Podcast Transcript – Series THREE, Episode 49
Keara Kindelynn, foreverly May 2022
[00:00:00] Keara Kindelynn: A lot of my role has been just validating feelings. Who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t feel angry or upset or guilty or shameful or any of those things. And that’s kind of what I love about this space, no matter what you believe, no matter your religion, your race, none of that matters at the end of life. If we only gave people enough grace, every day, then we do at the end of life. Think of the last time you had so many care about lose a loved one, you likely stumbled over what to say, what to do, how to approach it. You knew you needed to do something though, right? Like you really needed to at least acknowledge it, flowers, food. In what I’ve come to find just through lots of insights is the flowers. The casseroles are great, but there are so many other practical things that people need.
[00:00:44] Dan: What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. That was Keara Kindelynn and Founder and CEO of Foreverly, a company with a mission to make dealing with death a little less stressful. Foreverly helps [00:01:00] organizations support their employees who have experienced the death of a loved one.
[00:01:03] Keara was born to a family with deep roots to her hometown of Brooklyn. She emerged from college and business school, finding the corporate ladder, leading all the way to Seattle and Microsoft.
[00:01:12] But it was her calling to volunteering and service that led her to the world of hospice end of life, and the underserved season of bereavement. Keara saw that the passing of a loved one is an unguided, stressful, and dysfunctional experience for those grieving, and for those who want to support. It’s from this transformative, understanding that Foreverly was born.
[00:01:32] We spoke with Keara recently just after finishing the Techstars program. She has a great story. You’ll want to listen in.
[00:01:38] Our episode is sponsored by Trajectory Startup: Ideation to Product Market Fit. This book is authored by entrepreneur and investor, Dave Parker. It’s one of the best guides out there for those at the earliest stages of the startup journey to get Dave’s book today, look for a link in the show notes, or simply go to dkparker.com, amazon.com or anywhere you like to buy your [00:02:00] books.
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[00:02:30] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya, let’s get on it. Today, we have Keara Kindelynn in founder and CEO of Foreverly, a company with a mission to make dealing with death a little less stressful. Foreverly helps organizations support their employees who have experienced the death of a loved [00:03:00] one. Welcome to the show Keara. We’re super excited to have you on. Thanks for making the time.
[00:03:04] Keara Kindelynn: Oh, absolutely. So excited to be here as well.
[00:03:06] Dan: All right. So to get started, I gave a little overview, but please help the listeners understand what Foreverly really is exactly.
[00:03:14] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah. So, you know, oftentimes when I tell people I’m building a company centered on death, they often, you know, gas like, wait, what do you mean? How could someone have the capacity to do that? And it really comes from my passion to help people experience and welcome the space to heal. You know, if I think about life moments, so many of them are celebratory from having a baby, buying a home, getting married in death is pretty significant, but so. And there are so many people I’ve learned who are walking around really missing a loved one and that’s not being addressed.
[00:03:49] Right. And there’s so many reasons for that at this taboo, and we’re afraid of our mortality and I can go on and on about that. But yeah, Foreverly’s whole purpose is to stand behind those who have [00:04:00] lost a loved one and help support them as they figure out how to adjust to their new lifestyle, without them.
[00:04:05] Dan: It’s one of those things where it’s that a hot moment when you hear about it? Like, yeah, of course this is complicated and stressful and grieving is such a personal journey. And yet administratively the world wants you to sort of react in certain ways. So it sounds like an awesome, awesome, impactful company. But before we dig more into Foreverly, let’s hear a little bit about Keara. So tell us where you’re from. Where did you grow up?
[00:04:32] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah, I am from Brooklyn. I am from Brooklyn, New York, born and raised a lineage of Brooklyn nights and my parents, my grandparents. So it’s wild to come so far from hailing, from the good old streets of Brooklyn.
[00:04:47] Dan: Awesome. So that’s a pretty cool lineage to be that many generations from Brooklyn. Did you grow up in a community that was predominantly black or was it kind of a mixed [00:05:00] neighborhood or what was that experience?
[00:05:02] Keara Kindelynn: I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, went to predominantly black schools, my entire like early life elementary, junior high, high school.
[00:05:11] I had great experiences from like the movies, like the black parties hanging out in the summertime that ice cream trucks coming by the fire hydrants with the water glowing, like what you see in the movies this life. And it was amazing. Cause I was just so happy and yeah, a lot of that does impact me today.
[00:05:26] Dan: Yeah, that sounds like a super supportive environment. And do you have any entrepreneurs in your family?
[00:05:32] Keara Kindelynn: Great question. Both my mom and dad have had in have small businesses and I took it for granted at the time. Right. Not realizing what that meant. My mom’s. She would paint. That was always where she found solace. She’d stay up late at night and I can never understand why, but she’d be up painting. And, you know, she ran that business has sold work. My dad as well, he actually is currently running a business, helping people secure their packages in New York. And they are [00:06:00] definitely been a huge influence on what it means to have an idea and actually see it through and figure out what it is that you can do to.
[00:06:08] Dan: I love that people underestimate, I think the influence, especially on the small business side, because it is business and a microcosm it’s like real business. Like you gotta make more money than you spend. You know, you gotta be able to have customers and meet their needs and delight them. And it’s really sort of that great raw essence of business. When you were growing up, did you have interests that echoed business or were you more into traditional, like sports or music or anything like that.
