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Handling funerals is a gravely serious business for new enterprise
FOR many people the idea of running a funeral parlour would not be high on their list of business ideas.
But for Lucy Jane it is a dream come true.
The 31-year-old has just opened The Individual Funeral Company in Rose Hill, Oxford, forming only the second individual undertakers’ firm to currently operate in the city.
Ms Jane is especially proud to be running her own business as it marks an individual high point in her life after she found herself practically homeless at the age of 17.
Her parents had divorced and, as her father was in the RAF and had been posted to Wales, the family was forced to leave their services home at Carterton, ending up in a two-room flat in East Oxford, which the city council provided as emergency accommodation.
Ms Jane dropped out of college and became a chef, but knew it was not the career for her.
So one day she decided to ring the Co-op funeral directors in Headington, and within an hour and a half she had a job.
Ms Jane said: “They taught me everything I now do. I love it.”
From there she moved to another firm in Leicestershire, where she drove a motorcycle hearse.
“I was the first female motorcycle hearse rider and I used a Suzuki Hayabusa, the fastest production bike in the world. “We had a custom-built sidecar and I travelled up and down the country taking people for their last ride.”
After four years she decided she wanted to start on her own and grandfather Bob Coulbert looked over her business plan. Mr Coulbert has since died but that experience drove her on to overcome a series of delays, and she now has a picture of her grandparents hanging over her desk.
“They are watching me do the best job I can.
“We managed to get the building but instead of six weeks it took a year.
“The work should have taken three weeks but it took two months.”
Getting the business off the ground has been a real family affair.
Brother Guy took on the building work while sister Hannah helps out in the office and mother Suzie, a mortuary manager in London, helps with the collection and preparation of the deceased.
“Everyone was involved – my three-year-old niece helped paint a wall and another six-year-old niece pulled up the last bit of the floor. And I genuinely believe that whoever walks through the door will be treated like a member of the family.”
Ms Jane believes her fresh approach will be welcomed by many people, particularly when their involvement with a funeral director will co-incide with a traumatic time in their lives.
“Many funeral directors are stuck in a rut and so much of what they do is a box-ticking exercise. “We try to give as much information as possible as people want to make sure that whoever has passed away is going to be looked after.”
Ms Jane can be as involved as a client likes. Some may wish to simply buy a coffin or arrange for paperwork to be completed. Or she can arrange everything from start to finish.
As for her approach, she believes it is down to common sense and empathy with clients.
“It is not just a job – you have to genuinely care,” she said.
She added: “I love running my own business as it means you have so much freedom. It is brilliant being my own boss.”
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