It is said that ukufa ngumakoti womuzi nomuzi, but death be not proud and as somber as this may seem, the challenges and complications that come with sending a loved one to their final resting place has turned into a thriving business for two ambitious entrepreneurs Zolani Matebese and Thabisile Sethaba who co-founded Sendoff.
The silver lining is that they are using technology to simplify logistical matters allowing the bereaved to mourn without the worry of something going wrong.
After 20 years of watching the industry remain stagnant, Matebese wanted a better way to deal with funerals, and saying goodbye to loved ones and the circumstances made it an incredibly compelling business idea. The idea was simple, he wanted a way to make the process simpler, less traumatic, and better.
The beauty is that Sendoff isn’t a funeral parlour but an app that ensures that users have a dignified sendoff for loved ones when they have completed their journey on earth.
Matebese describes Sendoff as a mobile app digitizing the funeral/deathcare value chain. He says it provides convenience, information & a 10x better customer experience for funeral services. “You can do anything related to the funeral on Sendoff and arranging one on the app is an unmatched simplified digital process.”
Sendoff simplifies the planning process because users can choose pre-built packages or create their packages visually. It is a better value for money because Matebese and Sethaba have sourced the best value providers in the market to get the best prices without compromising on quality. It saves users time by enabling them to arrange an entire funeral in less than half an hour. But more importantly, it’s safer, no need to visit multiple funeral homes.
The competitive advantage is that Sendoff manages all the tasks to ensure user satisfaction. Sethaba says “No need to call to make sure that the hearse/cars/flowers/caterer is ready; we do all that. We also have checklists so users know exactly what to do and what is involved with all the aspects of the funeral.”
Even though they are still building and are an app, Sethaba and Matebese empathize with their users and have built Sendoff with their users in mind because their primary values are empathy and “being human” in an industry that views its customers as commodities.
And like so many other entrepreneurs they are capitalizing on the benefits of content marketing and social media because they understand the importance of providing information to their users and prospective clients.
Matebese says “We’ve also been fortunate in the weirdness of Sendoff and being the first app to cover everything related to a funeral, has made our story resonate with several traditional media houses and resulted in significant press coverage.”
<blockquote>”We’re now also starting to roll out our ambassador program called “Sendoff Heroes” which will help ordinary people to refer friends, family, and people in their circle to us and will be a small effort to combat joblessness and poverty” adds Sethaba.</blockquote>
Working in an industry as sensitive as this requires a team that understands how to deal with every client, and even though everyone does everything, they pull together as a team to get things done and as they grow the company culture will grow as well.
Matebese is driven by creating things and making his late mom and Grandma proud. While Sethaba is inspired by the need to create and leave a legacy. She wants to be remembered for having lived purposefully and made a significant difference in the world and serving humanity.
As innovative as this business venture is, Matebese and Sethaba are always generating new ideas on how to better serve their clients. And as much as Covid-19 has changed the business landscape, they are not letting their fears get to them because the pandemic has normalized death for everyone and they run a deathcare company.
And having succeeded and failed in business and life Matebese isn’t scared of failure. He adds that when he’s anxious about something, he finds an exercise called “fear setting” useful. By thinking about what makes him anxious, and imagining the worst that can happen, it internalizes how he could feel if it did and then think of how to navigate past that.
Sethaba says that her greatest fear is to die and not be remembered for any positive contributions towards humanity. One thing is evident, Matebese and Sethaba are cut from the same cloth. They are resilient and set in helping others. Their definition of success is simple, it’s the feeling one gets when they have achieved what they set out to do or getting very close as well as building meaningful connections, achieving goals, doing what you love, and making money whilst at it.
Even though they might be at the beginning of their journey, Matebese says that every successful entrepreneur has been able to just do it, so leave all the doubts, excuses, fears, self-censorship behind and make something.
One thing entrepreneurs need to have is the willingness to put themselves out there for criticism and ridicule and to continue until they succeed regardless of how many or how big their failures are because the act of creating something makes you vulnerable and it takes a lot of inner strength to open oneself up to that. And they need to remember that everything can be taught but more importantly entrepreneurship needs resilience, commitment, and character.
Despite the challenges and obstacles, entrepreneurship has given Matebese and Sethaba the freedom to make something meaningful and allowed them to build a business that creates jobs and changes lives.
Maybe going forward entrepreneurs need to ask ‘how can I solve youth unemployment using technology’ because the answer could result in a business that provides innovative solutions that shape the future.