I hope everyone had a great weekend! Probably couldn’t have beaten mine, but its time to get morbid. Let’s dial in.
I’m not sure if it’s the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary, the fact that work is ~killing~ me, or just a genuinely good business idea (we’ll assume this one) but I have been thinking a lot about death. Specifically, cremation.
Those who know me, know that I had a theory about how cemeteries were going to take over the world. My theory was that people keep dying (death and taxes baby) and you can’t really destroy old tombstones, thus cemeteries would keep growing and growing.
That is, until cremation became popular.
Over the past 15-20 years cremation has become an increasingly popular way to handle post death arrangements (roughly 25% increase). Looking back even further, the percentage of the deceased Americans being cremated has increased from less than 4% in 1958 to over 57% this past year. That’s nearly 1% a year, which in this business, is a lot. (Neptune Society, 2022). Not to mention, people are also cremating and keeping the remains of their pets which is a whole additional market
And it makes sense, at least in my opinion. Cremation is much, much cheaper than a traditional burial, is more convenient (no more travelling back to your random hometown to visit a grave), enables you to be split among family members, can help avoid a messy open casket scene (maybe you don’t want to be remembered as old or decrepit), and spreading ashes is cool right?
So, when I dove into the costs of a casket versus an urn, I was immediately struck by these:
If these aren’t the ugliest and dated things you’ve ever seen, then idk what is. Not only that, but they’re kind of expensive too. $120 for an ugly jar and plastic bag for my ashes? No thanks. I don’t even like the stainless steel; put me in something ceramic.
And they’re all like this, none of them are appealing or customizable.
With cremation becoming so popular (and showing no signs of slowing down) and the younger audience now picking the urns for their older relatives who die, someone ought to make or sell a more modern looking urn.
If I had to choose, I wouldn’t want one of those things on the mantle in my house. I would want something discrete. Like a ceramic, neutral matte colored, box or cylinder with a name on it.
Naturally, my next step was to go on Alibaba and see if any manufacturers make modern looking urns and to see how much they cost. I found a few good options. All for less than 10 bucks a pop.
Even if you didn’t want to use Alibaba you could easily mock something up using CAD and hit up a local pottery joint or clay manufacturing facility and get them made yourself.
So let’s straighten some things out and make some conservative assumptions:
- 1.95 million deaths in America. That’s excluding the rest of the globe AND pets.
- Average sale is 7-12x the manufacturing cost. Holy margins.
- People gon’ keep dyin’. The market is perpetual (will exist forever).
- Trends indicate that cremation will continue to steadily increase in popularity.
Conservatively assuming you buy that wooden box above for the most expensive price of $10, let’s call it $20 to include shipping and handling, and sell it for the lowest price available on any of these websites of ~$75, then you make a cool 55 bones per box.
Now, let’s say you can create a listing on Amazon or one of these sites and reach 0.1% of deaths (only 1,950 people, which I think is achievable given how ugly the others are). That’s $107,250 (Only Americans. Only humans.).
1.95 million x .001 x 55 dollars per box = $107,250.
The Gut Check
For me, this passes the gut check and doesn’t seem that difficult to manage. Seems like an easily disruptable market.
Everything related to death seems so outdated and dingy. I think modernization must (and has started to) catch up to this industry and something that is sleek, somewhat customizable, with a ribbon or a note would play ball.
There has even been a company that went on Shark Tank and pitched a company that turned your loved one’s ashes into diamonds (check out the pitch here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2019/10/14/shark-tank-recap-sharks-bite-human-ashes-diamonds-business/3946238002/). To me that’s a little too far, but it’s just the beginning of businesses realizing this large untapped market