These two Ontario-ordained Ministers and entrepreneurs don’t shy away from conversations about death, even if most of us do. Instead, they educate Canadians on a simple, eco-friendly and innovative alternative to traditional funeral and burial options.
Amanda Kelly and Lauren Andrew are the founders of AWAKE, an ashes-to-earth eco-solution company offering Canada’s only carbon-neutral cremation product. Launched in 2021, the organic mixture called Let Your Love Grow converts your loved one’s ashes into rich soil to plant or scatter for a truly living memorial.
“People use our kits in formal funerals, memorial gardens, backyard burials, planters and outdoor ash scatterings, so their loved ones and precious pets return to nature without harming the environment,” says Andrew. One example is two sisters sharing custody of a beautiful hibiscus they planted with their mom’s ashes. The sisters found it very therapeutic as they care for the houseplant and still have special moments with their mom.
Eco-friendly is the crucial benefit of this organic blend. Kelly states, “Global scientific research proves cremation ashes are not biodegradable but remain in the same state as when initially buried, releasing contaminants into the earth, plants and streams.” The Let Your Love Grow organic soil neutralizes the ashes’ extremely high PH and sodium levels and unlocks the nutrients found in the remains to nourish the surrounding ecosystem.
Like many families in recent years, Andrew and Kelly experienced the loss of two beloved pets, a parent and a grandmother. The pandemic caused an unprecedented demand on funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries, which magnified the growing trend for a simpler, environmentally friendly and spiritual alternative. “We knew there had to be a simpler, cost-effective and honest alternative to honour your loved ones,” says Andrew.
“To truly complement our philosophy of simplicity, sustainability and spirituality, we’ve kept our branding clean and our packaging biodegradable and recyclable,” says Andrew. As one of the few Canadian female-led and millennial afterlife companies, Kelly and Andrew promote inclusiveness and are culturally sensitive to honour the many faiths, customs and traditions in death and grief across Canada.
“As an integral part of starting our business,” states Andrew, “We approached the federally funded Orillia Area Community Development Corporation (CDC) due to their widely-recognized reputation for helping and coaching businesses to thrive and grow.” She continues, “We applied for and received funding to construct an office, meeting area and shipping space. In addition, the CDC consultants referred us to the Youth Wage Subsidy Program, which allowed us to hire our first and soon-to-be second employee!”
“With the onboarding of employees,” Kelly explains, “We needed information and guidance on payroll, deductions and bookkeeping. Again, the CDC guided us through all the legalities, helping to set up our bookkeeping system, and even connected us to our amazing accountant.”
The CDC continues to provide expert advice to Kelly and Andrew as they prepare the booth for their first trade event, the Cottage Life Show, in Toronto on March 23 to 26, 2023. “It will be a busy three days amongst the eco-backdrop of potted trees and plants as we converse with up to 60,000 visitors on how they can create their own magical resting place at their cottage,” says Andrew.
As they continue to AWAKE Canadians in 2023, Kelly and Andrew are excited to collaborate with educational institutions in Canada to have the country’s first-ever peer-reviewed research projects. Other plans include presentations to business organizations and forming collaborative partnerships with the funeral industry.
“There’s a village vibe at the CDC that unites the professional consultants and the hundreds of entrepreneurs they’ve helped,” exclaims Andrew. “And as we tell any new business owner, you can’t build your company by yourself; you need a village!”
For more information about AWAKE, visit www.awakeashes.com.
For more information on the Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) visit www.orilliacdc.com or contact 705-325-4903 x 101.
Photos by DML Films & Madison Bronwyn