[00:06:36] Keara Kindelynn: Growing up. I was on the debate team. I loved the beat. I thought I was going to be a lawyer at some point, but that I didn’t love reading that much. In terms of the literature that’s needed to go to law school. I did have like smart things. Like I did the garage sale, right. Set up a table in front of the student.
[00:06:54] Fair, not a garage. You don’t have to live in Brooklyn or not many. And so stuff from the [00:07:00] house. And that was kind of my first. It’s like experience, really understanding, oh, I can make money off a thing. That was awesome. I think overall I was the kid that my parents never limited what I could do. And I love that.
[00:07:12] I often say they never applied it. My curiosity, if Karen wanted to try something, she try it. And that intrinsic motivation coupled with their love. It was golden growing up in a situation where neither my parents had gone to college and I was able to succeed in a way that was comfortable to me. And I could choose what I wanted to do versus being forced to pick something. But yeah, the early adult, Keara, I wouldn’t have never saw myself where I am now. That is for sure.
[00:07:38] Dan: That’s awesome. I mean, what a gift to have this environment of people, of color and community, and then parents that are supportive of a curious mind. That’s awesome. So when you were thinking about coming out of high school and going to college, did you have a sense of what you thought you wanted to do or what you wanted to pursue?
[00:07:58] Keara Kindelynn: Not a clue. You know, [00:08:00] I will always say access and exposure is so important. You know, while my parents gave me the freedom of doing what I wanted to decide. They knew at least how to expose or give me access to things. I mean, at this age now I’m like mind blown by the number of things that can change your whole entire trajectory. And at that time, my parents, you know, they gave me love, which is like foundationally. I. Leaving high school. I know I wanted to go to college and actually I knew I wanted to go to a predominantly white university because I had spent my life.
[00:08:31] I didn’t know that really how mature decision to make, but I was like, I want to see world in a different way. I want it to experience something completely new. And I had no idea what I was going to study. I knew it was going to be a liberal arts though. I always pick the thing that gives me a lot of options.
[00:08:47] Dan: I love it. And where did you end up for college?
[00:08:49] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah, I went to the university of Maryland college park.
[00:08:52] Dan: And what was your experience like you had this, it sounds like you had a desire to enter a place that was [00:09:00] not predominantly black and you were searching for what that was like. You had a curious. How did it meet that goal of trying to understand that? And were there big surprises to that experience?
[00:09:15] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah, I think, well, first off it was going from a completely black environment, black teachers, black store workers, black, everything to a white predominant. Oh, my, you know, I had my first white roommate and just navigating. I was also very city. I was the city girl, you know, seeing the suburbs is like a joke. Even now I have caterpillars outside and my husband thinks I’m crazy, but that shift to the university of Maryland and being around all these people, if I did feel in that. I am struggling in certain classes. I had to do a lot more just that past. And that’s a lot, right? When people are flying, with true colors. But the one thing I loved about Maryland and specifically prince George’s county is that it’s a relatively great place for people of color and [00:10:00] black people are particular there. Do they do really well here? And I don’t know the stat quite frankly, but it is one of the richest black counties in America.
[00:10:08] Right. And so it was also like I was trying to adjust. New world of being around others. I also had never seen just middle-class black people and I’ll never forget going to my, one of my good friends. I met her in freshman year and I went to her home and I had never seen black people in the sixth, seven bedroom house that was astounded.
[00:10:29] And she thought nothing of it. Then that’s literally was blocked everywhere. She lived in was black people with seven, eight that. And so it was like this really weird, like double edge. Wow. You know, there are other facets that we can live. And then also I’m adjusting to being this black girl from Brooklyn at school, but it met my expectations.
[00:10:48] I think the serendipitous one was meeting my freshmen year friend and going to her home like, oh my goodness. It’s as much as I see the difference in how interacting and being around white people, Indian people was [00:11:00] absolutely. So the difference with black people as well.
[00:11:03] Dan: That’s an awesome story. Thanks for sharing that. And you know, I think that’s what college can do is it opens our eyes, you know, we grow up and usually when we grow up, I grew up like you in a certain area. And my whole life was basically there. It’s like, you think that’s what the world looks like. Right? And then you get to college and it’s like, oh, there’s people who don’t have those same beliefs or didn’t have that same experience.
[00:11:23] And you know, if you’re open-minded, you can learn about it. And it’s pretty fascinating. So you were coming out of college, it sounds like it was a great experience for you. And at this point, maybe you had some idea of what you wanted to do or was it sort of like one of those, well, I’m guess I’m done. So I got to figure out what’s next.
[00:11:41] Keara Kindelynn: I think a little bit of both. So I was very adamant about getting work experience while I was in college. So I worked a lot. I did, I did work study. I was a math tutor. I always held a job. I. Supplementary income. My father had me working since I was 10 picking weeds and washing walls for my allowance at some [00:12:00] point in time.
[00:12:00] So I knew what it meant to have a good work ethic. I sought jobs. And I say that to say, I got really interested in public relations. I love the idea of communicating my degree ended up being a communications. And I love being able to tell a story and translate the translation that sometimes needs to occur from, you know, whether that be the company to people.
[00:12:19] And so I left the university of Maryland at the height of the market crash though. So that’s where I was, uh, while I knew what I wanted to do, but it was very hard navigating that time and they actually took me a while to find a job. And when I did finally land something, it was amazing. I ended up in healthcare PR.
