What’s the difference between a business fueled by profit margins, and a business fueled by heart?
The answer? Eterneva, a cremation diamond business founded by young-and-refreshing entrepreneurs, Adelle Archer and Garrett Ozar.
Eterneva is on a mission to radically redefine the way we memorialize our loved ones.
How do they do it?
I had the chance to sit down with co-founder Adelle Archer and find out the magic that has helped her create a wildly successful start-up, score a place on Inc’s ‘30 Under 30’, and change the way people relate to grief and death.
This interview is one not to miss — check it out below:
How did Eterneva get started?
Garrett and I have known each other for years — we met in Austin, working in tech. I was in marketing and he was in sales. We were both incredibly entrepreneurial people and we’re just wired that way. He started previous businesses and I had my MBA in entrepreneurship, so it was just a matter of time before the right thing crossed our paths.
We originally were just getting into the lab diamond industry — it’s very up and coming. It wasn’t about end-of-life yet necessarily. We were just interested in creating diamonds ourselves, so we know where they came from. It’s a cool space to be in, and right around that time is when my mentor Tracy, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Tell us more about your mentor, Tracy, who inspired Eterneva.
You know how you have maybe 1 or 2 people who invest in you in an extraordinary way, and you look back and say “wow, this person shaped me”? She was that for me for sure. When someone that important passes away too soon, you want to do something special for them.
I thought gosh, what do I do? Her family sent me some of her ashes. I didn’t want an urn (nothing against urns). But it just didn’t feel like it was Tracy. And one day, I was having dinner with a diamond scientist, and he suggested extracting the carbon from the ashes to try and make a real diamond with that carbon. That resonated so much for Tracy. She was such a force of nature – bright, brilliant – so there was nothing I could think of that represented her better.
And that’s when you (accidentally) created Eterneva?
Definitely. From my experience, I started to think that maybe other people would be interested in this, too. Garret and I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of innovation happening in this space yet, so it was a very serendipitous pivot for both of us. We thought about how meaningful it was, for not only us, but for those we could impact. It’s truly a blessing when you dream up a business that’s not just a great business, but also something that means the world to you, and kind of becomes a calling.
Sounds like an amazing business idea! Tell us, what kind of customers does Eterneva attract?
A lot of people still don’t know that what we do is an option. So every time an article gets published about us, someone calls us and is so glad that we are offering this. A lot of customers rave about us, and they talk to other people, so our referrals are very strong as well. We’re starting to see the ripple effect of the PR and word-of-mouth.
And as for our customer type, we definitely don’t have an ordinary customer. And we’re incredibly lucky, because you don’t just make a diamond for just anyone. It’s always an amazing person. We hear these incredible stories about these amazing, inspiring people and how the family wants to keep their loved one’s legacy alive. I feel like we become better humans by just picking up the phone, talking to our customers, and understanding who this person who is becoming a diamond is, and why they earned a diamond.
Can you explain more about your process of creating a diamond for the loved one?
Creating a diamond is a long process. It takes around 8-10 months. And during that time, we usually have at least two updates a month, where we’re sending them pictures and videos of the process. It’s completely personalized. And we found ways to scale that with technology, but it’s still personalized. So many customers tell us that by the end of the process, their journey of grief feels so supported.
When you lose someone important to you, like the love of your life, you have nothing to look forward to. Whereas when you start a journey like this one, you’re getting positive and bright updates two times a month. It becomes a bright spot in your life to look forward to. It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel – a homecoming of sorts in… 8 to 10 months.
The journey is just as powerful as the diamond. Most other products out there you purchase… and then you’re done. Creating a diamond for your loved one is different – it’s like initiating a journey. It’s a much difference experience for the customer.
On a larger scale, how has the creation of Eterneva affected the funeral profession?
We started our business with a focus on the customer. For us, that’s a fundamental principle of being a business that creates and innovates something very valuable for its people. You have to be really focused on and close with your customer. So that’s been our sole focus. Having those conversations with the consumer directly. We’re building our brand by sharing all of these beautiful stories with the world.
Through this process, one of the key things we’ve learned along the way is about our culture and how it processes and approaches grief. We’re gaining insight on how to change the conversation about grief and teach people how to engage with their grief.
In the long run, we see this having an impact on the death industry. We don’t intend to make any changes from the outside in, but maybe as a side effect of what we’re doing. I think a lot of consumers in every industry want options. A lot of consumers are going outside of the traditional channels to see how they want to celebrate their loved one. So that’s a call for funeral homes to figure out how they play into this new consumer behavior.
Our feedback from our customers is that a lot of people don’t have a great experience at a funeral home. They don’t walk away feeling inspired. We could do better at taking care of people and thinking about the experience we provide them. The tone we bring into the conversation.
There are so many wonderful funeral directors out there though that we know that we haven’t had enough face to face time with, and we look forward to working with them. I’m looking forward to working more closely with them, and so is Garrett.
