research and be willing to change because you’re going to have to continually re-evaluate your market at first. Who you think is your target customer may not always be the case and you’ll have to adjust many times over. Also, be open to the comments that you receive because many of them will be positive suggestions and recommendations that can help you. In the beginning of any business, there will be many ups and downs. You’ve got to ride those waves in order to make it.

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