[00:12:36] Dan: Wow, healthcare PR. Interesting. And that makes a lot of sense communications PR what was the thing that you came to love about it? And what was the thing that you sort of realized? Hm, maybe this isn’t so great.
[00:12:48] Keara Kindelynn: Well, I can start with that part. Healthcare PR lacked creative license, right? We’re talking regulatory clinical legal, but there wasn’t anything fun about it. And when you think about PR, you’re like, oh, it’s a [00:13:00] flashy and media and you get all this cool stuff. And that wasn’t healthcare PR very necessary though. And what I did love about it is the opportunity to be that medium of translating. Here’s a cancer drug that has had, you know, this number of trials.
[00:13:14] What does that mean to the layman person? I love that part of it. And I also had started at the time Twitter kind of had just became a thing. It was so interesting being at that forefront at the same time that this, you know, now huge company was out because as a healthcare PR person, you know, you’re like tasked with figuring it out, right. I’m one of the most junior people on the team. And I think that was something from her, from my career that I loved.
[00:13:38] Dan: You know, I think that when we come out of college, we have this idealistic view of most of what the world does and the opportunities for you to fit into it. So there’s usually that resetting of like, oh, wow, this is really cool.
[00:13:52] And the other elements of like, this is what the job is. I remember going through that as an engineer, myself, thinking I’m [00:14:00] kind of redesign things and these lots of equations and, you know, it was a lot of like bookkeeping, like how much does this cost and how much does this weigh? And, you know, we’re using this material again.
[00:14:11] It’s an interesting adjustment, I think from sort of academia, which is like this mind expansion to this conformist aspect of. So tell us more about your career arc so that you eventually went to business school. Right?
[00:14:31] Keara Kindelynn: I was in healthcare PR for a, for about three years. And then I was like, okay, this isn’t really it again, I didn’t have the creativity that I wanted to really let out into the world. Piggybacking on what you said earlier on, you know, you graduated and you think the world’s this way, and then you realize a way, right?
[00:14:47] I was in New York, right. I thought I was going to have the sex in the city life. Yeah, that didn’t happen. So I said, okay, I need to get a new job that made more money and was a little bit more fulfilling. And so I actually sought out [00:15:00] HR death, applied to a few HR roles. Not really, even. What the roles were.
[00:15:07] I had an idea of what HR was. I hadn’t any didn’t have anyone to kind of mentor me, see that. So it is amazing to see myself now where I didn’t have that many people to bounce ideas off of. I really meant figured it out. So went into HR. And that was an experience. It was very different. I worked at a commercial real estate firm.
[00:15:27] Um, you want to talk about a lack of black people in any field? That is definitely one of them. And it opened up my eyes to so much. And I learned a lot about, about myself. There is the job that led me to say, I want to go back to school. I don’t know what it was. But I want to go back to school. And one of the experiences that I think was a turning point for me, I overheard a consultant that was at my job.
[00:15:49] Talk about business school, business school. Again, had no idea what business school was. I didn’t even really know what a consultant did nonetheless. And he just [00:16:00] talked it up and it was like, oh my gosh, this sounds like an amazing experience. And that’s kind of sparked me to look into, it sounds like this, the school can give me options and a great paying job.
[00:16:09] Dan: And you went to Emory, right?
[00:16:14] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah.
[00:16:15] Dan: That’s a little bit of a different environment being in the south and interesting kind of traditional campus.
[00:16:21] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah. You know, university of Maryland is a huge school. I had the big school experience and I wanted a smaller, tight, neat experience. I thrive in small environments and yeah, Emory those two years were amazing. Amazing. Again, I leaned towards a degree that gave me flexibility and I mean, an MBA, I would push on anybody. It was an opportunity just to kind of take a step back and find me again. And it led me to where I am today from just being exposed. Again, it was back being in this learning environment of people that have done amazing things, right.
[00:16:57] And know, knew certain things back of hand. [00:17:00] But my journey to business school was tough. I mean, I applied and I didn’t get in the first rounds of business school when I applied. And that was very disheartening. Right. I got, I’m always one that’s like, yes, I can do. Took another stab at it the next year and got into schools.
[00:17:15] And that was amazing, but that wasn’t without work. Right. I have a liberal arts background, so I was like, okay, take the accounting classes, take the statistics classes. And I say that because oftentimes people will look and say, oh, she’s so accomplished. But the truth of the matter is there were some lows, right?
[00:17:31] Out of school and having to sit in a community college class. Cause I couldn’t grasp the county and I still hate accounting out of care. But at this point, this, this school was remarkable. It was remarkable being around such smart people. It opened up my eyes to loving.
[00:17:46] Dan: I love that. And I would argue that you having to take the extra classes and sitting in community colleges, it’s a sign of courage and determination. And so I think it’s a great sign. Well, we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back [00:18:00] with Keara Kinderlynn from Foreverly.
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[00:19:12] Dan: So we’re back with Keara from Foreverly. So Keara I know. Your journey eventually puts you into Microsoft, big Papa. Microsoft. Tell us about that experience. And I know that somehow there’s a connection into Foreverly as well.
