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B2B ID: Jenny Bourgeois, one of three owners, Art from Ashes, Amherst

NAME: Jenny Bourgeois

JOB TITLE,COMPANY: One of three co-owners, Art From Ashes, LLC, Amherst

WEBSITE: www.artfromashes.com

AGE: 50


WHAT YOU DO: Art From Ashes offers a unique alternative to memorializing loved ones. Co-owners Jane Giat, Deb Brown and I work with juried glass artists to create and sell handcrafted glass sculptures or jewelry that incorporates a small amount of human or pet cremated ashes for unique,loving memorials. Clients can order from our website or in our Amherst office, where they can view the many sample remembrances we have on display.

EXPERIENCE: Prior to starting the business, I worked in human resources for a Fortune 500 Company. Deb worked in the customer service and travel businesses, and Jane worked as a clinical social worker.

THE MARKET: Our primary market is people who have lost a loved one or beloved animal and have had them cremated. We also receive orders from funeral homes and pet care professionals on behalf of their bereaved clients. Because we are located in Amherst, we have a large client base in western Mass. However, because of our Internet presence, we have clients throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

HOW YOU REACH OUT TO IT: Participate in trade shows, social media marketing, connect with funeral homes and pet professionals.

WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? In order to remain financially stable, we have built our business very slowly. It has been a constant challenge balancing financial investment and advertising with market growth.

KEY TO SUCCESS: We have built a reputation of thoughtful, empathetic customer service. Much of our business comes from repeat customers or previous customers’ recommendations. We are extremely proud of this. We were very fortunate to have been featured in a Newsweek article, “Thinking Outside the Urn,” and on WGBY in a program called “Making It Here.” We were also voted Executive Forum’s “Most Unique Business” in 2010.

CHALLENGES: Increasing market share while not becoming so big that we lose our perspective and one-on-one customer service.

MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Spending time and money on trade shows that have had no impact on our business. For example, we traveled down to Maryland for a three-day pet show. We were clearly not the right kind of business for that market. We realized zero benefit from a fairly large expense.

WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: We spent large amounts of time writing on our website about our products, pricing, etc. We have learned that rarely do people take the time to read it. We spend more time answering questions, both verbal and written, of prospective clients that have been already explained on our website. Although we feel that it’s important to have the information available to everyone, we probably didn’t need to agonize over its creation.

WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY: Lynn Kendall of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network and York Mayo, retired executive and Pynchon Award recipient, and Sandi Coyne of Bay Path College.

TOP GOALS FOR 2013:Increase presence in national publications and social media. Research and develop marketing strategies.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: Whatever you do, remain passionate about your product and feel that you are adding value to others.

PARTING THOUGHT: With each of our beautifully created and packaged remembrances, we include a card that sums up our thoughts: “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

This B2B ID was compiled by Jamie Faulkner, a student at Westfield State University who is doing an internship with Beetle Press in Easthampton. Beetle Press offers writing, editing and graphic design services. www.beetlepress.com. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at beetlepress@charter.net.

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