A coffin is a funerary box used for viewing or keeping a corpse, either for burial or cremation. A coffin manufacturing business manufactures and sells coffins.
Value Proposition / Market Need
In many cultures burying people in coffins is an acceptable and dignified way to bury those who have passed on.
Business Model / Your Solution
The first thing to decide when getting into the coffin business is should you manufacture? Do you have the resources? Even though I advocate starting with what you have, this is a business that benefits from scale (and capital), even if you have equipment and skills you need premises rental, maybe some more equipment, raw materials to build the coffins, money to pay staff and most importantly marketing (this is where this business succeeds or fails, making coffins is not hard selling it is), whether via a salesperson or advertising. Doing it at scale is capital intensive. And competitive with existing competition.
If you research this industry and study the supply and value chain, you will find various opportunities. In the supply chain, there is the supply of raw materials, then the manufacturing, possible wholesale and retail opportunity. In the value chain, there is the supply of equipment, the skills to manufacture. And then there are the opportunities in logistics, delivering raw materials and coffins.
Smuse dictates the least resources you have the further down the chain you start, starting with retail, wholesale and then manufacture. In retail, all you need is a vehicle to link manufacturer and client and you can make a profit right away, R500 – R1000 at a time. Whereas should you manufacture there will be a while before you break even.
You can also link up with other people not as a partnership, more as a collaboration, you have the skills and equipment, someone puts up the money for raw materials and one person does the sales and delivery. But due to human nature, this hardly works outside of a controlled program, I don’t know if it’s a South African thing that we are just bad, but a lot of foreigners in our country seem to be doing better at this.
As a small business starting out with very little that still wants to manufacture, the way forward is, let’s assume you have the equipment and the skills to build and have space in your garage then you need to adopt what they call a “differentiation” or premium strategy, you can’t really be low-cost or compete on price, you have to specialise in a narrow niche. Custom coffins, flashier, unique designs and sizes. But then you need to be able to have the skills to pull it off and obviously samples that you can show people or photograph. And your marketing still needed, but you don’t have to sell to or via funeral companies you can sell directly to the family. The custom business will all you to make a deposit to buy raw materials and you just have to deliver on time (obviously important). Making cheap coffins in your garage can also be done but will extremely arduous.
Let’s say you do want to manufacture (operating under the assumption that you know how to make a coffin, sizes, designs, etc.), the industry supply chain is: raw materials (wood and whatever else is needed) -> retailer -> Consumer. In other words, there is no wholesaler. The retailer in this context is the funeral parlour. So you manufacturers usually sell to the funeral parlour (or burial society) who adds a markup and sells it to the family of the deceased.
Now there are two ways to approach competition, you can be cheaper or you can be better (and charge a premium). But let’s say you can be neither, you cannot make a cheaper coffin using the same materials as your competitor (and so the funeral parlour won’t buy from you) and you can’t source the rare materials needed to make premium coffins. Then unlike your competitor, you have to change your target market from B2B to B2C and sell directly to the family.
Supply Value Logistics
Supply Chain: Supply of raw materials > Manufacture > Wholesale > Retail
Value Chain (manufacture): Skills: Woodworking, Equipment: Woodworking Tools, Materials: Wood, handles, varnish, paint etc.,
Logistics: Transport of raw materials, delivery of coffins from manufacture to buyer
Image credit: Nabokov, Sbharris