Artists Chris and Shelley Harvan created Memento Memorials to provide handmade, heartfelt cremation urns for those looking for modern and personalized memorialization keepsakes.
We caught up with Chris to learn more about the couple and their business as they get ready to present in the culminating showcase of our summer 2021 Small Business Impact Program cohort.
How did you get your idea or concept for your business?
My wife and I started making remembrance artwork as a way to cope with loss. The notion of it becoming a vocation expanded into an effort to provide cremation urns that are contemporary in style while soothing to touch to those in need.
What motivated you to apply for the Impact Program?
Memento reached milestones that pulled it out of side hustle into profitability and I found myself completely unprepared for how to transition and leverage that success. My formal fine art training included a business class but it did not cover things like financial projections. Even when some of the classes covered concepts that I was familiar with, formally putting answers to “paper” makes them actionable and that is powerful.
What is something that you learned during your time in the Impact Program that made a difference in your business right away?
Our paths in this field and in our profession are atypical and are almost always out in uncharted waters. The death care industry doesn’t like outsiders and reacts poorly to change. We would not be the first craft-oriented startup to break upon its bulwarks. Our peculiar set of skills, and certainty that there is a hunger for products like ours, have kept us at it through some really difficult times. The study and exercises in this program brought us validation and certainty in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.
What was your favorite or most enjoyable part of your time in the program?
My mentors Paul Vincent and Lorne Novick were really the best. I know I will still have access to them, but I wish they could be part of my week forever.
Working on milestones really excited me. Milestones and tasks in a traditional calendar are good for reminders but being able to see them laid out visually makes their relationship more tangible in one’s mind.
My favorite segment was financial projections. I immediately saw how powerful a tool it is for planning near and short term. While it took me a bit of time and a significant handhold to understand what went where, getting the numbers in place was like being granted mythic powers. I understand my business in a way now that makes me want to stand on top of a mountain with a sword screaming maniacally that “I have the power!!!!!”
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you’re excited about the prospect of always having to expand your skills and are willing to fail even if you’re afraid, this lifestyle might be for you. Even for those who entrepreneurship is natural and easy, there are times that it is still going to really hurt.
It’s harder than being an employee, but it is more fulfilling than toiling at someone else’s vision or lack thereof.