[00:19:27] Keara Kindelynn: I mean the one thing I always think about is I never saw myself moving to the Pacific Northwest again. Brooklyn girl, big city girl. I lived in Maryland, DC. Let’s call it Brooklyn, Atlanta. Seattle is a major city, never saw myself moving there, got the interview with Microsoft and I actually had a conflict. So I couldn’t do the interview on campus. And I had never been to Seattle at this point. So I ended up going and getting through to the second round and eventually getting the offer. And I [00:20:00] was super excited. I said, oh my God, I’d never been. What is this girl doing? Moving across the country. And I went out on a limb and asked my recruiter, you know, to make a well-informed decision, would it be possible for me to visit?
[00:20:12] And she said, yes. And they made it happen. And that was the first sign for me to know, oh, maybe I need to give this a chance. Cause again, moving all the way across country with no community support scared me. So fast-forward I land on an amazing team. Oh my gosh. I often don’t say. You know, give luck too much credit because that would downplay all the effort I put in, but this was luck.
[00:20:37] You, you interview, you don’t know where you’re going to land in the company. And I had an amazing, amazing team I up on Microsoft teams, marketing team in the early days. So it was awesome to be one of the first marketers on that team and had an amazing boss just really invested in my wellbeing. And now one of my biggest, biggest supporters to this day.
[00:20:58] Dan: I mean, that’s really, [00:21:00] in my mind what comes down to most experiences when you work at companies is the team you’re on the culture and having supportive leadership that can help the organization and you at the same time align. So that’s great. That’s great. Were you able to settle into Seattle? How did you adjust to coming to the Pacific Northwest?
[00:21:20] Keara Kindelynn: Yeah, I did adjusted well, you know, Seattle has such a sweet spot in my heart. I learned so much about myself when pushing, you know, everyone says this, push yourself outside your comfort zone. But I mean, it did, it was pushing myself out of my comfort zone by going to Seattle. And I loved that. I met so many other people that had the same, that. Everybody I would come across was like here to experience new things and be better than they were yesterday. And I love that about living there. Also. I love how beautiful and lush Seattle is.
[00:21:51] Nobody talks about it. I miss it terribly. You can talk about where I am now, but I miss it terribly. And it was part of the impetus of finding happiness [00:22:00] and nature that also led to forever. You know, I never hiked. Then I started hiking. I was like, oh my gosh. And Microsoft was such a great training ground.
[00:22:11] For me. I learned so much just not even from a skill level, but just personally and what it meant to have personal growth. You can show up and sit at the table and hold your ground and say the data and say the facts and try new things and test this. I say all that to say I had an amazing experience at Microsoft.
[00:22:29] And while there I said, well, I want to give back to the world. That’s giving so much to me. And that’s when I said, well, I want to volunteer. How do I now use my time to do something for somebody else? And so I went online volunteer site in hospice, volunteering came up and it never crossed my mind ever, to do you hospice volunteering… I was just scrolling through the roles and the role stood out. I mentioned just being able to care for a loved one and watch over our loved one. While the caregiver ran out just to do [00:23:00] run an errand or to pick up groceries. And I said, wow, I want to talk about being able to give back my time to somebody who was likely really overwhelmed. And that really was like the turning point for me too, focusing in on this very sacred and tender space of death and dying.
[00:23:16] Dan: Wow. That takes some courage for sure. To step into that people’s lives at that state. So tell us, how did the idea for Foreverly emerge from this experience that you had?
[00:23:32] Keara Kindelynn: So pre pandemic, my role was to offer respite to caregivers, which is, you know, look over their loved more and why they went out for, to take care of a narrowing pandemic onward. It became phone call support for obvious reasons. And it became very clear to me in these conversations that one people are still holding on.
[00:23:51] That their loved one is going to pull through. And I’ll tell you, you know, just by definition, if you’re on hospice, you have six months or less prognosis to live. And it [00:24:00] made me take a step back and just listen and give people graves and let them know that everything they’re feeling and going through is okay.
[00:24:07] A lot of my role has been just validating feelings. Who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t feel angry or upset or guilty or shameful any of those things. And that’s kind of what I love about this space. No matter what. No matter your religion, your race, none of that matters at the end of life. If we only gave people enough grace, every day, then we do at the end of life, the world would be a kind of place.
[00:24:27] And so back to your question, just around, how did this idea come about? Well, again, people are holding on to hope and then when the loved one dies, they’re often overwhelmed on what to do. And I said, well, this is a broken system. You know, we can send people to space. I certainly can figure out how to leverage technology to do something different in Beverly was first born out of well, how can I help people plan a funeral?
[00:24:49] You need help trying to figure out how to do this. Most people have not done it in their life. It wasn’t very quickly though that people don’t turn to Google to figure out how to plan a funeral. Right. [00:25:00] And it’s something I will make a steak today is the blend of human touch and technology that’s needed in this space is when I will hang my hat on.
[00:25:08] It’s just a very human moment, which means technology is not going to solve everything. And it means. Very thin line between logic and human behavior. And so I’m constantly being a social scientist around. Well, how do people deal with death and what are other types of things they do and what is influencing your decisions?
[00:25:26] Because it’s so different for everybody.
[00:25:28] Dan: That’s a lot of introspection, which I’m sure has been over time. Do you remember that the moment or the event or the catalyst? That’s where you said not only do I want to try and figure this out, but I got to build a company. I got to go, just go for it and do it.
[00:25:42] Like, do you remember what was the spark for that.
[00:25:45] Keara Kindelynn: You know, I told myself while I was in business school, I wanted to have a strong career foundation who had a huge company that, you know, to learn. But I knew at some point I was either going to leave to start my own business or to work at a startup and be [00:26:00] completely passionate.
