New Business Plan: Four weddings and a funeral

7272665540_33638dfaf6_z (1)If you follow me, you know I’ve discussed thinking about new market opportunities for your product or service as a way to grow your business. You may remember the blog I wrote about baking soda. Well this one takes the cake – no pun intended. Funeral homes are hosting weddings. I grew up working in a family-owned funeral home, and honestly this is an idea I wouldn’t have seen, but it makes sense.

If we can believe HBO’s series, “Six Feet Under,” independent funeral homes are having a hard time staying alive. According to industry sources, many are starting to think outside the box and are finding ways to repurpose their facilities.

Occupancy problem

According to US Funerals Online, funeral home facilities lay empty around half the time and a funeral chapel is a lot like a hotel room – there’s no way to collect rent on yesterday’s unoccupied funeral chapel. So far, no “” has popped up to handle excess funeral chapel inventory.

However, if you stand back and look at a funeral chapel solely in terms of its infrastructure, you’ll see that it’s basically a rental hall with a lot of upgrades built into it. They often have musical instruments on hand, such as an organ or piano, the ability to handle flower arrangements and more. Further, many are decorated in a style that lends them quite well for other ceremonies or events, such as weddings.

To take advantage of this trend, funeral homes across the country are repurposing, rechristening and renaming part of their facilities as “family” or “life” centers. One of these is The Avacentre in Cedar Rapids. The Avacentre happens to be at the same location as Brosh Chapel funeral home, but you can’t tell that by its promotional materials.

“I’d say probably now 90 percent of people that call the Avacentre would be in an age bracket from probably 20s up until 50s (and) don’t really know there is something else going on in that building. They really don’t care,” Matt Linn, owner and president of both businesses, told The Gazette.

Not only is The Avacentre expanding its business by drumming up weddings, it’s going after corporate events and virtually any other type of party.

Back to basics

The takeaway from this is to look at the “bones” of your business. Define what you do in the most generic way possible. Funeral parlors essentially provide meeting places. Who else can use a meeting place? What is the most basic function of your service or product? With a little tweaking, who else could use it?

Business success can ultimately become a numbers game. With the funeral home business, the numbers highlight the potential additional earnings available through a horizontal expansion. People only get one funeral, but many today celebrate several marriages over the course of their lifetime…

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Image: 1959 Cadillac Superior Landau side loader Hearse, © 2012 Dave S, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.