Tell us more about what you’ve learned about the grief journey.
To be honest, we didn’t start with a very traditional foundation of grief therapy and grief psychology. We know there’s a lot of great content out there. But we kind of learned our own way as we’ve gone and it’s really important to us that we set a different tone. We want to be bright, positive, caring, humble.
When someone calls us, we don’t talk about diamonds. We just sit them down and ask them to tell us about their loved one. What made them special? You wouldn’t decide to make a diamond for just anyone. We focus on unpacking stories with them. It’s such a breath of fresh air because everyone around them is so somber and morose and handling them differently. Everyone wants to know how their loved one died, or they’re tip toeing around talking about their loved one. But we just go straight into it, and I think our customers appreciate that so much.
It sounds like you offer something very refreshing and healing. What would you say is your magic sauce in the grief journey?
Our customers know they can be real with us, but they also know that we’ll re-frame them as well. If their focus is more about how the death happened, we try and reframe them and ask them about the best parts about their loved one. Our whole journey as we go is a celebration of their life.
That’s not to say we don’t believe in being sad when grieving. But a lot of people try to rush grief by saying “you’ll get over it in a couple months”. We don’t believe that. We really encourage our customers to have a grief counselor. And we aren’t grief counselors, but we’re very respectful of that process.
The reason we do this is because usually, after the funeral, everyone around them stops talking about the loved one, and that can be really difficult. Especially for parents who lost kids. No one wants to touch that topic. That’s the hardest thing for parents – not talking about their child. But with Eterneva, we do. We tell their stories on instagram. We’ll randomly text them on their kid’s birthday.
What happens if someone isn’t very open during their grief journey?
Sometimes, we have some customers that can barely talk to us on the phone. And we let them know that we can adjust to their level of comfort. We’ll say, “if you wouldn’t mind, we would love if you could send us a picture of your loved one”. And then the person will text us back and send a flood of 30 images. They really appreciate it.
This situation is also naturally supported by a tradition we have, that we call the inauguration. At the Eterneva office, we inaugurate the loved one by putting their photo onto our wall. On top of that, we’ll have the employee that is working with that loved one’s family introduce the loved one to the whole team. They’ll tell their story so everyone knows who they’re creating for.
On top of that, we send a video of us sharing the loved one’s story to the family, too. The family is always so blown away that our entire office knows their loved one’s story. In this way, everyone in our office gets to know every loved one by name. We post their pictures on our wall. It’s a beautiful, and fun process!
Beautiful. Can you share with us a real life story of your process at Eterneva?
Sure, this one is about Jackie and her daughter Katie. When Jackie came to us, she had just lost her child. There’s nothing more therapeutic than talking about your child with someone who wants to listen.
She told us that Katie was born in Hawaii and her favorite color was blue, so we did a blue diamond for her. Jackie also shared that Katie had the most upbeat, sweet personality so we picked a cushion cut which makes the diamond as shiny as she was. She also loved vintage jewelry, so we found a gorgeous vintage ring and had it custom made for her. It’s a powerful conversation piece.
But more importantly, it’s a way for Katie to still feel included in the family milestones. During our conversations with Jackie, we realized that Jackie was very upset that Katie couldn’t see her brothers get married. But now, with the creation of Katie’s diamond, she can carry Katie around wherever she goes.
She can be present at the wedding and all of these important family milestones. It’s so meaningful to have a piece of her with her at all of these events. And when people see Jackie’s ring with Katie’s diamond on it, people will say wow what a beautiful ring. And Jackie will be able to say, “yea, that’s my daughter, Katie”.
This story points to a strong WHY behind Eterneva. Speaking of, what is Eterneva’s mission?
We eternalize the remarkable. That entails making sure that these unbelievable people that we hear about every single day are not forgotten with a super skimpy obituary that loses all color around who the loved one really was. We see it as our responsibility to eternalize remarkable people and ensure that the richness of their story is passed down through the generations. Not just the facts about where they were born and where they died.
What an epic mission. Where do you see it bringing you in 5 years?
Future product development could help us really fuel our mission. It’s too early to see what that will take, there’s a lot of work to be done. But, I am really looking forward to having a conversation on a national level; bringing death out of the closet that you never talk about,. We want to allow people to share content and videos and feel inspired by the incredible life stories of we come across every single day. Reflecting that back into the world would be very beneficial for our culture and that’s really where I want to be in 5 years.
Summing it all up
It was so refreshing to sit down with Adelle and hear about how a successful heart-based business works behind the scenes. We’re so inspired by Adelle, and if you are too, feel free to give her and her biz, Eterneva a follow.
If you want to give Adelle or Eterneva a follow, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn at @eterneva. Her personal Instagram and Twitter handle is @adellearcher. You can also visit their website here.