[00:26:01] It is no surprise to me that I went to start my own business. I have always been the person who would take charge. If you asked my dad, he would say, I’m either going to run the world over, ruin it. And obviously I’m not trying to do the ladder. I was always very vocal and decisive on what I’ve wanted. And so it’s kind of twofold.
[00:26:20] There was a point where I was just toying with the idea. And I started talking to a couple of friends about it. My friend then lost her. Mother-in-law suddenly. And it things happen in threes. Like that happened. My grandmother died and then my co-founder. Friend had catastrophic event happened. And I said, wow, the oldest is happening around the same time or just on a personal, emotional level.
[00:26:42] But everyone is frazzled on what to do. And they said, well, there’s gotta be a better way. And I think that after those series of events, I started at least just exploring what it meant to. Okay. Well, what’s out there. Oh, wait. There’s some voices. What you mean to tell me we have grants for buying a home and getting married, but there’s nothing for [00:27:00] death.
[00:27:00] And where do people tend to? There’s no authority. You’re a marketer. Well, it’s time to put those marketing skills to use. Now, granted your marketing. One of the hardest categories I would say to market because people don’t want to talk about it, but that’s okay. You can be creative around how you can figure it, that.
[00:27:15] So, yeah, I think those series of events really kind of led to the light bulb going off and me saying, well, I know I don’t have all the pieces together today, but I’ll figure it out and figure out what’s Foreverly will be.
[00:27:27] Dan: And how did you meet your co-founder? How did you come to be co-founders I guess,
[00:27:31] Keara Kindelynn: Well, we were raised together. My brother lucky me. He’s my younger brother. We obviously have known each other, our entire lives. And we’ve not worked in a business capacity, but what I love about our relationship is we have very strong swim lanes. So I am very much the marketer of the business to strategy. And he’s all things tech, I care very little about how it happened.
[00:27:56] I just want it to work and I’d give him all the authority and he [00:28:00] cares very little around. How do you think about your funnel strategy? Right. And so it works out really well and just wasn’t even on a personal note, we’re very different. He’s very pragmatic and very thoughtful, and we balance each other in such strong way.
[00:28:13] I could be like completely blown about something. And he was like, what are you even upset about? And that’s such a healthy relationship to have, and yet it’s been such an awesome journey working with him.
[00:28:23] Dan: So let’s sit back a second. Let’s just help the audience understand. Who are the customers? I mean, you’ve obviously identified the stage or the life events that are going on around it, but who’s the customer. How does the service work? Exactly.
[00:28:43] Keara Kindelynn: When I mentioned about for everybody’s was it’s early vision, which was helping people plant minerals, but we’ve since kind of evolved a couple of times and right now, That we have go to our website, you’ll see is a fairly registry, which is a tool to help support somebody after they lose a loved [00:29:00] one.
[00:29:00] Oftentimes the griever, the person directly impacted has a hard time or tidbit and what it is they need, they often don’t know. And on the other hand, people like you and. I mean, I probably don’t have to nail this, you know, big that came on the nail too hard on this. But think of the last time you had someone you care about losing a loved one, you likely stumbled over what to say, what to do, how to approach it.
[00:29:22] You needed to do something though. Like you believe you needed to at least acknowledge it. Flowers. And what I’ve come to find. Um, just read lots of insights is the flowers. The casseroles are great, but there are so many other practical things that people need. And so there is a little bit of education that needs to happen around what’s helpful.
[00:29:40] And so now where we stand today is serving companies. Right. Oftentimes when we look at the life cycle of an employee, you know, if they’re with you long enough, they might get married and buy homes and have babies, but it could be very possible that they move someone that they love. And there were very few companies, at least in my research that are doing something specific [00:30:00] for that life moment.
[00:30:01] What’s standard, you know, people will say here, visit our EAP and take a few days off. And if you’re lucky, you haven’t managed. It’s okay with you taking more time. But the truth of the matter is that only solves for the onset of the death. Grief has no timeline from a psychological point, from a mental, emotional point, and then even administratively, right?
[00:30:22] Most people don’t know you need to file an estate tax return nine months after a death. And you’re finding these things out as you go. And that’s stressful because life doesn’t. And so when I think about customers, I mean, from a second graphic point of view is companies that are caring about their people, right?
[00:30:37] Trying to take what care means to the next level. How do you humanize your bereavement policy? Because very few companies do and they’re floundering when it comes to that moment. And whether that’s ill-equipped managers, whether that’s HR that, you know, tries to step in and do. But you’re such a space that people could be doing and paying more attention to in terms of how you care for [00:31:00] somebody.
[00:31:00] Um, you know, we are very celebratory when you hit the 10 year anniversary, but if I lose my wife, you know, thank you for the time off and thank you for the flowers and the food, but how else are you supporting me through that? Because my entire world has just shifted. Right. And I appreciate the acknowledgement at the very beginning of my journey, but I’m dealing with that everyday.
[00:31:21] And I speak to so many people who are dealing with that on a day-to-day basis. So yeah, we’re, we’re really excited to focus on a B2B aspect and how you can better serve employees who serve you.
