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Upsize Growth Challenge: Foreverence

As their father was aging, the children of a design engineer for NASA approached Foreverence with the idea of creating a custom urn in the shape of a space shuttle.

Once their father was on board, the kids presented him with the urn. They sent CEO Pete Saari a video showing the man laughing and expressing excitement about sharing it with his friends in the senior home.

“When was the last time someone said that about an urn? Probably never,” Saari said during the Growth Challenge public event, held at the Minneapolis Club in October “Death and dying is inherently sad. Every website associated with this product or service wants to take a sad event and make it even a little sadder. We feel like our role is to give people a little bit of a break from that. As weird as it is people seem to have fun with it and find some joy in it.”

Saari got the idea for Foreverence a few years ago while reading an article in Time magazine that indicated half the country’s dying are now opting for cremation over burial, with further increases projected in the years ahead. Foreverence uses 3D printing to create the custom urns, which are designed in consultation with family members to represent the deceased person’s interests. “Every family has a story to tell,” he says.

Maple Grove-based Foreverence has had some significant

successes since opening, among them being chosen to build the Paisley Park urn used to house the remains of Prince. Several other celebrities, including Scott Weiland, Bob Casale and Lemmy Kilmister, have been memorialized via the company’s urns, which has been a public relations coup, Saari says.

There also have been some challenges. Incorporated in 2014, Foreverence started out trying to sell to funeral homes -- an industry that claimed to really like the product but that moved slowly enough in adopting it that the company grew frustrated.

“I half-jokingly say they did us a great disservice by liking the product as much as they did,” Saari says.

While growth through that channel languished, the 3D printing industry got excited about having a consumer product to market. Growth in the business-to-consumer segment started increasing almost by accident, he adds. So, in 2017, Foreverence officials stopped attending funeral home trade shows and started focusing on marketing to affinity group events with passionate attendees such as the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, the Miami Yacht Show and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

“We finally decided we’re going to make a full pivot here and leave the industry and become a straight up direct-to-consumer brand,” Saari says.