U-M student startup eases funeral stress
ANN ARBOR—Sage & Grace, a concierge service for end-of-life issues, came to life after its founder faced the possibility of planning a funeral after her mother had a cardiac arrest.
Holly Price, a University of Michigan MBA student, said her mother did recover, but there were a few days when things were touch-and-go.
“I was learning how scary the funeral business was after my mother got really sick,” she said. “In addition to the stress of family obligations, I was stressed about how I might plan and pay for her funeral.”
Price said her service has the potential to reduce the weight of funeral planning during an immensely stressful period and, at scale, fundamentally shift how the funeral industry communicates with consumers and raise the standards on how funerals are planned.
Price, who is in her early 30s, said many people in her age group have not had to deal with the death of an immediate family member and have no idea if $10,000 or $20,000 is reasonable for a funeral.
“If I’m working with people who can’t remember to eat because of the grief, they probably don’t have time to shop around and do a lot of research,” she said.
Sage & Grace was created as a service and information portal for individuals with limited resources who require estate planning, hospice information, funeral planning and burial options. The website launches this summer. The service is modeled after consumer services such as The Knot for weddings and Yelp for other industries.
Price is hoping to partner with reputable funeral homes and possibly offer a concierge service similar to what a wedding planner does—to serve as an intermediary to make sure people aren’t taken advantage of during the emotional process.
“For many Americans, paying for a funeral is the largest transaction of their lifetime,” she said. “We don’t judge people on their choices, but just want them to have the right information to make those choices. Often, funeral homes have nothing to hide and would love to reach a broader audience.”
The site will encourage people to think about which aspects of the funeral are most important and what they can spend before they go to a funeral home. The company’s name was specifically chosen because it doesn’t evoke funereal thoughts.
“I want to evoke feelings of comfort and warmth, since those feelings are largely absent when someone is grieving,” Price said. “Sage is an ancient herb that has been used historically to represent healing and purification. Grace stems from the Christian principle of grace, a belief that love and forgiveness is available to all, not just those who ‘earned it.'”
Price, who recently graduated from the Ross School of Business, utilized several campus resources to get this far, including the Zell Lurie Institute Michigan Business Challenge, a Mayleben Venture Shaping grant, Zell Lurie Dare to Dream grants and the TechArb Student Venture Accelerator.
Sage & Grace is one of 60 ventures that U-M students across campus are pushing forward with support from the institution’s top-ranked entrepreneurial programs. Details of more student startups and endeavors are included in the second annual Made at Michigan. The report is produced by Innovate Blue, along with a network of programs, centers, and institutes that help support U-M’s student innovators and entrepreneurs.