Lucy Atabey – White Feather Funerals

Lucy Atabey of White Feather Funerals

This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS we hear from Lucy Atabey, founder of White Feather Funerals, about her very personal journey to a new role that she loves.

Q: Following a long career in marketing and events, what inspired you to become a funeral director?

I had grown disillusioned with marketing and I was looking for a career where I could make a difference, give something back. I worked for many years as a marketing freelancer so was used to working for myself and was running a stand at an apprentice show in Excel, London for VirginStartUp when I met a funeral director from South London. The way they described their job and how much they loved it really resonated with me.

In my early 50’s a friend died really suddenly and his funeral was excellent, unlike any I had been to before. This was the catalyst for me to take action and act on my dream.

Q: You are very conscious of the environmental impact of funerals and are keen to promote eco-friendly alternatives. Have you seen a growing awareness of, and demand for, greener choices? 

I am and believe the funeral profession should like other professions look to reduce it’s carbon footprint. White Feather Funerals belong to the Association of Green Funeral Directors and we try to do our little bit by only using eco cleaning products, sharing another funeral directors fleet of cars, encouraging natural alternatives for coffins and urns, and reusing shredded documents to create coffin pillows. Often, though cost drives choice and the more natural coffin choices are more costly than the traditional wood veneer. The cardboard are popular, but my local crematorium advises that because of their robust construction they take longer to burn than a wood veneer…so you do need to know all the facts.

Q: Really listening to what people want is very important to you. How do you find this helps the families you support? 

You cannot deliver a truly personal funeral if you can’t listen. An arrangement with a family should not be a tick box exercise – it should be a thoughtful conversation where you can listen and then offer the right options to that family.

Q: We love the Funeral Notices section on your website. It’s such a useful service, tell us more. 

We’ve partnered with MuchLoved an online platform that is a charity. We pay for the service but offer it to our families as a free benefit. It allows them to have a tribute page for their loved one, that provides the details of the funeral and wake, supports donations to their chosen charity, allows them and friends and family to add messages and their own photos.

Q: You are a female led business. What advice would you give to other women thinking about becoming a funeral director/entering the funeral profession? 

The good news is that where once this business was traditionally very male dominated, there is some noticeable progress in the number of female funeral directors and female owned funeral directors. Traditionally, women’s roles in the funeral business are the office based roles, either arranging funerals with families or doing reception and admin duties, whilst the men did the actual funerals.

Q: You are based in East Sussex, do you have plans to expand White Feather Funerals in other areas? 

It is said that it takes on average around 5 years to establish a funeral directors. It takes time to build a reputation as an ‘at need’ service provider – people do not look for you in advance in the main! White Feather has been going for 4 years and is starting to see repeat business from existing families, recommendations and business from people who have attended our funerals as mourners. I would definitely like to expand in the future, I am constantly assessing other areas for potential expansion, but no immediate plans currently as we only upgraded our premises by moving last summer from much smaller premises.

Q: And finally, is there a particular person who has inspired you, or a book that has guided you, along the way? 

My friend Ade, that died so suddenly, was definitely my inspiration. He was a wonderfully creative, warm and charismatic person and his sudden death was a wake up call for me to get up off my bum and do something rather than just dreaming about it. He has a lot to answer for! See this link for more info on Ade – About Us – White Feather (whitefeatherfunerals.com).

Ade, Lucy’s dear friend and inspiration.

Thank you Lucy for your insights.

If you would like to find out more about Lucy and White Feather Funerals, please visit the White Feather Funerals website.

Photos: © Tom Oldman

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