Starting a cemetery can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful cemetery.
Importantly, a critical step in starting a cemetery is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.
14 Steps To Start a Cemetery:
- Choose the Name for Your Cemetery
- Develop Your Cemetery Business Plan
- Choose the Legal Structure for Your Cemetery
- Secure Startup Funding for Your Cemetery (If Needed)
- Secure a Location for Your Business
- Register Your Cemetery with the IRS
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Get a Business Credit Card
- Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
- Get Business Insurance for Your Cemetery
- Buy or Lease the Right Cemetery Equipment
- Develop Your Cemetery Marketing Materials
- Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Cemetery
- Open for Business
1. Choose the Name for Your Cemetery
The first step to starting a cemetery is to choose your business’ name.
This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your cemetery:
- Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
- Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
- Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your cemetery.
2. Develop Your Cemetery Business Plan
One of the most important steps in starting a cemetery is to develop your business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.
Your business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your cemetery.
- Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your cemetery and what type of cemetery you operate. For example, are you a municipal cemetery, rural cemetery, churchyard, or a legal family cemetery?
- Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the cemetery industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
- Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target customers are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when purchasing products or services like the ones you will offer?
- Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
- Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
- Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer
- Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
- Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
- Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your cemetery? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
- Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
- Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
- Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
- What startup costs will you incur?
- How will your cemetery make money?
- What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
- Do you need to raise funding to launch your business?
3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Cemetery
Next you need to choose a legal structure for your cemetery and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.
Below are the five most common legal structures:
1) Sole proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the cemetery owner and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small businesses. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to start a cemetery together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business.
The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.
3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for a cemetery include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.
4) C Corporation
A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for a cemetery is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the cemetery owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.
5) S Corporation
An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.
Once you register your cemetery, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.
4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Cemetery (If Needed)
In developing your cemetery business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business.
If so, the main sources of funding for a cemetery to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in a cemetery that they believe has high potential for growth.
5. Secure a Location for Your Business
When looking for a location for your cemetery, it is important to find a place that is accessible to the public and has enough space to accommodate all of the graves. You should also consider the climate and weather conditions in the area and the topography.
6. Register Your Cemetery with the IRS
Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.
Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.
7. Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to establish a bank account in your cemetery’s name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:
- Identify and contact the bank you want to use
- Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
- Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
- Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
8. Get a Business Credit Card
You should get a business credit card for your cemetery to help you separate personal and business expenses.
You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.
When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.
9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
There are a few licenses and permits you’ll need to start a cemetery. You’ll need a business license, a cemetery license, and a permit to bury human remains. You may also need a zoning permit, depending on where you plan to locate your cemetery.
10. Get Business Insurance for Your Cemetery
There are a few different types of insurance you may need to operate a cemetery.
Some business insurance policies you should consider for your cemetery include:
- General liability insurance: This covers accidents and injuries that occur on your property. It also covers damages caused by your employees or products.
- Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.
- Commercial property insurance: This covers damage to your property caused by fire, theft, or vandalism.
- Business interruption insurance: This covers lost income and expenses if your business is forced to close due to a covered event.
- Professional liability insurance: This protects your business against claims of professional negligence.
Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs.
11. Buy or Lease the Right Cemetery Equipment
The equipment you will need to run your cemetery includes a casket lowering device, casket carriage, cremation stands, a turf trailer, shovel, rake, and a hoe. You will also need a lawn mower and a leaf blower.
12. Develop Your Cemetery Marketing Materials
Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain customers to your cemetery.
The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:
- Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your cemetery. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
- Website: Likewise, a professional cemetery website provides potential customers with information about the products and/or services you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you.
- Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your cemetery.
13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Cemetery
The software needed to run a cemetery includes a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep track of customers, as well as a grave booking system to reserve graves. You may also want to invest in a mapping system to track the graves and a financial accounting software to manage the finances.
14. Open for Business
You are now ready to open your cemetery. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.
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How to Start a Cemetery FAQs
Is it hard to start a cemetery?
It is not too hard to start a cemetery if you are familiar with the industry, as it is a relatively simple process. All you need is an area of land and the approval of the local government. You also need a plan for the layout of the graves and the entrance and exit locations.
How can I start a cemetery with no experience?
There are a few ways you can start a cemetery with no experience. One way is to find a professional in the field and work with them. Another way is to read books or articles about starting and running a cemetery. Finally, you can attend workshops or seminars to learn about the cemetery business.
What type of cemetery is most profitable?
The type of cemetery that is most profitable is a private cemetery. A private cemetery is a for-profit cemetery that is owned by an individual or organization. Private family cemeteries typically charge higher prices for their services than public cemeteries. They may also offer a wider range of services and products, such as funeral planning and monument sales.
How much does it cost to start a cemetery?
The cost of starting a cemetery can vary depending on the size and location of the cemetery. Typically, the cost ranges from $10,000 to $50,000. This includes the purchase of land, the development of gravesites, and the installation of fencing and landscaping.
What are the ongoing expenses for a cemetery?
There are a number of ongoing expenses for a cemetery. One of the largest expenses is the cost of maintaining the grounds. This includes mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, and cleaning up any debris. Another large expense is the cost of employee salaries. Cemetery employees typically work in maintenance or administrative roles. Finally, there are also the costs of utilities, such as water and electricity.
How do cemeteries make money?
Cemetery business owners make money by selling burial grounds and tombstones. They also may offer maintenance and upkeep services for an additional fee. Some cemeteries also generate income by hosting events, such as funerals and memorial services.
Is owning a cemetery profitable?
Owning a cemetery can be profitable because there is a consistent customer base. Family members will always need a burial space for their loved ones. In addition, most cemeteries charge maintenance fees on an ongoing basis, which can provide a reliable source of income. Finally, many people are willing to pay premium prices for prime real estate in a cemetery, which can generate a significant profit for the owner.
Why do cemeteries fail?
One of the reasons cemeteries fail is that they are not properly maintained. Poor maintenance can be due to a lack of funding or simply a lack of staffing. Cemeteries also fail because they are located in areas prone to flooding or other natural disasters.