[00:31:33] Dan: That’s great. And I imagine that over COVID I don’t even really know how to say it, but there’s probably was an even more needed value add for people who are in the shock of maybe people that didn’t have weren’t sick before, or weren’t, you know, we’re relatively healthy or at least, you know, there wasn’t this impending aspect that you might see from hospice, right. Where it was like people were hearing them, they were gone. And in some cases you didn’t get [00:32:00] to see them or say goodbye. I mean, it COVID was just crazy that way. So I imagine there was some increased interest in this space. And Foreverly specifically,
[00:32:08] Keara Kindelynn: Oh, absolutely. I mean the amount of disenfranchised grief that people had to face when I tell people this what’s great, is that it makes people more comfortable sharing stories around death. Cause most people don’t talk about it. And so I love leaning in with a listening ear. And so many people have had to go through that time and it feels so lonely. Right? You don’t really, people don’t really talk about. And it has just range the gamut in terms of what people have shared and you’re right.
[00:32:33] Very tragic stories of losing some money and not even being able to be there. Right. And so from a company point of view, right, your people are your greatest asset. How, how are you hoping things through. And you’re right. People have leaned in, I mean, if COVID has taught us anything, it is that death is inevitable and you can’t change it.
[00:32:54] Right. And that’s the same thing. It’s like forever. He’s not going to fix the biggest problem, which is bring a loved [00:33:00] one back. But what it can do is at least offer you the space to hear. Right and figure that out. And there’s no timeline for that when that comes up in a lot of different ways and how we’re thinking about approaching everyone’s unique journey.
[00:33:13] Cause everyone also thinks differently. So I mean, not to geek out on the business case, but as part of the reason why I love it as well, like there’s no two journeys that are alike. You can’t tell me how to grieve Rubai at home. You’re never going to get a hundred percent of what you want. And because of that individuality as.
[00:33:31] It makes it very important to have an approach right. In so many companies were caught without an approach on how to deal with that outside of the standard norms.
[00:33:40] Dan: Yeah, you’re completely right. And I think as companies think about the benefits and we’re in this really interesting time where like, retention is so hard, right? The great resignation and all that, right. You know, companies are going to have to step up. And these are the things that are going to make the big difference. Like you said, not the ten-year watch or the free [00:34:00] Foos ball or, or, you know, Dr. Peppers in the lunch room. Those are good, but this is where you can show meaningful impact in people’s lives. So tell us here. I was like the ask. So you’re on a great trajectory. At some point you will be able to call this as, as success, right? So you think back to the vision you originally had and where you want to take it. So let’s say it’s five years from now. And Dan comes back and says, was this a success? And you say, yes. Why, what would it look like for you to say this is success?
[00:34:35] Keara Kindelynn: Outside of being a Drake lyric that is on the list by the way, to become so mainstream that I’m in a Drake song outside of that, though, it would be the point where death occurs, whether it’s you or someone else. And I always say it’s unfortunate that I even have to say that, but you’ll turn in.
[00:34:51] Think of Foreverly, you’ll turn to Foreverly. You don’t know what to do. You’re going to go forever. At least the first thing that pops. I being tied to that [00:35:00] trigger is so important to me, given that we often threaten what to do. We’re supporting people in a, not a different ways. What I recognize is just this particular aftercare after loss space is huge, right?
[00:35:14] From pets to people, to the religion aspects, the cultural aspects. There are so many overlaps that I would love to be able to conquer one day and say, it’s forever. It’s a place to turn to. No matter what. Walk of life you’ve gone through. And so outside of being a household name that people know and love, it’s also just a place that feels very safe and trusted.
[00:35:37] And you know, it’s weird describing it as this tangible thing because it’s not, but I think the brains that we end up in the companies, we end up loving. They feel like something unique and special and that’s what I’m I crave for forever to be. I am extremely intentional about how I think about this company and I have to be right.
[00:35:56] We were talking about one of the most tender, difficult, [00:36:00] devastating moments in somebody’s life. And you know, sometimes I like care, you got to move faster, you got to do this, you got to do that. But I say slow is smooth and smooth is fast specifically at a, in a space where all the insights haven’t been uncovered yet.
[00:36:13] There’s tons of people trying to figure it. But the thoughtfulness is what got me here. And the top fullness is what’s going to get me to that. Five-year six. And so just to kind of just bring it back to what I went for really to be, I want it to be the company that you turn to and the untimely death occurs.
[00:36:29] I want it to be able to help bring space as you think about how to move forward after losing somebody you love. And I want it to be the thing that you can lean on or share this last. You know, the death anniversary is a day that so many people will never talk about, but it’s really hard. And no one acknowledges it, even in my own practice, not, you know, having been in this space, I write down the dates of when my loved ones have a loss, because it’s a really hard day.
[00:36:58] And then let’s not forget. Mother’s [00:37:00] day father’s, day veteran’s day, wedding anniversaries, birthdays that often, you know, very celebratory. But it’s painful for a lot of people. And I were fairly to be that, that company that thinks about you on that day and because we’ve has no timeline and it has no end, I look forward to walking, alongside people as a kind of continue to cope with loss.
[00:37:23] Dan: That’s a powerful vision and it will be such a gift to the world if, and when you’re successful. Well, we’re going to take another short break and we’ll be right back with Keara Kinderlynn of Foreverly.
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[00:38:44] Dan: So we’re back with Keara from Foreverly. Before we move on to other things, I’m sure there’s lots of people listening who really don’t know a lot about this space from an industry point of view. Tell us something about this industry. I know if they call it the death [00:39:00] industry, but tell us something that we wouldn’t expect or might surprise us about this industry.
