Creative Entrepreneurs See
Opportunity Even in Death
The great thing about traveling is opening my hotel room door in
the morning to find that day’s edition of USA Today. In just about
every issue of this national newspaper (a great stroke of
entrepreneurial genius itself) is an article that gets my
entrepreneurial juices flowing.
The February 4th issue featured a story about the growing trend
among baby-boomers for more natural, at-home, eco-friendly
funerals. Or as the article puts it: No embalming, no funeral
directors. No sticker shock.
I did a bit more “digging” on the three entrepreneurs featured in
the USA Today article – Jerri Lyons, Chip Beresford and his wife
Megan, and Dr. Billy Campbell. As you read about how each of
these inspiring people see what lessons you can apply to your own quest
to work at what you love.
Take Jerri Lyons. In the past eight years, Jerri has helped over 200
families return to the age old tradition of conducting their loved ones
funerals in their own homes. As can sometimes be the case, her business
began with a very personal and powerful experience. The 56-year-old
started her Sebastopola, California non-profit Final Passages (http://www.NaturalDeathCare.org,
after the unexpected death of a close friend Carolyn Whiting. Carolyn
had left detailed instructions for a home funeral. Jerri was a
participant in Carolyn's home funeral and “was profoundly moved by the
entire three-day experience.”
As Jerri explained, “Community participation and ceremony, at
home, supported those grieving and allowed more time for closure.
The bathing and dressing of her body was performed with dignity
and honor by her friends. Barriers of fear and anger were broken
down, giving more room for love and celebration through this
It was “the most personal, meaningful and respectful experience”
that awakened in her a passion to share it with others. Jerri says she
pioneered Final Passages “to reawaken a choice that our ancestors once
For about $1,000, she will help wash, clothe and give a wake to the
departed. Or, those with less means or more of a do-it-yourself spirit
can purchase a handbook for $45. The trend toward home funerals is
largely being driven by baby boomers. According to Lisa Carlson, author
of Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of
Love, “From home births, to writing their own wedding vows,
boomers have been creating their own traditions - so why not
create their own funerals.” To learn more about Final Passages visit
One factor driving the trend is cost. While the article states that a
traditional funeral can run close to $10,000, a "green" funeral with a
bio-degradable cardboard casket can be had for closer to $1,000. If a
cardboard casket feels, well, cheap but a $2,000 velvet-interior model
seems frankly unnecessary, you can always spurge on a pine box for as
low as $395.
Former funeral director Chip Beresford and his wife Megan
decided to open The Pine Box store in Houston to help families,
“get back to basics.” He says when he first become a funeral
director he, “felt honored to help families through some of the
most difficult times they might encounter, the death of a loved
Funeral service was and still is, Chip says, an honorable calling
(as the daughter of a now retired funeral director, I’d have to
agree). Unfortunately Chip says, that most funeral directors still
have that same commitment to serve, “but their hands have been
tied” by the big business take-over of most of what was once a
largely family-owned enterprise.
Before you rule out that cardboard box, you may like to
know that Jerri encourages families to decorate them in ways
that commemorate their loved one. And, for those who are as
passionate about the environment as I am, they're more
It was his passion for the environment that led Billy Campbell a
doctor from Westminister, South Carolina to create Ramsey Creek
Preserve, a 37-acre woodland cemetery where tree plantings and
inscribed rocks replace manicured lawns and headstones. Campbell
plans to replicate his idea across the U.S. To learn more about
Dr. Campbell and his wife’s vision visit
Okay, so you may not be interested in starting a green funeral
related business yourself, but what did you just learn from these
entrepreneurs about turning a trend into an entrepreneurial
opportunity? Well, for one, you can get involved at whatever level
you feel comfortable.
Jerri deals directly with the deceased and their grieving families.
She also shares her knowledge through workshops for health care
practitioners as well as for others who want to create their own
natural funeral organization elsewhere. The Beresford’s provide a
product of value to grieving families on a budget. Dr. Campbell
turned his love of the environment into an eco-friendly cemetery
and a healing environment for families.
If you've been visiting this site for any length of time, you
know that I'm passionate about showing others how they can
become Opportunity Analysts. The other lesson here is about
the life-changing, option-enhancing power of trends… and as any
good Opportunity Analyst will tell you trends = opportunities!
If you don't quite know what kind of business to start, the best way to
turn your passion into your job is by tuning into opportunities that
which often come disguised as trends, niches, complaints, problems, or
changes. I shared three examples of people whose work grew out of a
particular trend. With just a little creativity I bet you could come up
with a dozen other ways to get involved in this growing trend... and
many others. The key is to get started.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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