Helping with the healing process after loss
Ryan Summerlin June 1, 2014
How did your business start?
In order to say how we started our business, I would have to look back 15 years to answer the question “Why start a business?” In 1999, while serving as missionaries in Africa, we lost our 11-year-old son Michael to malaria. “A few weeks after our son died, I created an activity to help my family share memories, connect with each other and ultimately begin the process of healing. I called it “Memories of Michael.”
In 2011 I started adapting “Memories of Michael” so that it could be used by anyone who had experienced a loss. Firstly I made many prototypes to share with people in the community (both professionals as well as others who had experienced a loss). Gradually I felt as though the 140 “conversation starter” card pack was complete. After that I worked at writing a booklet on how to use MEMORIES, adding tips for healthy grieving as well as my own story. Together my husband and I designed a beautiful gift presentation box containing the MEMORIES cards and the booklet.
What do you sell?
We sell a totally unique product called MEMORIES Share-Grieve-Heal: Your Journey Through Grief to Healing After the Loss of a Loved One. It is available in an Original version as well as a Christian version. One of my hobbies is card making, and it seemed a logical step to make a variety of handmade sympathy cards and gift cards to compliment MEMORIES so that buyers can add that personal touch when they buy MEMORIES as a gift for someone.
Unlike any book on grief, MEMORIES gives individuals and families an active way to connect, share memories of their loved one and talk about their journey of loss with others. It can be used in a family, classroom or support group setting; in partnership with grief counseling; or individually as a way of personal reflection and journaling.
What strategy do you use to hire good people?
At this point our business is a husband and wife team, but when we get to the stage where our business is flourishing enough to hire help, we will look for like-minded people in the community who share our passion for coming alongside people in their time of grief.
What is your strategy for growth in the next year?
We have started off here in the Roaring Fork Valley by giving away many free copies of MEMORIES to local chaplains, funeral directors, counselors, psychologists, pastors, grief support and hospice workers as well as two of the local libraries. Time and time again the feedback has been that it is inspirational, full of insight and hope and a wonderful gift to give to anyone who has lost a loved one. We hope it will help people celebrate and share memories of their loved one, talk about how they are coping with their loss and encourage them to find ways to honor their loved one’s life and legacy.
Right now we are working on developing our marketing skills and getting the word out that MEMORIES is available to help people grieve. Our website and Facebook pages have been a great start, but we hope to write articles and accept speaking engagements to share our story.
Long term we see great potential for MEMORIES to be translated into other languages, adapted for a variety of losses and settings: for example the loss of a parent, loss of a child, loss of a spouse, for the loss of someone serving in the military as well as a social services edition, youth edition (for use in a classroom setting), hospice edition (focusing on anticipatory grief) and an electronic edition.
What is the best thing about running a business here?
This valley feels like a small village in many ways, where people are very supportive of each other and genuinely want to help others when they experience a loss. MEMORIES is a wonderfully supportive tool for them to give as a condolence gift and because of its adaptability it is suitable for almost every loss and every age group.