[00:39:05] Keara Kindelynn: So, yeah, they do call it the death end of life industry that’s typically made up of just the funeral home kind of space and all the services and things that come along with that. It’s a $21 billion industry. By the way, often people are sticker shocked by the price of a funeral that’s on average, around $10,000.
[00:39:23] And I say that because that’s probably one of the biggest grievances. Around caring for a loved one after they die and wanting to honor their legacy, but not being able to afford that. So that’s one thing I would say another one is just how the space is evolving. Not only from a let’s save our earth, right?
[00:39:41] There are so many more earth friendly ways that you can die. So for example, you can decompose into soil and planted. You can send ashes into space. People turn cremated remains is actually the technical term into diamonds. There’s so many very interesting things that are happening. Honestly, the [00:40:00] metaverse and immortality kind of scares me.
[00:40:02] That’s my biggest fear. There are companies working on longevity and what it means for us to live longer, which is just like fascinating. So, despite it being inevitable, it is really interesting to kind of look at this space just as a consumer, as technology and just the future really shapes our behavior now. But yeah, those are a few that come to mind for me.
[00:40:23] Dan: And those are great insights. Most of what you just said is something that I don’t know. I know sometimes when you’re so immersed in an industry, you think everybody knows this, but most of what you just said was pretty revealing to me, but let’s switch gears.
[00:40:36] Let’s talk a little bit about you as a founder. And one of the questions I had was as a African-American woman, you had a couple of different corporate experiences, and now you’re an entrepreneur. How do you think you were viewed? Or how did you feel if there was a difference, if there was any differences between being in the corporate environment and now being an entrepreneur as an African-American woman,[00:41:00]
[00:41:03] Keara Kindelynn: You know, the one that stands out. It comes to mind first is the weight of what success has to look like. I mean, it was already heavy being in a corporate environment and feeling like being underestimated, as far as what I can deliver, it became apparent to me in certain scenarios, in a corporate environment and having a salary and a company.
[00:41:24] And, you know, the notoriety of Microsoft can help with some of that. And certainly. But on the other hand, it was okay, well, how do I do this better? It was easier to make an action plan around how I could respond to certain things. Entrepreneurship has been a positively challenging experience as a black woman.
[00:41:44] You know, I literally people say what your hobby is. It’s practicing mindfulness because literally every day I wake up at six and read for 20 to 30 minutes, something positive and uplifting to shape my day because it is so easy to get bogged down. [00:42:00] The fear or feeling inadequate or unprepared or not feeling like my ducks in a row partially because I’m black partially because I’m a woman, you know, I’ve, I’ve watched so many documentaries on, on the tech startups and sh you hear the glamour stories, and there’s a lot that isn’t shared right around how people got to the places where they are.
[00:42:20] And I wasn’t, I’m not afforded all that privilege there’s privilege that has not been afforded to me. And as much as. Said about that. I’m like, well, I can’t change any of that. Is that going to stop you from starting the business? So how do you come up with a plan and get creative, right? Your ancestors got creative, or how are you about to be creative about what you’re about to do?
[00:42:39] Keeping that discipline though, in that resilience in perseverance is really hard. You know, I honestly say I don’t have unlimited discipline. I work out every day. I read every day. I try to go for a walk every day. And it’s partly because those things helped me believe in myself. And so when I compare working in corporate America to being a new [00:43:00] entrepreneur entrepreneur, I’ve had to become somebody different.
[00:43:04] I mean, I had this revelation a few months ago on what’s required of me now is way different than what’s the quietest cure as the individual contributor. Now success literally falls on my show. Which means a few things I need to do better at kind of managing how I look at failure. I need to do better at just managing my emotions and my circumstances.
[00:43:24] Right. Because before I could stand behind the company and I still got paid anyway, that’s not the case. Now there’s no days off. I’m like, all right, I have personal things to do with. And so I think the hardest part has been having that mind shift, but also the most fulfilling to say, all right, Kara, you are betting on yourself.
[00:43:41] There was nobody else. You grabbed the bet on as a black woman, as a mother, as someone who was a first generation college student, you figured it out until this point. How dare you not use those actions to show you to keep going?
[00:43:56] Dan: I love that. Is there been ways in which the [00:44:00] world has positively acknowledged you as a black woman, founder, have there been positive or uplifting ways where people have identified you as a black woman, founder that’s resonated with you either as an ally or somebody who’s at an organization or a mentor or even just a customer, maybe.
[00:44:19] Keara Kindelynn: So, yes. In short, yes. Oftentimes it’s definitely a double-edged sword. Right because self-doubt is a powerful thing. Right. And doubting yourself from so many people believe in you. And I, I think about the one manager that I had when I leaned in at Microsoft and she believes in me, I reached out to her recently, actually, she’s like, Kara, what do you need?
[00:44:38] And that feels weird like that, that just feels weird. People willing to help and not being comfortable asking for help. I’ve not asked for help in my career. Haven’t had people. Give me opportunities and that sort of thing. And so it was very foreign, but this same woman has just been shouting from the rooftops around my abilities.
[00:44:58] And she always saw it in me and I, and I [00:45:00] think her tenfold for that for saying you are a black woman founder with a unique perspective, shine, bright and show the world. And that has been such a guiding light for me to continue to hit the ground running. And yeah, you fall, you scrape your knee and it hurts in line from the emotions of the hurt.
