Earth’s Option, created in 2012, is a locally-owned funeral home providing cremation and burial services to the Victoria, B.C. community. Chris and Susan Benesch own Earth’s Option, and run their business with their son Colin Benesch, and their nephew Cody Baker. We sat down with Chris to learn more about Earth’s Options’ story.
What does your business provide, and what is the mission behind it?
“We provide cremation and burial services to Greater Victoria families. Our focus is on environmental impacts, so we try to do things as environmentally friendly as possible. Our crematory is state of the art, it has the most up to date scrubbers and buffers to try and reduce the amount of pollution as best we can with current technology. We also focus on the green burial aspect as opposed to normal, traditional burials.”
Chris explains that a green burial is often just the body in the ground, with their focus being to have the body breakdown naturally and return to the earth. Green burials can also include environmentally-friendly caskets that are made out of 100% wood without any lacquers, paints or metals so they will naturally decompose as fast as possible. Being environmentally-conscious is one of the main values that informs Earth’s Option.
Tell me about the history behind your business.
“I started just a little over 35 years ago with my mom and dad. They had a funeral home in rural Alberta, and when I came out to Victoria 21 years ago, I was with a larger corporation that I left to start Earth’s Option in 2012. Eventually my wife joined me, and then our youngest son who is an embalmer and a funeral director as well. Then we brought on our nephew who was a funeral director on the lower mainland. So currently there’s the four of us that are working and we’re coming up on 10 years!”
What stands out to you the most about being a local Victoria business owner?
“I think the thing that stands out is people have really gotten behind us in a very big way in Greater Victoria. It’s a word of mouth community, there’s a lot of referral, and that stands out to me as probably the most significant. Families who are satisfied with our services and recommend us to others–that’s as solid a type of business as you can get. It’s everything, all kinds of advertising.”
Chris also explains that he is happy to hear that the community refers Earth’s Option to their friends and family, because he feels that it makes new customers more confident that they’re going to receive a good service for a good price.
How do you think your business positively impacts the community?
“I think we give the community another choice of the many choices, but we are unique in that we are environmentally-friendly and our cost point is much lower. We don’t have the traditional overhead that many funeral companies do in that we don’t have a facility that we need to have occupied to pay the bills. We use facilities that are already there, such as churches and halls, so we’re using all of the community to support a loss.”
Chris also explains how he thinks Earth’s Option mobility offers a helpful option for Greater Victorians: “They don’t have to worry about parking, they don’t have to worry about getting dressed up and ready to go out somewhere. We come in as a guest in their home where they’re in their own element and they’re at ease a lot more than if they had been in a place that is all new to them.”
Chris says that at a time in life where you want to be with family and to be at home, Earth’s Option wants to accommodate as much as possible. He emphasizes that they make what their clients want happen, but there is never any commercial pressure to buy certain things. Their mission is to take stress and pressure away wherever they can.
What is one thing you wish you could tell to someone who has never heard of your business?
“Check us out! Do it beforehand if possible. Go online, read the website, see if there’s things that resonate with you as a consumer, and see if our mission, if our values, align with yours.”
Chris emphasizes that taking a look at after-death arrangements ahead of time can relieve a lot of pressure and financial burden that comes with making decisions in the stressful time after a death has occurred. He recommends that people educate themself and what their choices entail beforehand, even if they don’t formalize it, so that they and their families have an idea of what to do next.
Chris also says that while the team at Earth’s Option is very good at what they do, they recognize that there are a lot of resources for grief support that they want to promote as well. They want to refer local people who can help with counselling, grief, and bereavement services. “We try to align ourselves with people that we’ve met and that we know or have worked with in the past, so we can give a strong recommendation out to those entities as we hope our families are doing for us.”
Is there any special ingredient to keeping your business successful?
“Always keeping very real and very personal. It is a business on one side of things, but we’re local people serving local people, and these are families that we want to see again and we want to have a relationship built with, so that they feel confident in the future should they need services again. We hope to be around for a long, long time, and through the generations of families, we wish to continue on our legacy.”
“As an example, we answer our phones 24/7 ourselves, personally. Three in the morning, I answer the phone. So you’re speaking immediately to one of us right away at all times.”
Chris says the importance of their availability is to make their clients feel comfortable and confident in their services, and for them to know that once they call, Earth’s Option will have everything under control. He hopes they can bring down the sense of urgency a person feels after a death occurs, so that everything settles for them. He wants to be the voice on the other end of the phone that calms and reassures that the steps of what comes next after a death are in good hands.
“Your mind goes in so many directions all over the place, and you need to be brought into a bit of an alignment. I think that’s human nature, we feel so much better when we know what’s expected and what our itinerary is, because we’re built that way to need that control. Bringing someone’s anxiety down is the best we can hope for. So we really pride ourselves on trying to maintain that level of support all the way through, all the time.