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Want to Run a Funeral Business? Then You Must Know This

Learn more about operating within the funeral industry.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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In South Africa, the funeral industry operates through two channels – independent companies and franchises. The two franchise players are Martins Funerals with a footprint of 167 nationwide and Franchise Association of South Africa member, 21st Century Funerals with a footprint of 25 nationwide and no longer recruiting franchisees. The largest independent funeral service provider is Doves with around 156 branches around the country.

A Martins Funerals franchise costs from R700 000 with a hearse costing around R300 000. This includes start-up stock. Royalties are paid on gross monthly turnover at 7%, working on a sliding scale. The franchise contract is renewable after ten years and full training and ongoing support is included.

Related: Want to Start a Business but Questioning Your Passion? Try This

The cost of running a fully functional private funeral home

“Most people think that the funeral business is an easy way to make money, but it isn’t,” says Theo Rix, MD of Independent Crematoriums of SA.

He says the cost to set up a fully functional crematorium in South Africa is around R7 million.

A cremation furnace costs around R1,5 million and you need at least two to run a profitable business. Other costs include smoke extractors and their installation, protective clothing for radiant heat, and so on.

The business opportunities around death 

Sub-contracting

“A funeral director is in fact an events manager, but one who doesn’t have as much time to organise an event,” says Dr Chris Molynex, past president, National Funeral Directors Association Southern Africa.

Funeral directors sub-contract services such as catering, fresh flower arrangements, rental of tents and chairs, transport for mourners, tombstones, coffin name plates and wreaths, music, tributes, casket lining, trimmings and customised handles.

Coffin making

In South Africa a coffin should be manufactured to SABS standards. Coffins are generally made from wood, while caskets are produced from wood or metal. Most importantly, a coffin must be sturdily constructed in order to protect the dead and safeguard the health of the living, which is why the SABS has set strict standards.

There is a growing demand for coffins and training centres where coffin making is taught. Courses are available throughout South Africa and they provide the necessary practical knowledge to start a coffin and casket manufacturing business. Online business, coffins.co.za, was formed eight years ago due to the huge demand for affordable funeral products.

Emerging Trends

Eco-burials: Dust to dust

For more than 20 years around the UK, natural burial grounds have been springing up across the country. People are buried in biodegradable containers, without formaldehyde-based embalming fluid or synthetic ingredients, and returned to the earth to compost into soil nutrients with a forest of trees marking the spot. It’s an idea that’s taking off in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Europe and South Africa too.

It is estimated that in the US alone more than 60 000 tons of steel and 4,8 million gallons of embalming fluid are buried each year. That is enough steel to build eight Eiffel Towers and fluid to fill eight Olympic size swimming pools, according to researchers from Cornell University.

The environmental impact of ‘full-service’ burial, including a casket, vault, tombstone, and flower wreaths, is considerable. Most cemeteries now have little space for native plant or animal life. The danger of mercury and particulate emissions from crematoriums is also a concern.

People who choose green burials don’t use concrete vaults, traditional coffins with metalwork or any embalming chemicals. Instead, the body is wrapped in biodegradable shrouds or placed in a pine coffin and laid to rest where it can decompose and become part of the earth.

Other options are available for green caskets, often called ecoffins. These can be made of bamboo, pine, woven willow, recycled cardboard and even cord from dried banana plants.

Green burials can be less expensive than conventional funerals because they don’t incur the costs of embalming, metal or expensive wooden caskets.

Related: 4 Things No One Tells You About Entrepreneurship

A typical start-up

Consider a typical existing upmarket funeral home based in Johannesburg:

  • Sales revenue: R4 million
  • Cash flow: R1,2 million
  • Employees: Seven
  • Hearses: Three
  • Leasehold rent: R108 000 p/a
  • Size of the premises: 300m2

Are you the right person for the job?

Starting a funeral home is not for everyone. Here are some points to consider:

  • Funeral directors must be able to work at odd times of the day
  • A person running a funeral home should be an excellent communicator and a good listener
  • You need a good understanding of and respect for various cultures, traditions and religions
  • You must be emotionally strong and not shaken by other people’s distress.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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Types of Businesses to Start

6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

Jared Goetz spent only 30 minutes a day and built a colossal Shopify sales machine.

Entrepreneur

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Jared Goetz, serial entrepreneur and member of The Oracles, always had a knack for reaching an audience. At 26 years old, he’s co-founded four multimillion-dollar companies.

Whether he’s throwing the world’s largest foam party with fire breathers and circus acts (“Electric Flurry”) or selling inflatables to college students via viral campaigns (“Dumbo Lounge Sacks”), this serial entrepreneur knows how to turn an audience into a profit machine.

His latest venture, The Gadget Snob, is no different. An ecommerce store that supplies everything from jet-flamed pencils to laser keyboards, Goetz took his business from zero to $2 million in 60 days by plugging into the right audience. That’s no small feat in a competitive industry forecast to surpass $4 trillion in sales by 2020.

Goetz’s secret sauce to reaching the masses? Experimentation. As he explains, “You don’t know what people will respond to until you try a lot of things. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”

Related: Selling Online: Be On The Right Side Of The Law With Your Ecommerce Start-Up

Goetz shares six key components to building his million-dollar ecommerce store and turning profits in less than a business quarter.

1. Don’t reinvent the merchandise wheel

“Many owners think they have to reinvent the wheel with the merchandise they sell,” Goetz explained. Instead, he suggests focusing on products with a proven track record of success. “An easy way to spot a market trend is gauging how a product performs on social media. If an item is getting 10,000 Facebook Likes in less than a few hours, that’s a tell.”

