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Creative Entrepreneurs See Opportunity Even in Death

The great thing about traveling is opening my hotel room door in the morning to find that day’s edition of USA Today. In just about every issue of this national newspaper (a great stroke of entrepreneurial genius itself) is an article that gets my entrepreneurial juices flowing.

The February 4th issue featured a story about the growing trend among baby-boomers for more natural, at-home, eco-friendly funerals. Or as the article puts it: No embalming, no funeral directors. No sticker shock.

I did a bit more “digging” on the three entrepreneurs featured in the USA Today article – Jerri Lyons, Chip Beresford and his wife Megan, and Dr. Billy Campbell. As you read about how each of these inspiring people see what lessons you can apply to your own quest to work at what you love.

Take Jerri Lyons. In the past eight years, Jerri has helped over 200 families return to the age old tradition of conducting their loved ones funerals in their own homes. As can sometimes be the case, her business began with a very personal and powerful experience. The 56-year-old started her Sebastopola, California non-profit Final Passages (http://www.NaturalDeathCare.org,  after the unexpected death of a close friend Carolyn Whiting. Carolyn had left detailed instructions for a home funeral. Jerri was a participant in Carolyn’s home funeral and “was profoundly moved by the entire three-day experience.”

As Jerri explained, “Community participation and ceremony, at home, supported those grieving and allowed more time for closure. The bathing and dressing of her body was performed with dignity and honor by her friends. Barriers of fear and anger were broken down, giving more room for love and celebration through this important passage.”

It was “the most personal, meaningful and respectful experience” that awakened in her a passion to share it with others. Jerri says she pioneered Final Passages “to reawaken a choice that our ancestors once held sacred.”

For about $1,000, she will help wash, clothe and give a wake to the departed. Or, those with less means or more of a do-it-yourself spirit can purchase a handbook for $45. The trend toward home funerals is largely being driven by baby boomers. According to Lisa Carlson, author of Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, “From home births, to writing their own wedding vows, boomers have been creating their own traditions – so why not create their own funerals.” To learn more about Final Passages visit http://www.NaturalDeathCare.org

One factor driving the trend is cost. While the article states that a traditional funeral can run close to $10,000, a “green” funeral with a bio-degradable cardboard casket can be had for closer to $1,000. If a cardboard casket feels, well, cheap but a $2,000 velvet-interior model seems frankly unnecessary, you can always spurge on a pine box for as low as $395.

Former funeral director Chip Beresford and his wife Megan decided to open The Pine Box store in Houston to help families, “get back to basics.” He says when he first become a funeral director he, “felt honored to help families through some of the most difficult times they might encounter, the death of a loved one.”

Funeral service was and still is, Chip says, an honorable calling (as the daughter of a now retired funeral director, I’d have to agree). Unfortunately Chip says, that most funeral directors still have that same commitment to serve, “but their hands have been tied” by the big business take-over of most of what was once a largely family-owned enterprise.

Before you rule out that cardboard box, you may like to know that Jerri encourages families to decorate them in ways that commemorate their loved one. And, for those who are as passionate about the environment as I am, they’re more eco-friendly.

It was his passion for the environment that led Billy Campbell a doctor from Westminister, South Carolina to create Ramsey Creek Preserve, a 37-acre woodland cemetery where tree plantings and inscribed rocks replace manicured lawns and headstones. Campbell plans to replicate his idea across the U.S. To learn more about Dr. Campbell and his wife’s vision visit http://www.MemorialEcoSystems.com

Okay, so you may not be interested in starting a green funeral related business yourself, but what did you just learn from these entrepreneurs about turning a trend into an entrepreneurial opportunity? Well, for one, you can get involved at whatever level you feel comfortable.

Jerri deals directly with the deceased and their grieving families. She also shares her knowledge through workshops for health care practitioners as well as for others who want to create their own natural funeral organization elsewhere. The Beresford’s provide a product of value to grieving families on a budget. Dr. Campbell turned his love of the environment into an eco-friendly cemetery and a healing environment for families.

If you’ve been visiting this site for any length of time, you know that I’m passionate about showing others how they can become Opportunity Analysts. The other lesson here is about the life-changing, option-enhancing power of trends… and as any good Opportunity Analyst will tell you trends = opportunities!

If you don’t quite know what kind of business to start, the best way to turn your passion into your job is by tuning into opportunities that which often come disguised as trends, niches, complaints, problems, or changes. I shared three examples of people whose work grew out of a particular trend. With just a little creativity I bet you could come up with a dozen other ways to get involved in this growing trend… and many others. The key is to get started.

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About the Author

“Profiting From Your Passions®” expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger’s, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman’s Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

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