Funeral directors joke that the last real innovation in their business was the hearse. A pair of Minneapolis entrepreneurs hopes to update that punch line.
MyWonderfulLife.com is a free site that allows members to plan their own end-of-life celebration. Do you want Van Morrison played at your funeral? Want your Uncle Morty to read from the Bhagavad Gita? Prefer to ban smoking at your wake? You can specify all this, and more, by building a personalized plan.
The site is the creation of Minneapolis entrepreneurs Sue Kruskopf and Nancy Bush. Launched three years ago, it has more than 11,000 members and recently got some high-profile promotion when Kruskopf and Bush sought venture capital in an appearance on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank.”
The inspiration for the site was both cultural and personal, said Kruskopf, whose day job is CEO of the advertising agency Kruskopf Coontz.
“I loved the HBO show ‘Six Feet Under,’” she said. “And right around that time, the move ‘The Bucket List’ came out. Meanwhile, my dear friend Nancy’s husband died. We threw an incredible funeral, and people were coming up to us and asking, ‘How can I make sure my funeral is like this?’ ”
With her marketing background, Kruskopf realized there was an opportunity to tap into the trend toward personalization.
“We are all control freaks,” she said. “We document everything. We have all the songs we want on our iPods, we choose the information we want to read.”
And baby boomers – who are entering the end stages of life’s journey – aren’t interested in having the same kind of funeral as their parents.
MyWonderfulLife.com is an example of a growing trend in marketing: agencies not just selling products for their clients, but actually creating and marketing products that they own themselves. I recently wrote for MinnPost about Lakemaid Beer, a seasonal brew created by the Minneapolis marketing agency Pocket Hercules. So far, MyWonderfulLife hasn’t turned a profit. The site has a deal with a national brokerage group to offer funeral pre-pays to its members, and it gets commissions from that. But the founders’ appearance on “Shark Tank,” with its 6 million viewers, has generated interest, Kruskopf said.
“That has propelled interest from multiple angles – things we would never have thought of,” she said. “We’re starting to see multiple revenue models that can make this profitable.”
Kruskopf, 54, said her venture may provide her with some insurance against the ups and downs of the notoriously ageist advertising business.
“I’m getting older in advertising,” she said with a laugh. “But I’ll never be old in the death business!”