A Slice on Justin Crowe, Founder and CEO of Parting Stone
Entrepreneurial spirit takes many forms, for Justin Crowe, it was formed out of grief. The traditional ways to honor someone who has passed don’t always help the grieving process. Justin Crowe provides a “no ashes left” alternative with Parting Stone. Parting Stone empowers families through grief by providing them stones made from solidified remains after cremation. The stones are made to be shared with family members and loved ones to keep them near, as ashes can be awkward to store and often get tucked away. Parting Stone currently works with 280 funeral homes across the United States and Canada and has raised $1.3 million in its seed round.
Crowe’s first major death he had to grieve was of his grandfather. It hit home for him because not only were they extremely close, but this was the first time he had to really be a part of the funeral planning process. Crowe noticed a pattern while talking to other people about their experiences with loss.
People repeatedly told Crowe that they were either afraid to look at the ashes, scared to scatter them, or were embarrassed to have them out with company over. This didn’t sit right with Crowe. People don’t accept poor experiences at any part of their lives, so Crowe didn’t see why the grieving process of a loved one should be any different.
After receiving a grant from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Crowe teamed up with their scientists. One scientist, in particular, Chris Chen, played a key role with Parting Stone, providing his background in nuclear submarines and missiles. Chen, initially thinking Crowe was “crazy”, ultimately got on board to help him develop the new form of remains. At this point, Crowe was operating off of his own funding, which motivated him to find customers. With Chen’s help in getting the final product ready to market, Crowe found success with multiple funeral homes, proving that people were interested.
Like most entrepreneurs, Crowe has had to make pivots and changes to Parting Stone in order to bring his idea to reality. The company initially meant to offer its services to consumers who were already living with ashes in their homes. After spending a bunch of money on ads, Crowe sold almost nothing and didn’t have any success with this avenue. On the flipside, funeral home directors were showing interest in selling as an option to families. Crowe had to quickly change his B2C business plan to B2B in order to get into business with these funeral homes.
Motivated by challenges and solving puzzles, Crowe gets excited by the startup community and is honored to be a part of it. Although New Mexico isn’t known for its startup ecosystem, Crowe sees a lot of advantages in it. From the start, he has been fortunate enough to have many resources available to him at every stage of the process. “From ideation to going to market and now scaling the company… I’ve been provided advice, connections and financial resources at every step. I don’t know if we would have been able to build this company the way we did, anywhere else.”
Crowe’s ultimate goal is to provide families with the option of choosing solidified remains if they decide it’s the best fit for them. “The more people we can get this in front of, to see if this is the right option for them, and just to give them the option to be able to hold their loved one after death, is something you just can’t do right now with the other forms.” To be able to help families during their grieving process is something that’s really special to Crowe, and he will continue to do just that. “We’ve received over 200 handwritten letters from families, and we see that this is helping people through their grief… My dream is that this is the preferred form of remains for families choosing cremation over the next decade.”