When choosing merchandise, it’s also crucial to differentiate between commoditised and unique products. Commoditised products are widely available. Unique products are less accessible handmade or niche products that aren’t mass produced.

“If you go niche, gauge demand first. Observe what people are looking for. You might be surprised to see what’s selling.”

2. Create a formula, then rewrite it

Ecommerce comes down to a formula, Goetz says, and the outcome is affected by different variables: Product, advertisement, landing page optimisation, and customer lifetime value.

“Once you figure out what produces the best margin, copy that. Most who fail in ecommerce are 90 percent there but haven’t worked out all the variables in their formula,” Goetz shares.

For Goetz, a pivotal variable was drop shipping. “I spent a lot of time bootstrapping my earlier companies. Drop shipping was a game-changer because it allowed me to advertise before securing the inventory, yielding greater outcomes.”

3. Build a legit Shopify store

Shopify

A successful Shopify store must win confidence. “In the sometimes-fraudulent digital ecosystem, you have to earn a consumer’s trust,” Goetz says. “A money-back guarantee and free shipping guarantee are great places to start.”

Related: 5 Ecommerce Myths That Are Sabotaging People’s Businesses

Goetz also suggests choosing a theme that’s congruent with your industry. “With branding, you want to look professional, not spammy or creepy.” Gadgets are fun and technical, so his site has bright colours and precise language. “If I were running a men’s fashion store or toy store, I’d change my theme to match the merchandise and brand. Branding is key to converting customer views into sales.”

4. Find winning ads with huge ROI and scale

For Goetz, marketing comes down to one word: testing. “The only way to find out what works is to test it many times,” he says. “Test 10 audiences on each product, so you know where to invest your energy.” For The Gadget Snob, Goetz hired an ad manager to optimise Facebook campaigns. “When you strike gold with a successful ad, replicate it, but scale incrementally to ensure you’re staying targeted.” He suggests increasing ad spend 20 percent per day, not 500 percent.

When building campaigns, it’s also vital to use language that’s shareable and creative. Sales psychology is your friend. From his perspective, classic scarcity techniques have been around for centuries for a reason. “Try incorporating a quantity incentive: if you buy one, it’s full price; if you buy two, it’s 50 percent off and so forth.”

“Creating an email list is also vital. Email campaigns have a higher conversion rate than cold Facebook campaigns, and you can incentivise email campaigns with rewards. You can make money by merely pushing ‘send.’”

5. Hire a VA, then specialists

For Goetz, hiring a virtual assistant was essential to scaling. “At first, my VA helped with everything,” he says. Once his site got off the ground, Goetz hired people with specialised jobs for specific tasks.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

He also stresses the importance of universal procedures. “Having clear onboarding processes and procedures is key to growth. Make your systems as easy as possible because while you might have 100 orders today, tomorrow you’ll have quadruple that.”

6. Get your customer support airtight

For a store to operate at full throttle, Goetz stresses the importance of customer support to maximise your profits. “You need your customer support to be airtight and available 24/7,” he says. “Online shopping goes all night and people place orders at all hours.”

To support questions and concerns, Goetz says that live chat and around-the-clock customer service is a must. “In our era of Amazon Prime, customer service expectations have never been higher, he says. “The last thing you want is a minute hiccup or technical goof obstructing a sale.”

Ultimately, ecommerce allows entrepreneurs to reach untapped markets and reap the rewards. As Goetz puts it: “My ecommerce site affords me ultimate freedom.” By following a few basic steps, you, too, can build a Shopify store to run from anywhere in the world, and perhaps even create your own million-dollar sales machine.

Related: 4 Methods For Building A Successful Ecommerce Brand

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Types of Businesses to Start

10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time

Find your perfect match for a successful part-time start-up.

Nadine Todd

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Start your part-time business today

Contents

  1. Public Relations
  2. Freelance Photography
  3. Corporate Videos
  4. Small Business Advertising Agency
  5. Writing, Editing and Proofreading Services
  6. Internet Marketing Consultant
  7. Web Design
  8. Tax Accountant
  9. Business Consultant
  10. Business Plan Consultant

Launching a company – even if it’s operated part-time – is all about drawing on your skills, talents and interests to create a viable business. What you know and what you’re good at form a good basis for a part-time business because these companies either become an extension of what you enjoy doing most or they are based on your strengths.

Working part-time while still maintaining a permanent job is time consuming and often exhausting, so choosing what you take pleasure in or are good at can keep you focused and motivated. The right fit is important when it comes to launching a part-time business. Selling a service rather than a product does not require large start-up costs, which means you can grow your business without financing until it becomes self-sustaining.

Are you looking for a business that you can launch in next to no time?

Read: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

Corporate Communications & Promotions

Corporate communications covers a host of areas, mainly because this is the sector that takes care of how companies look to the outside world – something that is very definitely a service, but also that is not often taken care of in-house.

If you can write, edit, have a knack for advertising, can take photographs or create promotional and corporate videos, you can offer your services part-time to companies both large and small that are in need of these services.

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Types of Businesses to Start

10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

Where do you find a good business idea? Right here. Here you’ll find several innovative business ideas that are ripe for plucking.

GG van Rooyen

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Where do you find a brilliant business idea?

It’s not as hard as it may seem at first. In fact, the idea is arguably not all that important. There’s a reason investors talk about backing the jockey and not the horse: It’s often not about the idea, but the execution.

A great entrepreneur can turn even a mediocre idea into a success; all that’s needed is a USP and great customer service.

That said, some ideas are undoubtedly better than others. And some businesses are easier to get off the ground. In the following pages you’ll find a curated list of business ideas that have reached a point where they’re just waiting to be exploited.

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