Q&A: Tapping into the community for a more caring farewell

This week we chat to Scott Duncombe, founder of Sydney Funerals. Scott has launched a new payment technology solution to help Aussie families who just don’t have thousands of dollars spare to cover the costs associated with a family member’s unexpected passing in the current tough financial climate.

ISB: What was the motivation behind you establishing a funeral service business?

SD: I have been conducting funeral services since 2013 as a celebrant, and noticed that ceremonies were been driven by funeral directors on time limits and, therefore, being rushed. Funeral celebrants, on the other hand, make the ceremony all about the person, the family and the guests. I realised that there were no 100 per cent celebrant-owned and operated-businesses out there that can handle every aspect of a funeral, but really focus on the ceremony.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

SD: When I started the business, it was mid-COVID, and the biggest challenge was breaking through the “you’re crazy” comments from everyone. With deaths down in NSW approx 16 per cent at the time, funeral attendees down to 10 people and families switching to “direct cremations”, I thought there has to be a better way to do death in tough times. There will still be deaths, and people will still want to do a memorial at a later date, and I had a service that no other company could match – Tap a Little Contribution.

ISB: And, with a pandemic ongoing, how has your business adopted to the disruption it has brought to your industry?

SD: We have now conducted our 50th funeral service in fivemonths, way above expectations given the pandemic, and we are continuing to grow into the communities that we are part of. Having nearly 50 celebrants working alongside us spreads our reach in those communities and beyond. We are trying to change the first thoughts of a family from “we must call a funeral director” to “lets call our celebrant”. As the celebrant is their friend, family, or part of their community, they are more likely to be able to have a conversation about the person, versus having to worry about details and costs from the outset.

ISB: Please tell us about your innovative TLC service that offers an affordable solution to funeral costs for cash-strapped families.

SD: Tap a Little Contribution has been in conception for 18 months prior to launch and, when COVID hit, money was tight, so I thought it was a perfect timing to launch. Tap a Little Contribution provides a platform for people to donate to the bereaved family to help pay for the funeral, the wake or donate the funds to a charity of the family’s choice. One thing we have learnt is that everyone is a little too proud to ask for money from their friends, family and community when it comes to funerals. If you compare that to crowdfunding for someone’s operation or school projects, people don’t mind asking for peoples money. Everyone’s family and community want to contribute, but just don’t know how to. This gap between asking and giving needs to be closed when it comes to funerals.

ISB: What is your vision for the venture in the next couple of years?

SD: We are very optimistic that Tap a Little Contribution can really make a difference to families when they lose a loved one. We hope to open six more offices in Sydney within the next 12 to 18 months, so we can be in as many communities as possible whenever they need us. We also see the charity angle for Tap a Little Contribution to be a game changer in the crowdfunding funerals space.

ISB: Finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on this journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

SD: My grandfather always said to me “never have any regrets in life, and you should always give something a go – if it doesn’t work, that’s okay, at least you tried”. The number one lesson I have learnt is to take things slowly at start, get the foundations right, then build from there. Having knowledge of this industry definitely has helped, and being able to make decisions immediately to help a family out when in need makes owning your own business so much more satisfying.

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