Launched in November 2015, Kevin Foster Funeral Services was created by husband and wife team Kevin and Pat Foster. After lots of encouragement from previous families Kevin had dealt with, the couple wanted to set up a company to provide high-quality funeral services offering commitment to their clients. We had a chat with Pat Foster who shares with us their first couple of years in business and the developments over the last year, post-Start-Up Loan.
What is the nature of your business and why did you choose a Start-Up Loan over other types of finance?
We are an independent funeral company and are a husband and wife team. After starting a small business in Blyth for my husband as a 'hobby', we have managed to grow into a much bigger business than we ever anticipated.
As the business in Blyth was growing, it required me to increase my hours to full-time, and we realised after a few months that we would need to start expanding a little more.
Previously, we had been hiring hearse and limousine vehicles from other companies but soon came to realise that having to work around their diaries to book our own funerals wasn’t working out so well for us. We decided the time was right to invest in our own, so we made the purchases and housed them in temporary garaging. After a short time, we decided these premises were not quite close enough to our Blyth base, so decided that we would like to purchase our own garaging, without the need to rely on others.
As we had already invested a lot of our profit back into the business, we realised we could only scrape by without a loan. We approached a bank initially, but they couldn't get a loan passed for us within the twelve weeks we needed. So we did some further research and discovered Transmit Start-Up loans. This is when we decided to approach Transmit - to make our purchase of the new building a little easier on our bank balance! It all happened at just the right time, as once we had the building fitted out, our business really took off over Christmas and New Year 2017.
What has your business achieved over the last year? What is your favourite success story to date?
Definitely the purchase of this building at 11a Palace Road. It’s not only garaging for our hearse and limo, but we now have three Chapels of Rest and one holding room, a kitchen, facilities, reception and a large office. Buying this building has really helped our business grow and improve. Having the vehicles here and all of the Chapels on one level helps make our day-to-day work so much easier and has the added advantage of acting as a valuable overspill for our Blyth office, which only has one Chapel.
What have you learnt from the first year in business? Is there anything you would do differently?
We have learnt the big lesson of not taking things for granted. One week all of our Chapels may be full and the next week we may have no bookings. We cannot gauge when our next funeral will be. And although we do have pre-payment plans for some, on the whole, funeral dates cannot be pre-ordered. So we take each day as it comes and we never have two days alike. There’s not one thing we would do differently - why change something when it works as it is! In April 2018, we made the decision to make our company Limited, so we’re learning how to run the business in this way.
Would you recommend a Start-Up Loan from Transmit Start-Ups to other businesses? How beneficial was the free business support?
We would definitely recommend a start-up loan to other businesses and the next time we are in the position to do so, we will! The business support has been invaluable to us maintaining our place in the funeral market.
If you could give one tip to a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Follow your dreams, anything is possible. We only expected the initial Blyth premises as a hobby for my husband, (he had previously worked for other funeral companies but always had a desire to try himself). We now employ two part-time office staff and two part-time drivers. What an amazing achievement. And I have to say, both Kevin and I are very proud to be able to work with families in what is one of their greatest times of need. We give a very personal service and can arrange funerals throughout the whole of Northumberland and North Tyneside.
If the story of Kevin and Pat has given you an idea to start your own business, register with us now and look into the next steps.