Five years ago Simple Direct Funerals started as Purely Cremations. To be fair I started then, but I didn’t have the first funeral for a few more months. Which was fine by me because I was very nervous.
I was working at BP and at the same time as putting this business together. Although it was just me, I did fine great support from other people. But ultimately the buck stopped with me.
When I faced challenges I had to decide whether to face them or give up. I realised that facing the challenges wasn’t too bad and if you worked at it things tended to work out.
I didn’t start working full-time at SDF for several months – so it was a case of juggling coffees at BP with coffins at SDF. Then the day came when I could leave BP and I was on my own. I don’t miss those early morning starts.
There was so much I learnt. First – tax is a b***h – it just never stops. After I had registered for GST – I discovered all kinds of other taxes. Sometimes it felt like I was working for the IRD. But on the flip-side – paying taxes means you are also making money.
Like many small businesses the competition reacted quickly. I was only interested in providing a low-cost simple funeral. I wasn’t interested in the bigger more typical funerals people think of.
But they didn’t like the idea of me taking a small piece of their pie and tried to undercut my prices, while others created a separate business that looked exactly like mine.
I guess that meant I had a good idea – but it was annoying too. Before they were more than happy to charge whatever they could and now they are advertising affordability and simple – copy cats!!
I think what my dozens of families have thought about SDF isn’t just the low-cost, but more the way I helped them arrange a funeral. It was relaxed, straight-forward, professional and they knew exactly what was happening – no surprises.
I want to make death a little more natural and not so scary or foreign. I wanted to reduce the stress and focus on the positives – like celebrating the life, enjoying the good memories, supporting one another…
I know there is grief and pain and uncertainty. But death is a reality and hopefully being able to face and manage it a little better is a good thing. So I was happy for families to be involved as much as they wanted. Or if saying goodbye to them before I transferred them was just as significant. In some cases people wanted to remember the person alive. There is no right or wrong – it is doing what is right for you.
I wanted families to feel that whatever they decided to do was right for them. I didn’t want or need them to spend or do more with the underlying pressure that this would be better for them.
This is a unique business where you can’t really predict sales too far ahead. There were weeks when I had nothing and then suddenly I was almost rushed off my feet. There never seems to be any pattern to it. So it does feel a little fickle – but I realising that this is just the nature of the industry. I just have to live with this uncertainty.
I hope that I will still be around for the next five years (and more). I know if I wasn’t the affordable funerals will quietly fade away and prices will rise as before.
So my goals for the next five years is to basically keep doing what I am doing. Limit stress and expense for families, encourage them to do what they want, and provide a service that families appreciate.
I want to thank all those families who chose SDF. I do not take that for granted at all. I am humbled and grateful to you all.