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Starting a business from scratch is an adventure.

In the episodes below we dig deep into the systems, secrets, and stories of remarkable people who dropped everything to start a healthy profitable business.

May 22, 2018

There are some jobs it seems like no one would ever want.

Who wants to pump a septic tank, why on earth would you ever work in a restaurant dish tank, who in the world would ever deal with dead people?  Us humans are infatuated with rationalizing our place in the world by comparing it with those who have it worse.
But the concept of “those who have it worse” may just be an invention, a tool to help us look in the mirror and make sense of it all.  Yes, of course there are people who truly have it worse than you and there are people who have it better than you too.  But the scale is based on your concept of how worse and better are defined.  The person you think has it worse may actually be a lot happier than you think.  And the person who has it better, I mean really, what does that even mean?  Are we talking money, happiness, looks, spirituality?
Our guest today may be someone you think has it worse than you.  Maybe you’ll feel she has it better.  But I hope, after hearing her story, you’ll decide the whole premise of better and worse is ultimately misguided.

Here’s the thing, Esmerelda Kent deals in death and dying.

For the past 20 years she’s been a pioneer in the concept of Green funerals.  She’s fought the status quo and the billion dollar funeral industry while one by one walking families of all shapes and sizes through the loss of a loved one.  She has revolutionized this life transition by taking it back to its roots.  Now she focuses on funeral shrouds, beautiful ornamented fabric made to replace the metal containers were so accustomed to seeing.
If your anything like me, that introduction brought to surface feelings.  Fuzzy feelings, uncomfortable feelings, places we don’t generally go.  And this episode, it might not be right for you.  Maybe it’s better to listen to without kids around or when your in the right mental place.  But I hope the subject matter doesn’t stop you.  Esmerelda has a fascinating story to tell.  Her journey and the insights she’s gleaned are worth it.  And sometimes, going there is exactly what we all really need.
We’re glad you joined us.

Here are some highlights:

What was her childhood like? (3:15)

Esmerelda grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950’s.  She lived in a Hollywood neighborhood surrounded by the working class of the movie industry.  As a child, she was creative and attracted to morbidity and religion.  She loved to design clothes for her paper dolls and have elaborate funeral processions for anything that died.  Even though her parents we agnostic, she insisted on going to Lutheran church.  When that start to bore her she switched to the cathedrals and traditions of Catholicism.

How did these passions evolve as she grew up? (11:30)

Esmerelda was a teenager in the late sixties.  She loved the music, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, they all would perform close to where she lived.  She was experimenting with LSD and soaking in the community that became known as hippies.  The Vietnam war was talking many of her male friends and many came home in a casket.  It was the first real tragedy she'd experienced.

She had two children by the time she was 21 and the American culture around birth was her first taste of what would evolve into the business she has now.  Birth was a sterile event, experienced in hospitals without your loved ones close.  Esmeralda opted for home birth and a group of women learned the art of midwifery and helped each other.  She was seeing that both birth and death in America were handled in an unnatural and even inhumane way.

How did you she decide to start advocating for Green Burials? (14:05)

Esmerelda was a singer for years and then became a costume designer on Hollywood sets.  In the 1980’s, the aids crisis hit.  Many of her friends were gay men. A community among the hardest hit by the epidemic.  Many of her friends died and it became her second experience watching her friends handle death and funerals.  They had very limited choices and she watched as they were forced into ceremonies, expenses, and traditions that served the funeral industry more than the family.

All of these pieces: her interest in spirituality, her creativity, the Vietnam war, and the AIDS epidemic followed her into the year 2000 when her mother was dying.  When the phone call came, she grabbed a huge piece of fabric, some candles, and incense and flew from San Francisco to her mother’s Kansas home.  Esmeralda walked through that death experience and saw that, just like the birthing process, the industry wanted her to handle it a certain way.

After that, She saw the first episodes of the HBO TV series Six Feet Under.  In the show, a small funeral business tries to keep afloat amidst the ever present pressure of a large corporate mega company.

Esmerelda decided it was time.  She found a cemetery owner who was open to the idea of green funerals and she took it from there.

What are some different approaches to funerals? (29:40)

There are so many!  Chinese culture tends towards expensive copper vaults around the coffin.  She attended a Samoan funeral procession where the men, wearing suits cut off as shorts, played tubas while the women screamed, cried, and lamented.  She loves African American funerals where attendees dress to the nines and sing with an unmatched passion and soul.

The most anesthetic culture tends to be white Americans who exhibit a stoicism that Esmerelda has never really understood.

Are there people who deal with death better than others? (44:30)

It’s all about attachment.  The better the dying and the survivor can come to terms with the change the more healthy the experience.  This is often about work done years and years before the actual death. But the ceremony can have a lasting effect on attachment and the act of both sides letting go.

What advice does Esmerelda have for us about death? (48:30)
  1. It’s important to address the idea today. Make a connection with the brevity of life.  For Esmerelda, she does this through Buddhism.  Everyone has their own path but the better a grasp we have to more fulfilling life we live and the more peace we have in the end.
  2. Do your family a favor and create a plan now.  Download the Before I Go You Should Know booklet, complete it and share its location with your family.


Special thanks to Esmerelda Kent for taking the time to share the Kinkaraco story with us.

The show was produced and edited by me Jeremy Goodrich.

The music is by my high school buddy Mark VInten.

If you enjoyed this podcast, there’s a couple of things we need you to do right now.  First subscribe to Scratch Entrepreneur on itunes, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts so you can hear future episodes as soon as we release them.  While you’re there, please give the show a review.  We’d love to know what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you want to hear next.

Until the next time, We truly appreciate you listening.


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