Pharewell simplifies funeral planning at a time when families need it most

By Nancy Dahlberg

Planning a funeral and making other death-care arrangements is overwhelming. There are so many imminent decisions to make and costs to consider at a time when you and your family are grieving. What’s more, death-care is an alien process for many people, because no one really knows what all this is like until they go through it. A Miami-based startup has stepped up to simplify all of this so families can make their choices and see the costs all in one place.

Pharewell is a marketplace that connects families with local funeral homes and cemeteries so that they can make their arrangements online from start to finish. On Pharewell’s website, families can seek out arrangements based on exactly what they want from a range of local providers, choose their options, review and sign all the legal documentation, order the flowers and pay the bill.

Andre Artidiello and Jorge Gonzalez, the founders of Pharewell, have set out to prove the concept here in the Miami area before expanding across Florida and beyond.

“We just asked ourselves why has this process felt like it hasn’t changed in over 100 years? And we just started trying to answer that question,” said Artidiello, whose background is in finance and investment banking.  By talking with families who went through making death-care arrangements as well as funeral directors, he said, “what we realized is there’s three main problems in the industry: transparency, efficiency and affordability.” Pharewell tackles all three.

While death-care is a $35 billion industry, introducing something new to this entrenched, fragmented sector isn’t easy. “This space is incredibly complex. There’s a reason why there isn’t a marketplace for this just yet  and it’s because there’s a lot of decisions that you have to make and the industry is super fragmented,” said Gonzalez. “There are plenty of solutions that have existed and failed or that currently exist, but none of them tie it all together as an end-to-end solution.”

To address the affordability piece of their solution, Pharewell worked with suppliers to bring down the prices. Pharewell also offers a crowdfunding element that allows families to raise money from friends and family members to offset the cost of the arrangements.

Pharewell makes money by charging consumers a service fee – currently 6%;. The startup tested the business model with 50 families who used the platform. “We needed to build a product that adds so much value to the family that they want to pay for it,” Artidiello said.

Funeral providers receive fully documented and paid sales at no charge, obtain access to a wider range of customers outside the typical radius, and save money on marketing.

Covid was a catalyst for companies to make digital transformations, and the funeral industry was no exception. The industry has tiptoed into the digital age with websites and had to offer some digital services during the pandemic, so most are more accepting of digital services now, the founders said.

People in the Miami area can use the service now, and more services and providers will be added. As of now, Pharewell has four funeral homes on the platform, a fifth one being onboarded, and is seeking cemeteries. The plan it to prove the concept out in South Florida, and then expand throughout Florida. Eventually, Pharewell plans to expand nationally.

To generate customer demand, Pharewell is partnering with hospice organizations, said Artidiello. “Right now the platform is really to help what we call the imminent need family, a family that is expecting the death to occur within potentially days, weeks or months. We are finalizing another partnership now with a large local hospice provider, working with their social work and care teams to educate them about Pharewell and how we can be a helpful resource to their patients and their families.”

 What’s ahead? The founders said they are working to add capability to help pre-need customers, such as a person pre-arranging and paying for their service for whenever it happens. In the meantime, the legal documentation that comes with the process complies with all Florida regulations. Pharewell also provides a useful FAQ and funeral industry glossary in English and Spanish. The co-founders employ a small development team.

Says Artidiello, “We want Pharewell to be a resource for families and be super helpful in this alien process. That’s why we built it.”

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Nancy Dahlberg