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Entrepreneur Cozett elevates funerals, faces competition, plans growth.

Death may seem a grim business to some, but for young Cape Town entrepreneur Brendon Cozett, the country’s R10-billion-a-year funeral services industry is the path to achieving his life goals.

It’s not an easy path. Funeral services in South Africa are a highly competitive and largely unregulated industry, with an estimated 70,000 undertakers and 15,000 funeral parlours in operation, and formal businesses under pressure from mushrooming informal, often illegal, operators offering funerals on the cheap.

Cozett, 33, opened His Will Funeral Home two years ago, after working for his father since his teens in the family-owned funeral business in Colorado Park, Mitchell’s Plain, where he grew up.

Serving working-class families of Kuils River and surrounding areas from his base in Cape Town’s Airport Industria district is a far cry from headline-grabbing, big budget celebrity funerals but for Cozett it’s more important to be ensuring the departed are treated with respect and that even low-income families are able to give their loved ones a dignified farewell.

I take the responsibility very seriously, of presenting the deceased as close as possible to the way their loved ones want to remember them, and giving them a dignified service. What matters most is that we aid in providing comfort to the bereaved, and that takes 100% attention to detail, no matter how small the budget.

With a staff of eight, a small fleet of vehicles and a mortuary on the premises, he’s taken the view that the ultra-low-budget market is not his playing field, but he can nonetheless garner a share of it by providing services, such as the mortuary, to the smaller operators.

In the face of increasing competition from small, informal undertakers and anticipating more regulation of the industry to protect the public from shady operators, Cozett has spent the past year honing his business skills and structuring his business to be competitive and sustainable.

He will complete the sponsored Small Business Academy (SBA) programme of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) later this year, and says the training and mentoring offered by the programme had enabled him to view his business “from the outside in” and identify advantages and areas for improvement.

The SBA is a nine-month programme offered yearly to township entrepreneurs, and provides training in business fundamentals, networking opportunities and mentorship whereby each participant is matched with an alumnus of the USB’s MBA programme.

I have learnt a lot about myself and about my business through the SBA. I’ve come to realise that there are many things about business that I didn’t know before starting out, so I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to learn them now and implement them into the future.

Cozett also recently completed a Services SETA programme to become accredited as a funeral practitioner and joined the funeral industry’s largest representative body, the National Funeral Directors Association of South Africa, which has a code of conduct and standards for doing business.

I see these as essential steps to equip myself and the business to be in a good position when more regulation comes in.

Having started out washing cars for his father’s funeral business and later progressing to meeting with clients, writing up funeral policies and arranging funerals, the logical next step for Cozett was to open up his business, servicing his own clients and other undertakers, with mortuary services and “a one-stop-shop for all burial and cremation needs under one roof.”

As for the future, Cozett is confident that the groundwork he is laying now will see him growing to open more mortuaries and grow his client base to the level where he handles five to 10 funerals per week.

Competition is good – I’m always up for a challenge.


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