[00:45:15] Keep it moving. She definitely celebrates that. And I think just in general, I have friends that even tell me the same thing. Like you’re doing it. Sometimes I have to remind myself of like, you’re doing it. You quit the six-figure job to pursue a dream. You are actively doing it. Despite feeling like you haven’t come far.
[00:45:35] And some days it’s small progress that you have to celebrate because you are literally on the journey to changing your entire life. You have just have to take it little by little. I think those reminders are so. Kind of what’s on my heart is I think about that question is just the importance of community.
[00:45:52] So many of us try to do it by ourselves and are not vulnerable in this. And I tell people it’s hard. It is very hard trying to wear every [00:46:00] function hat and, you know, try the business and trying to think about fundraising and manage home and manage family. And it is very hard. The community and finding people that believe in you, it was just so important to turn to for the reminder when you’re like, yo, I had a bad day and they are the people that built me back up.
[00:46:18] I’m like, I need that because intrinsically you do get depleted at moments. So yeah, there’s so many people. I can’t wait to thank with surprise trips in my future, but yeah, it is, it feels so good to have.
[00:46:32] Dan: That’s awesome. And, and for me that encapsulates the journey for a lot of underrepresented founders, right? Is that there is this affirmation that happens and it almost like it has to happen because of that self reservation or self doubt, or because there’s another places or in other ways you’ve been given that message, right. That there is a gap between what you can do and who you are. And so you internalize that.
[00:46:57] And so you need that external affirmation to kind of [00:47:00] bounce it off. And I think that entrepreneurs who can recognize that and appreciate and welcome that in because sometimes the stoic bootstraps isn’t going to work. Awesome conversation here. We’re we’re coming up on time, but I was like the, ask the question sort of the retrospective.
[00:47:19] If this Keara well, with all of her wisdom to go back and talk to the pre startup. Keara, what advice would you give her? What wisdom would you share? What would you tell her to watch out for or to run towards? Or what would you share with her about the journey? She’s about to go on.
[00:47:38] Keara Kindelynn: The first thought that comes to mind is be married to the problem and not the solution. You know? So oftentimes it’s founders and entrepreneurs, you could sell, hung up on this one thing and you start validating it and, or actually your bias or your finding bias information to validate whatever insights that you’ve had. And that can leave you in a rut or in a [00:48:00] pickle because you’re not making progress or moving these quickly.
[00:48:03] And it’s because you are married to the solution. Right. And that was me in the beginning of how I know this has got to work. This has got to be it and kind of working backwards. And I’ve learned to take a step back from that. You know, when I had my pivot from focusing on the funeral space to saying, how can I support people thereafter?
[00:48:20] I actually had to take a moment to stop and write my why. I was like, why do you want to do this again? In a reverse engineering fashion to say, well, here’s what you want the big vision to be. What’s going to get you there. And you’re not going to always have all the answers, but at least help me kind of crystallize where I want to go.
[00:48:37] The other thing is just. Confidence is what turns thoughts into actions, right? Like confidence is such an important part of being an entrepreneur. People don’t believe in you. If you say something halfway, they believe in you. If you say it with confidence, right. It starts just as small as that. And so building up my confidence, I actively figure out ways.
[00:48:59] This is again, through [00:49:00] my reading daily on how can I keep my confidence in tax? Because it’s, that’s what keeps you going? And, you know, when you have the theater failures picks you back up and say, okay, I can do this. And the last thing that kind of comes to mind, You know, always be good to people that isn’t coming from a aquastat to somebody.
[00:49:17] So I was like, okay, you should have done something differently, but rather you just never know who knows who and in leaning on your network. And so I wish I would’ve did that sooner, you know? I’m so accustomed to just figuring stuff out the hard way, instead of thinking smarter, which is, well, who do I know?
[00:49:36] Right? Like don’t ever take for granted, the people who, you know, and who believe in you. And I kick myself from not tapping into my network earlier. And I literally, the other day, like verbal list of every network. I’m a part of whether it’s my sorority or grad school or Microsoft network and said, who do I know that might be connected to somebody that can help me and being very open with.
[00:49:56] And so stepping into that vulnerability around [00:50:00] asking for help is really, really important with them. But yeah, those are the three things that a hundred percent I’m leaning into now. So Keara, younger Keara, lean in I hope you’re listening.
[00:50:11] Dan: Uh, thank you for sharing those great insights and lots of wisdom. As I said, well, we’re coming to the end of our time here. This has been so great, but before we finish, we always like to have a call to action to founder nation. If there’s some way that we can be helpful to Foreverly or to use specifically, let us know.
[00:50:30] Keara Kindelynn: Absolutely. I would love feel free to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter at @Foeverlyco. And if you know someone who is dealing with the death of a loved one, please reach out to me via DM. I would love to figure out how I can help you with that. It’s an overlook time that often people don’t have a place to turn to for help. And I’d love to be that person.
[00:50:50] Dan: That’s great. Well, thank you so much Keara. This has been an incredible conversation and really appreciate you taking the time today.
[00:50:56] Keara Kindelynn: Thank you so much Dan for havin’ me.
[00:50:58] Dan: We’d like to thank our guests, [00:51:00] Keara Kindelynn and, and our sponsor Trajectory Startup.
[00:51:03] This podcast was produced by me. Danky Kihanya, with audio editing and production by We Edit Podcasts.
[00:51:09] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento. That’s listen T O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:51:23] Thanks so much for tuning in. I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.