Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on April 20, 2022 Updated on November 28, 2023
$79,550 - $244,100
$100,000 - $300,000 p.a.
Time to build
$40,000 - $120,000 p.a.
Death and taxes are inevitable, and nobody likes to think of either one. But just as taxes are a major opportunity for accountants and bookkeepers, death offers opportunity as well. Cemeteries play a key role in the grieving and closure process, as many people choose burial. You can start a cemetery and provide a peaceful final resting place for the departed while making good money. You’ll need to make an investment, but you’ll be doing something valuable for your community.
First, though, you need to understand the process of starting a business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide details all the entrepreneurial insights you need to start a successful cemetery business.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Number of people employed – In 2021, the US cemetery industry employed 32,019 people.
Trends and challenges
Trends in the cemetery industry include:
Many cemeteries are becoming eco-friendly, with people choosing not to be embalmed and being buried in biodegradable caskets.
The trend in the US for people to choose cremation over burial is creating the opportunity for cemeteries to sell smaller plots for the burial of cremated remains.
Challenges in the cemetery industry include:
The increasing number of people who choose cremation and either scatter the ashes or keep the ashes in an urn is decreasing demand for burial plots.
Labor shortages are making it more difficult for cemeteries to hire workers for excavations and property maintenance.
How much does it cost to start a cemetery business?
Startup costs for a cemetery range from $80,000 to $250,000 or more. Costs include a down payment on the land, preparation of the land, and excavating equipment. You need at least one acre of land, which could hold about 1250 burial plots.
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Land down payment
$40,000 - $120,000
$30,000 - $100,000
$8,000 - $20,000
$79,550 - $244,100
How much can you earn from a cemetery business?
The average price of a burial plot is $1,000. Your profit margin after mortgage payments, trust deposits, and property maintenance should be about 40%.
Trust deposits are a percentage of revenue that cemeteries must put in a trust so that money will be available to care for the cemetery after it’s full and no longer bringing in revenue. Many states require this trust, sometimes called a perpetual care trust fund.
In your first year or two, you might sell 100 plots, bringing in $100,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $40,000 in profit, assuming that 40% margin. As your cemetery becomes more well-known, sales could climb to 300 units a year. With annual revenue of $300,000, you’d make an impressive profit of $120,000.
You could earn additional revenue by selling headstones and flowers for gravesites, but you’d need to build a cemetery office or store in order to do so, which would add to your startup costs.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a cemetery. Your biggest challenges will be:
The high startup costs
Finding adequate land to be zoned and permitted as a cemetery
Getting proper licensing for your cemetery
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a cemetery, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research cemeteries in your area to examine their products and services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an eco-friendly green cemetery or a cemetery with a memorial park.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as burial plots for cremated remains, or larger plots with space for grave monuments.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or service
You can offer plots for burials, cremated remains burials, or a combination of both, as well as monuments. You can also sell gravestones and flowers to bring in additional revenue.
How much should you charge for burial plots?
Prices for burial plots vary by location, with an average of $1,000. Check prices in your area to make sure that you’re competitive. You should aim for a profit margin after all costs of about 40%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market could be anyone pre-planning their final resting place, or family members with a recently deceased relative. For the most part, your target market will be an older demographic, to which you could reach out on Facebook. You also may want to try to connect with funeral directors on LinkedIn. They may give you referrals.
Where? Choose your cemetery location
Selecting the right location for your cemetery business is crucial for its success. Look for a spot with a serene and peaceful environment that is easily accessible for mourners and visitors. Consider proximity to residential areas and public transportation to ensure convenience for customers.
Additionally, assess the local regulations and zoning laws to ensure compliance and obtain any necessary permits. By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a respected and profitable cemetery business that provides a dignified final resting place for the deceased and comfort for their loved ones.
Step 3: Brainstorm a Cemetery Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “cemetery” or “burial grounds”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Eternal Acres” over “Catholic Memorial Gardens”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Discover over 290 unique cemetery business name ideas here. If you want your business name to include specific keywords, you can also use our cemetery business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Cemetery Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A concise summary outlining the key points of the cemetery business plan, including its mission, objectives, and potential for success.
Business Overview: An introduction to the cemetery business, providing details on its founding, location, and the specific niche it serves in the funeral industry.
Product and Services: Clearly defined offerings, such as burial plots, mausoleums, cremation services, and any additional memorial products or services.
Market Analysis: In-depth research on the funeral industry, local demographics, and trends, outlining the demand for cemetery services and potential growth opportunities.
Competitive Analysis: Examination of other local cemeteries and funeral service providers, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for differentiating the new business.
Sales and Marketing: A plan detailing how the cemetery will attract customers, including pricing strategies, promotional activities, and any partnerships or collaborations to enhance visibility.
Management Team: An overview of key personnel involved in running the cemetery, highlighting their qualifications, roles, and contributions to the business.
Operations Plan: A comprehensive outline of day-to-day operations, covering staffing, facility maintenance, burial procedures, and any technology or systems employed to streamline processes.
Financial Plan: Detailed projections of the cemetery’s financial performance, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and a break-even analysis.
