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Simple Direct Funerals is a little different - but in a good way

Simple Direct Funerals open its doors to offer two things that other funeral homes were avoiding:

  1. Low-cost funerals.
  2. Simple arrangements

Low-Cost Funerals
Before starting, funeral homes didn’t generally advertise their prices.  The reason was simple – so they could charge exorbitant prices for even the most basic funeral.  Families often didn’t know the final cost until the invoice arrived and it was often a shock.  

So my decision was to advertise our costs clearly, so people would know exactly what a cremation or burial would cost.  No surprises and definitely no over-charging.  Any other possible costs were also on the website and when anyone asked, I could give them a precise amount.  No surprises.

This had the added benefit of avoiding the need to try and sell more things to family while organising a funeral.  Often called “up-selling,” it could be getting a better coffin or having more things added to the service.  With skill funeral directors learnt how to encourage families to spend more, without them really knowing about it.

These selling techniques were disguised as “honouring your loved one” or “having a proper funeral” or “being able to mourn properly”.  The goal wasn’t so much what the family wanted or needed, but what the funeral director could see.

Our Difference
Having fixed clear pricing meant that we don’t focus on the price, because the price is fixed.  We don’t try to try and get families to spend more, because we are not set up to do this.  Often they just wanted a very simple service and that is what they got.

This means we can focus on the funeral itself, rather than the worry about the costs increasing.

Simple Arrangements
The second issue I saw was how complicated arranging a funeral could be.  There was lots of forms to fill out and questions to answer.  It wouldn’t take too long for families to start feeling overwhelmed.  This was another technique that helped funeral directors add costs.

At a time when families were mourning and vulnerable, the funeral home’s process, that appeared to be so professional and comprehensive, was actually a way to make money.  Because everything a funeral home could do for the family meant more income for them.

Our Difference
The process families go through with us is completely opposite.  We have two forms – one for a cremation or burial and one for the Death Certificate.  It only takes a few minutes to complete and it’s all done.

I am more than happy to discuss with families additional things they may want to do – like help with a memorial service.  My goal is for families to be able to have a funeral they want.

Having an easy arrangement means the family isn’t as stressed and they know completely everything that is happening from the start.    Importantly, the easy arrangements still enable families to have a respectful and meaningful funeral.  The savings didn’t detract at all.

What else makes us different?
Simple Direct Funerals started with an idea of how to make a funeral easier for families to arrange and at a price that was fair.  So from the very beginning our setup was geared towards this.

Our overheads are very low.  We don’t have flash buildings or vehicles or staff.  This is a major reason why we are still able to do what we do after five years.  Although inflation and the cost of living has risen, our prices have remained pretty much the same.

My style is much more informal and natural with families.  I want them to feel comfortable and assured that I will help them as best I can and they will have their needs met.

My background isn’t business, but helping people.  So my tendency is always to focus on their needs rather than making money.

How it all started...

In 2017 I had a life-changing experience – redundancy.  I never imagine it would happen and I was a little lost.  I didn’t want to leave Nelson and so my options were limited.  

I visited all the local funeral homes because I had the experience of working with families during bereavements that related to their industry.  But they weren’t hiring at the time.  It was disappointing, but at the same time it started me thinking about the funeral business.

There were two things I came away with after visiting all the funeral businesses.  First was the expense of having even a simplest cremation and second how complicated the funeral process seemed to be.  Lots of forms to fill out and questions to answer.  At a stressful time with so many other things going through one’s mind it was so easy for costs to soar.  So I wanted to provide a different kind of service.

Support over Sales

My background had been supporting families through the funeral process.  I was often with them before, during and after the service.  I knew a little of what funeral directors did, but learning the details from the paperwork to the mechanics of moving a person took some time.  The most important thing was that I wanted to do things well and professionally.  I wanted families to feel confident and assured.

So over many months I slowly built my business model.  There were two things I kept at the fore.  Make the process simple for families AND keep the costs down.  One of the things I kept hearing was the unseen costs that kept getting higher for families.

I wanted our costs and service – everything to be clear so that families would know how much it would cost from the start – no surprises.  I wanted them to be able to focus much more on their loved one than being distracted by things that probably didn’t really matter in the long term.

When I led funerals I knew that there were two things people remembered most at a time.  One was being with family and friends and two the stories they shared about the person who died.  This is what people talked about afterwards – not how great the coffin looked or the hearse or the other things.

