Faith Funeral Home, Inc. has served families in Havana and surrounding communities for the past 19 years. Owners Edna and Scott Whitehead have been working with their business consultants at the Florida Small Business Development Center at FAMU (FSBDC at FAMU) to find ways to expand and better accommodate families in their time of need.
Edna said that although her husband developed an interest in becoming a Funeral Director at the 13, he did not pursue the career until later in life. When the company he was working for relocated, Scott had the opportunity to pursue a career he felt passionate about. He became an associate with a funeral home in Bainbridge and began his education in Mortuary Science at Gupton-Jones College in Atlanta.
Scott worked hard to complete his degree program, driving back and forth from his home in Bainbridge to Atlanta three days a week and returning to work the night shift at the funeral home. Edna said she remembers telling Scott she wouldn’t marry him until after he received his degree as a means to encourage him. Once he completed his degree program, Edna said they got to work building their funeral home from the ground up.
“We began with a 3500-square-foot building. We didn’t have a chapel until three years later,” Edna said. “When built a chapel, we made it nondenominational. It supplies the needs of every group no matter what their belief is, no matter what their culture is. We serve every family.”
After a time, Edna sold her flower shop and came to work at Faith Funeral Home full time. She participated in the Jim Moran Institutes Entrepreneur Program and has received professional and educational training in the funeral industry, earning her Pre-Need Funeral License. While at the Jim Moran Institute, she met Keith Bowers, Regional Director of the FSBDC at FAMU.
When the couple first came to the FSBDC at FAMU, their funeral home was already doing well. The financial analysis performed by the FSBDC at FAMU confirmed this fact and gave them detailed information about their business’s financial health. In addition to that confirmation, they benefitted from the marketing and sales expertise their Business Consultant, Emery Parker, provided. This advice resulted in them moving in a positive direction for Pre-Need advertising and possibly adding another component to the firm.
“I’ve read the report many times, and every one of the funeral homes that we were compared to, none of them started the way we did,” Edna said. “We started at zero. We founded this with no help. We are a first-generation funeral home with a first-generation funeral director. Others in Tallahassee have either been purchased, inherited, or a part of a large corporation or had family members supporting them financially and educating them. There is no one like us in our industry or service area.”
Despite having overall success with their business, they did face several challenges getting to where they are now. These obstacles include educating the community that they exist, developing a relationship and trust with the community, and overcoming the last stronghold on tradition. The FSBDC at FAMU was able to offer some insight and help establish connections in the communities they serve.
With help from the FSBDC at FAMU, Edna and Scott produced a TV commercial for their business, the only funeral home in the area to have one. The FSBDC at FAMU also provided a detailed report on their business, showing them where and how they can improve and their goals for growing and expanding the business. Edna says they have reached every goal and dream and hopes the FSBDC at FAMU will help them continue to find ways to serve families in the community.
“We don’t have a playbook on how individuals grieve and, every individual has something that is truly is important to them and, we hope that we never miss that step and complete that and give them what they need to make the worst day of their life a little better,” Edna said. “We can only do so much to prepare for whichever service that family chooses but the nucleus of that family that is left. They need guidance in navigating living without them. We want those memories to be good, we want it to be special, and we want it to be about them.”
What sets Faith Funeral Home and Crematory stand out from other businesses is the staff’s outgoing personality and willingness to explore different ideas and opportunities that will add to the quality of their services. The owners are dedicated to reinvesting in their business for growth and success to continue working with their clients to provide the best care.
“The value, the overview, the tools, and their willingness to assist me and my business cannot be measured,” Hall-Whitehead said. “Their expert advice, encouragement, and desire to see my business become what my vision is, is something you owe yourselves as a business owner to seek out. You will find that working with the FSBDC at FAMU.”