Appendix: Supplementary materials such as resumes of key personnel, legal documents, permits, and any additional information that supports and enhances the business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to cemeteries.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your cemetery will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a cemetery business. You’ll need a mortgage loan for the land.
Most states have their own Cemetery Care Act which governs the location, licensing, and requirements of cemeteries. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the requirements of your state.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your cemetery business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as cims, EverArk, or Chronicle, to manage your plots, records, invoicing, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your cemetery business, the marketing strategy should focus on portraying the grounds as a dignified, serene, and respectful final resting place. Emphasize the care, maintenance, and variety of memorial options available. The goal is to establish your cemetery as a place where loved ones are honored and where visitors find comfort and peace.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey respect, tranquility, and timeless dignity, from your logo to your promotional materials.
Direct Outreach: Network with funeral homes, churches, elder care facilities, and estate planning attorneys to establish referral partnerships.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Create a website that showcases the beauty and serenity of your grounds, details about plot options and services, and includes contact information. Use SEO best practices to optimize your site for relevant search terms related to funeral planning, burial options, and memorial services.
Social Media Engagement: Use platforms like Facebook to provide updates, share serene images of the grounds, and post about community events or memorial services.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Memorial and Grieving Support Blog: Publish thoughtful content on topics such as grief support, memorialization options, and the importance of a final resting place.
Testimonials and Stories: Share stories and testimonials from families who have chosen your cemetery, focusing on the care and support they received.
Educational Content: Offer information on the historical significance of cemeteries, types of memorials, and how to choose a plot.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Guided Tours: Offer guided tours of your cemetery, focusing on its history, landscaping, and available services.
Memorial Events and Workshops: Host memorial events, grief support workshops, or educational seminars about end-of-life planning.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Organizations: Collaborate with local historical societies, grief support groups, and funeral service providers.
Community Involvement: Engage in community events, sponsor local activities, and participate in charity events to demonstrate your commitment to the community.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Family Services: Provide ongoing support and services for families who have plots in your cemetery, such as annual memorials or newsletters.
Referral Programs: Implement a referral program that offers benefits or acknowledgments for families who refer others to your services.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Advertising: Utilize advertising in local newspapers, church bulletins, and senior living publications to reach potential clients.
Email Marketing: Send newsletters to inform subscribers about grounds maintenance, new services, and community events.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your cemetery meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your cemetery business could be:
A peaceful green resting place for your loved ones
Eco-friendly burial grounds to rest in true peace
Beautiful headstones and a serene setting in perpetuity
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a cemetery business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in cemeteries for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in cemeteries. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
Potential positions for a cemetery business include:
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Cemetery Business – Start Making Money!
Cemeteries can be beautiful places of remembrance. By starting your own, you’ll be providing a valuable service to your community and could make good money at the same time. It’ll take a serious investment to get started, but it’s a fairly simple business model that offers a real opportunity for new entrepreneurs.
You understand cemeteries as a business now, so you’re ready to create a serene resting place for your community and a steady income for yourself.
Cemetery Business FAQs
How much does it cost to start a cemetery?
You can start a small cemetery for about $80,000. You need a down payment on the land, which must be zoned and permitted to be a cemetery, funds to prepare the land, and excavation equipment.
Is a cemetery profitable?
A cemetery is profitable, though it takes a while to recover the initial investment required. The profit is also only temporary since eventually, the cemetery will be full. It’s better to focus on the value you’ll be providing to your community, while looking to expand and add more land.
Do I need a license to start a cemetery?
Most states have their own Cemetery Care Act, which governs the location, licensing, and requirements of cemeteries. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the requirements of your state. You also may need various business licenses and permits as the state and local levels. Check with your local governments for requirements or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.
How does a cemetery make money after it’s full?
Obviously, you won’t be making any more money from selling plots, but you’ll still need to maintain the cemetery. Most states require that you put a certain percentage of the revenue into a trust so that funds will be available for that maintenance. To continue making money, you could still sell flowers or headstones to be used in other cemeteries. You could also buy additional plots of land and open new burial grounds.
How do I handle burial services and coordinate with funeral homes?
To handle burial services and coordinate with funeral homes, establish relationships and open lines of communication with local funeral homes. Understand their procedures, coordinate logistics, and provide support to grieving families.
What are the requirements for land and zoning regulations for a cemetery?
Research and understand the land and zoning regulations specific to your location. Consult with local authorities and zoning departments to ensure compliance and obtain necessary permits and approvals for establishing a cemetery.
How long do you own a cemetery plot in USA?
Ownership duration of cemetery plots in the United States can vary. Some offer perpetual ownership, while others may have limited-term ownership with the option for renewal.
Who developed the concept of cemeteries?
The concept of cemeteries has ancient origins, but the modern concept emerged in the 19th century, influenced by figures like Sir Christopher Wren, who designed burial grounds for peaceful contemplation and remembrance.
What is the most popular type of burial?
The most popular type of burial varies based on cultural, religious, and personal preferences. Common types include traditional in-ground burials, above-ground burials in mausoleums or crypts, and cremation with urn burials or scattering of ashes. Popularity can also vary geographically and over time.
How to Start a Cemetery Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Cemetery Business Name
Create a Cemetery Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Cemetery Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Cemetery Business - Start Making Money!
Cemetery Business FAQs
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