When it comes to death, it's a brand-new world out there. Consider, for one, the proliferating burial options now available to families: green burials, fireworks concocted of ashes, blasting cremated remains into deep space, compressing your loved one into a vinyl record, or pressurizing them into memorial diamonds.
For some, the most radical way to reach a final resting place might be through sheer simplicity: click a website button, pay a flat fee, say goodbye to your recently departed within the hour. A week later, they return to you—in a minimalist, rectangular "urn" resembling an iPhone box.
Meet Solace, a licensed funeral service that launched April 3 to offer "concierge-level support" to grieving families in four Portland metro-area counties. Conceived by former Nike designers Keith Crawford and David Odusanya (they designed those sleek urns), Solace is the product of problematic experiences both shared after losing a parent. “We had each gone through not so great funeral experiences,” explains Crawford. “So we thought, 'Is there a better way to do this?’”
The service starts with a call, email, or chat with a team member, available 24/7. Within the hour, they arrive (in a discreet van, not a hearse) to transport your loved one to a Solace care facility for cremation. Death comes with a lot of paperwork—certificates, authorizations, etc.—which the company facilitates as part of its flat, $1,175 fee.
According to Crawford and Odusanya, many funeral homes have hidden fees for simple tasks, from removing a pacemaker to transportation which can quickly produce a steep bill. Solace's flat fee—and its digital platform—are the key differentiators they hope will resonate with clients. The company doesn't plan to expand to funeral services, but Solace Funeral Director Malisa Riceci, who has 15 years of experience in the industry, will offer references on request.
Why bank solely on cremation services? According to data from the National Funeral Directors Association, as recently as 2015, the market for cremation and burial was neck-and-neck, with burial accounting for 48 percent of funeral services and cremation for about 45 percent. But by 2035, it estimates that cremation will constitute roughly 79 percent of funeral services.
Playing the long game to market dominance seems like a good fit for two Nike alums; it's a connection they even make themselves. “It’s all about how we help the consumer and that’s how we worked at Nike," says Odusanya. "It’s the same model, just a different industry. It’s all about how we make the experience—which many people don’t want to face—something that takes away the stress and makes it easier during a really tough time for family members.”