When deciding to start a business you will often face a dilemma, also known as the passion vs. profits debate: do you choose a business because of the potential for making money from it, or because you like it? Often times people want to start a business doing something they enjoy doing or something that makes them happy, choosing passion over profits.

But will it be viable when you’re in a much loved but unprofitable business? If not, how long will your passion last for your business when you making no money?

Where am I going with this? There are certain industries that are more sustainable than others, but they are the type that we often don’t like to think about, like death.

In South Africa the funeral business is estimated to be around R9 billion a year and like the wedding and security industry in SA there are lots of opportunities for the small business owner. From printing flyers, flower arrangements, transport, catering, chair and tent rental and one of the most lucrative: coffin manufacturing.

The coffin business
The coffin business like those mentioned above, is essentially a subcontracting business. Funeral directors will need various services to bury someone.

Getting started
To get started in this business you will need some woodworking skills (or hire someone with the skills) and either do a lot of research or take a training course.

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) guidelines specify the materials that should be used. The leakage of bodily fluids from a coffin is one of the things to prevent (it should be waterproof). You can download the SABS guidelines over here (PDF).

Making the coffin
Coffins are usually made to seven sizes and some oversize for obese people. Coffins for the obese person must be reinforced to hold their height as well and will cost more.  As depressing as it sounds you will be making coffins for stillborn babies and infants but remember a coffin is just a wooden box and every person that passes and is buried needs to be buried in a coffin.

The tools aren’t very expensive compared to other wood making businesses (you can use basic hand tools). Necessary tools include:
Circular hand saw
Sander
Drill
Compressor and spray gun
Measuring tools like tap meausre

Manufacturing process
Most coffin manufactures use templates and jigs (a frame for holding your work and guiding the tools you use) for each of the different sizes (at least seven as mentioned above) this allows you to efficiently make up the various pieces that make up the coffin. Without the jig templates you cannot make the templates needed to build your coffins quickly and cost effectively.
There are some coffin plans on the internet if you starting your business without training or support. You should also get familiar with various different types of wood and wood staining.

Know the basics
A burial box for a cremation funeral is different to one for a grave burial
Coffins with flat lids will be cheaper to make than dome coffin designs
Better quality wood and trimmings will also cost more

Marketing the business
As mentioned above you are essentially subcontracting to the funeral director, and that is how you should market your services – to funeral directors. Take photos of the coffins you offer and make pamphlets to give to funeral directors.

A coffin making business can be started with limited space and basic tools. There is also a shortage of affordable coffins in South Africa and if you can keep you costs low you can make a lot of money and help families bury their loved ones in a respectable manner.

How to Build a Coffin on YouTube

Image credit: funeralzone


You have a business idea, where to next?
How to Start a Business from Business Idea