Running a funeral parlor is not one of the businesses that many people may think about. In Kenya for instance, there are few of such firms as the majority of morgues are managed by public hospitals.
However, over years there are private companies that have been established to tap into this lucrative market. These firms offer a variety of services such as hearses, videography, photography and burial equipment in order to offer a befitting sendoff to the dead.
Across the boundary, a Kenyan has carved a niche for himself and is the founder of an ultra-modern funeral parlor called Bedford Funeral Home in Texas, USA. This is the story of John Richard Ng’ang’a as told by whownskenya.
Born in Kiambu, shelved his dream of becoming a pilot
Ng’ang’a hails from Karimoni, Kiambu county but was mostly raised in Nairobi. He attended Parklands High School and thereafter flew to the US with an ambition of being a pilot.
However, he didn’t find the career an exciting thing for him as he told journalist Alex Chamwada in a past interview. This forced Ng’ang’a to venture into forensic science and specialised in mortuary science.
While at school, he got employed as a carwash attendant for 1 year, then later as a security man. It was his later job that enabled him to save enough money while he also undertook his studies.
“The security job here is not like at home. You stay in an office building, your work is to make sure that taps are not overflowing. You’re more of a caretaker. I loved it because it saved me a lot of money,” says Ng’ang’a in a recent interview.
During his night shifts, Ng’ang’a concentrated on his job while sparing some time for studies. For his clinical attachment, he worked at a corporate funeral home, a matter that not only honed his skills but influenced him into putting up his business. He recalls that he had not touched a body before yet he quickly adapted to what would be his next venture.
Establishing Bedford Funeral Home
The industrious entrepreneur used his savings to acquire the premises and applied for licenses and inspection which took him a full year for approval. During his first year of operations, he only managed to handle one or two bodies a month.
By the time of this publication, Ng’ang’a says his facility is capable of handling more than 20 bodies monthly. Bedford Funeral Home does embalming, autopsy and sells caskets to clients. The variety of coffins are priced differently with the cheapest costing $1600 and some as high as $ 4500. The firm also has a chapel with a capacity of 100 people.
The entrepreneur says his business has been rewarding but is quick to point out that they don’t reap from deaths, rather they’re concerned about the bereaved.
“We don’t have low seasons, and we don’t pray for work. There’s more to this business than just to receive dead bodies. We are concerned about the bereaved,” he says.
Building Connections In Africa
Bedford Funeral Home handles people from diverse races. The funeral parlor has been able to offer affordable services in a professional manner. He has built connections with funeral homes across Africa. An example is Lee Funeral Home which receives bodies from Bedford Funeral Home at an agreed partnership fee.
According to Ng’ang’a, the 8 year old facility has been charging clients based on packages as opposed to daily charges which would make it expensive for some clients. Previously, they charged clients intending to ship their loved ones to Kenya a fixed $ 11665. However, recently, the price has been adjusted to $13000 owing to an increase in operating costs. The package goes into shipping, storage at a local funeral home and transfer to the burial destination.
It has not been all rosy for Ng’ang’a as he says he has had to deal with around 5 cases where people abandoned bodies at his facility and left for good. He also recalls an instance where he transferred a body to Kenya and couldn’t trace relatives of the deceased as there was a communication hitch. As a result, he incurred extra costs while the body was at Lee Funeral Home.
John Richard Ng’ang’a says the future for Bedford Funeral Home is to now expand to a larger facility. For him, this business is a calling and he has now brought in his daughter into managing some activities at the facility.