Fifty percent of families are afraid that they will not be able to cover the cost of a funeral. You pay too much because nobody wants to shop in a tragedy. That's why ex-googler Alison Johnston Startup Ever Loved built a free crowdfunding tool for burials. Now it's about one of the most expensive parts of the farewell: the funeral. Ever Loved today opens its online marketplace for caskets, urns, gravestones and memorial jewelry.
By bypassing the expense of a physical funeral home, Ever Loved can offer better prices and still achieve a 10% margin. Their caskets cost 50% less than the average that is sold in a mortuary National Funeral Directors Association.
When I called a local funeral home in San Francisco, the high markups became clear. They quoted me as $ 2,795 for a coffin that was sold at Ever Loved for $ 1,200.
"Most people don't think about – or don't want to – plan funerals in advance, which means that the family often bends when someone dies," says Johnston. "When this rush to make decisions goes hand in hand with extreme grief, many people don't do nearly as much research as with another several thousand dollar purchase. Combined with the fact that most funeral directors don't publish their prices online, families can spend a lot more than they need. "
Johnston co-founded Ever Loved in late 2017 after being diagnosed with end-stage cancer in a family member. She discovered how little resources were available to help people plan and pay for burials. Previously she worked for the Q&A app Aardvark through the takeover by Google and then started online tutoring for the startup InstaEDU, which was eventually sold to Chegg. The tools she used to create consumer websites and e-commerce were not available in the funeral industry. That is why she set about creating them. Ever loved raised start-up capital from Social Capital and went through Y Combinator.
"Too often, tech only makes life and work easier for those who are already well off," she told me last year. "Tech that survives the tragedy is a welcome advancement for Silicon Valley."
Ever Loved's first focus was on the crowdfunding burial tool, which families could use to ask relatives of the deceased to help offset costs. Donors could tip Ever Loved, but otherwise only credit card processing fees will be charged. The tool was combined with a memorial website builder that allowed families to distribute invitations and collect memories. Now Ever Loved is helping people plan thousands of burials a month, with earnings almost 20 times more than the year before.
Ever Loved is now helping families raise money for reminders and wants to make sure they are not cheated. The fact that funeral directors have such a low price transparency should point out that they are trying to pay steep surcharges because customers may not have the energy to keep looking. "An average funeral home only helps with a funeral once every three days, which means that many funeral homes have to charge high prices to cover their own fixed costs, ”explains Johnston.
Reduce overhead costs and support customers in different regions, and there is room for strong business with cheaper prices. For example, a Stanford Blue Casket at Ever Loved costs $ 990, while a funeral home in LA costs $ 1,600. The Last Supper Pieta Casket costs $ 1,500 for Ever Loved, but $ 6,580 for the funeral home. In this funeral home, both were listed under different names, which prevented customers from finding a fair price.
Ever Loved can also adapt faster to the diversification of burial opportunities. Between costs, land use, environmental influences and the connection to family and nature, many look outside the box. Cremation became more popular than burial in the United States in 2017. Liquid cremation is now legal in 18 states, and Washington has just started allowing composting of bodies.
"We see a lot of independent providers emerging to do everything from turning your loved ones' ashes into a diamond ring, shooting the ashes into space, and planting them under a tree in the forest, ”says Johnston. A single funeral home is unlikely to offer the breadth that customers are looking for. "Our goal is to provide you with all options in an easily digestible format. "
Ever Loved's business is protected by the FTC Funeral Rule, which prevents undertakers from rejecting a coffin or urn bought elsewhere, or charging additional fees. This means that Ever Loved customers can combine online purchases with personal memorial services from a local funeral home. Still, it's a tough business. Startups like HaloLife, Clarity and After I Go have all closed. Most others only offer memorials or search engines for funeral directors.
This means that Ever Loved's biggest competitors, who don't just accept local body prices, are Google and Amazon. The same prices as "Ever Loved" are often offered with comparable shipping, although Google could sometimes get a slight discount if it bought directly from the manufacturer, while Amazon lacked some top brands. Costco and Walmart also sell funeral items. But Johnston says:Many people do not feel that generics in mass markets are the right place to buy funeral items. “I agree that it doesn't feel respectful to buy an urn in the place where you get toilet paper.
"We value customer service that you won't find at Walmart, Costco or Amazon, ”says Johnston. "When you grieve and spend thousands of dollars, we have found that this is very important."
As the burials for demographic planning become more and more technical over time and personalized farewell parties are desired instead of cookie cutters, there is the possibility to change the status quo. The discussion about death is becoming less and less taboo. It should also be wise to pay for it.