A funeral parlour business is not for the faint hearted

Starting and running a successful funeral parlour needs one to have a deeper level of empathy as the business works closely with grieving people every day.

By Fundiswa Nkwanyana

A dignified funeral for a loved one can be expensive and the high cost of living has made it difficult for people to invest in funeral products. Nowadays consumers are looking for affordable funeral products they can use to prepare a distinguished funeral. 


A young Limpopo based entrepreneur started a funeral parlour because he saw that his community was struggling to give their loved ones a proper burial. “When I was working at a funeral parlour, I developed a passion to serve people by starting a business where I can use my Christian values to help my community,” said Elliot Makhubele the Founder and Director of Charisma Funerals. 


The business ensures locals have access to tailor made and affordable funeral products, tombstones, repatriation services and funeral policies. As a local businessman, Elliot understands his communities’ financial challenges and he has plans in place to address them. 


Designing innovative funeral products and services 


Today’s tough economic times has made it difficult for consumers to invest in funeral products.  

A Mail & Guardian article recently, stated, “general estimates nationwide show funerals can cost R25 000 or more,”.  With funerals being so expensive, it’s imperative to have options for affordable funeral services.  


Understanding the needs of his community has helped Elliot grow his business and diversify his product offerings. “Some of my premiums start from as little as R100 and I want to add more services to help people pay and plan for funerals seamlessly,” said Elliot.   


He has plans to introduce a prepaid funeral plan that is designed for individuals who want to ensure that their wishes are respected and that their loved ones don’t have to make difficult decisions whilst grieving. 


For proactive clients, the business is also working on introducing a service to pay for funeral products in instalments. Elliot is introducing new products and services that make planning a funeral easier.  


Load shedding is stifling growth 


Even though the business is on a growth trajectory and has amazing products underway, load shedding is hindering growth. The business operates at its best with a constant electricity supply to ensure that the parlour stays at the optimum temperature. “I use a backup generator during load shedding and the costs of diesel needed for the generator is expensive,” said Elliot. 


SMMEs contribute about 40% to the economy of the country, and their performances and successes are directly linked with the country’s economic success. Yet they are most at threat because load shedding is a challenge that comes on top of other entrepreneurial challenges. 


Despite the challenges caused by load shedding, Elliot is determined not to give up because he believes helping his community prepare a dignified funeral is a calling that he is passionate about.  


His passion for the funeral industry started when he 28 years old and was working in a funeral parlour.  He gained in-depth insight about the industry and saw a gap in the market to start a business. “I have a heartfelt desire to help people by offering convenient and affordable funeral products and burial services,” said Elliot. 


Starting and running a successful funeral parlour needs one to have a deeper level of empathy as the business works closely with grieving people every day. This is not a business for the faint hearted; Elliot is a resilient entrepreneur that is using his business to assist people plan dignified funerals.   


This article was first published in Stokvel Talk

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Elliot Makhubele is a participant on the SAB Foundation’s Tholoana Enterprise Programme, an 18-month business accelerator powered by Fetola which supports the lasting success of businesses from across South Africa, particularly those owned by women, youth and people living with disabilities, and those in township and rural areas.

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