Taking the plunge

So after many months of talking with many different people, taking plenty of small steps – like getting business cards, making a website, buying a car, getting the right coffin and all the hundreds of other little things I needed, it got to the stage where I just needed to bite the bullet and advertise and start serving my community.

Simple Direct Funerals began under the name Purely Cremations. To be honest I was terrified when I first started because it was so new to me.  I had all the responsibility.  But from the very first family I was able to do things the way they wanted.  Supporting families through a tough time.  As business grew families told me how helpful my service was for them.

SDF is far more than low prices

Although low price is an important aspect it does not come at the expense of service, professionalism and care.  In providing a simple funeral service it removes any pressure or need to spend more money. It helps families focus on what is truly important for them.

This was a surprising aspect, that this simple service has been incredibly meaningful to families as they have been able to focus on their loved one much more and their passing.  Often funeral companies imply that having a formal service or buying a nice coffin shows more respect and care for their loved one.  This is a way to make more money off families at an emotional time.

Simple Direct Funerals is local through and through. From sourcing the wood for coffins, local craftsmen making urns and numerous other local companies.  I’m pleased that virtually everything about Simple Direct Funerals is locally based.  

The final thing I learnt was that many families wanted to celebrate and remember the life of their loved one their own individual way.  So even though a cremation may happen quickly, they had time and space to organise a memorial service or get together in a way that meant something to them.

Simple Direct Funerals has been going for a few years now with over 200 funerals.  I am so pleased that the feedback I get is positive and reassuring that they way I’m doing things is what families want.

The Future

Simple Direct Funerals is here for the long term.  It will keep the pricing affordable for families who still want a meaningful service without the huge expense.  I continue to grow and learn all the time.  But the thing that remains the same from the very start is providing the best service I can to the community at a fair and competitive price.

Owen Haring – Owner

At Our Heart…

SDF’s mission is to offer families a straightforward funeral process, minimizing their stress and anxiety during a difficult time. Our prices are fixed, presented clearly, and every decision is made with the family included.

We refuse to compromise on service and are committed to maintaining transparency, support, compassion, and professionalism.

Simple Direct Funerals Owen Haring

Owen Haring

I grew up on an apple orchard just down the road in Redwood Valley.  I went to Appleby School and Waimea Intermediate and College.  After living in the North Island for many years, I returned home to Nelson in 2014 and began this business in 2018.

For over twenty five years I have worked with families and communities taking many funerals and supported families and people throughout the death of a loved one.  My experience has been primarily working with families to farewell loved ones, rather than the “business” of funerals.  Therefore my focus is naturally upon the needs of the family. 

My career started as a youth worker in churches and then I became a minister for over ten years.  I love the opportunity to help people and especially providing a service – be it wedding, funeral, church service that people not only enjoyed but was also meaningful.  

I started Simple Direct Funerals because I wanted to offer families a truly affordable and simple funeral service.  I wasn’t interested in trying to selling products, but rather providing the best service to families.  I am NOT a salesman at all.

I want families to have the freedom to decide how involved they want to be with the funeral process.  For some it meant keeping the person at home until taken to the crematorium.  For others it meant we took the person into our care almost immediately as they wanted their final memories to be when the person was alive.

Every family is different and working with them is such an privilege.  I feel incredibly fortunate to own and run this business and meet wonderful people from all corners of the community.

Thank you for taking the time to read about me.

Photo of Kath, artist and part-time helper at SDF

Kath Dwyer

Hi, I’m Kath.  I got my love of art from my father who was a signwriter in the NZ army.  I went to school in Murchison then headed to the North Island.  I did a 4 year craft design course in Wellington and it felt like I had found my place in the world. 

I have lived in various small communities throughout New Zealand and love being in nature. 

I returned to Nelson about 15 years ago to raise my daughter in Tasman.  Over this time I have loved using a variety of mediums with my art work from clay to wood to paints and drawings.  I like to continue to explore new opportunities and at the moment I am illustrating a local children’s book called ‘Sam and Rhubarb and the old Totara tree’.

My work can sometimes been seen at the Suter Art Gallery after doing exhibitions throughout New Zealand. 

Each urn I work with is completely original – a one off.  My goal for every urn is to ensure the product meets the needs of each family.

Thank you for taking the time to read about me.

The "Team"

Holly, Harry and Frankie are the guardians of SDF.  When I say they are the guardians they are more like an alarm system.

They are not aggressive at all, but they can be loud initially – especially Frankie. 
Afterwards they are very friendly – especially Holly. 
They are always happy to see visitors – especially Harry.

They will not be in the office unless you specifically would like them to say hello.