Rely on your own instinct and don’t automatically assume you need the advice and counsel of others. While I strongly believe in surrounding yourself with good, quality, trusted people and advisors, ultimately your gut is your strongest ally. For me, I recognized the world of jewelry was a whole new realm for me. It’s easy to convince yourself that your inexperience requires you to seek the input of others at every juncture. You need to strike a balance between deciphering the best advice from the best people and trusting your own instinct.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Graziano, Attorney (CT), Licensed Funeral Director (NY), Radio Show Host and Jewelry Designer.
Jen has carried her family’s legacy into the 4th generation. A fixture at the funeral home since her early years, she has embraced the call to service and has taken her work outside the confines of the funeral home into the community at large. She understands the delicate balance of providing dignity and service to the deceased while comforting and caring for the living. She is a frequent lecturer and panelist discussing senior issues in the community. She is the host of a weekly radio program on WVOX, “Time to Talk” focusing on sensitive issues of advanced planning and the creator of “Coming of Age Magazine”, which further touches on those issues. She’s recently created a line of memorial jewelry, RememBar, which allows you to carry the ones you love with you wherever you go.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’d like to say my life’s work chose me. I grew up shadowing my father at his funeral home and recognized early on he was doing something of great importance and worth. To my parents credit, they discouraged me from “falling into” the generational trap of a family business but rather encouraged me to explore other gifts and talents. I graduated from college and later, law school, but the funeral home is where I felt my heart longed to be.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Every funeral director has a book waiting to be written. The stories that collectively add up over time are often ones that would seem beyond belief. I’ve noticed many changes during my tenure in the funeral home. Among the greatest changes, and perhaps the saddest, is the emotional detachment of family members arranging for funerals of elder loved ones. Adult children often seek to equivocate and justify their decision to forgo having a traditional funeral, merely because of convenience. I consider myself an old soul which is hard to be in this new world.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I live by many mantras. Most especially; this too shall pass, always do what’s right even if its not easy or convenient and give your all to all you do. I’m also a big believe in no excuses; always do what needs to be done. Above all, I believe that love lives on, death only marks a physical separation.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
I designed quality, aesthetically attractive jewelry to hold cremated remains, a lock of hair or a favorite perfume scent of the deceased. I believe that wearing this jewelry is a tangible reminder of the loved one you lost while also offering the comfort that they are always with you. This is a product that helps heal.
How do you think this will change the world?
I believe this product will enable people who struggle with loss to keep going. I believe the tangible comfort of knowing your loved one remains with you will enable those who are riddled with grief, to begin the healing process.
I think the biggest drawback is the taboo nature of death. Death and dying are not among the topics we are most apt to discuss. Although the product has a minimal aesthetic, nor does it look like anything other than a beautiful piece of jewelry, there may be some drawback to know what the collection holds and is intended for.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
For me, the idea was prompted by the rise in cremation that is sweeping across the nation. I noticed the void for quality engineered memorial jewelry as well as a market that was lacking quality design.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
I need people to let down their guard and be willing to engage in discussions that may be uncomfortable. Death is a part of life, and when we discuss it and move past our fears, we can create meaningful and memorable tributes for those we love
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- This is a time-consuming project- I had operated three funeral homes before I began this endeavor, so time management is tough. As the success of the company is growing, so too is the time commitment. Oh, and I’m a single mom of a 9-year-old girl, so there is lots of juggling and balancing required.
- Success doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve pitched the idea to other funeral homes, media, and jewelry industry names and was often met with no response. It can be discouraging, but the only way to stay the course is to truly believe in what you are doing.
- There is an emotional impact on clients who purchase the pieces. While there is an instant comfort, there is also almost always an instant flowing of tears. When I watch people open the box of jewelry, I’m reminded the emotional weight of this jewelry collection. Unlike opening another necklace or bracelet, there is a bittersweet sentiment that accompanies a RememBar purchase.
- I unexpectedly lost my mom not long after the launch of the collection. As I’m struggling with my personal grief, I’m thrust into a business that is rooted in grief and healing. There is a painful dichotomy of helping others deal with their losses while my own heart is aching. They say there’s healing in helping others. While I find it personally gratifying, I also believe it has caused me to double down on my own sadness.
- Rely on your own instinct and don’t automatically assume you need the advice and counsel of others. While I strongly believe in surrounding yourself with good, quality, trusted people and advisors, ultimately your gut is your strongest ally. For me, I recognized the world of jewelry was a whole new realm for me. It’s easy to convince yourself that your inexperience requires you to seek the input of others at every juncture. You need to strike a balance between deciphering the best advice from the best people and trusting your own instinct.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Staying on top of deadlines is key. Procrastination is an easy trap to fall into but you must fight it in order to stay ahead. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. I also encourage people to believe in what’s possible rather than being discouraged by what they think is not. More things are possible than you realize.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
RememBar is a product that is relevant in today’s world. Death is the common denominator that unites us all. We will all lose someone we love and why would we not want to be comforted by the knowledge of their ongoing love and presence?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@shopremembar on Instagram. @rememBarcollection on Facebook.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.