In the last year, Angus businesswoman Alma Kettles has transformed a small area of her family farm, located on the outskirts of Dundee into CairnBrae Natural Burial Ground.
Why did you start in business?
Our family has farmed the land in this area for four generations and the farm was part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for 16 years.
Protecting the environment and contributing to the biodiversity of the land is at the heart of everything that we do. Creating CairnBrae Natural Burial Ground for the Dundee and Angus community is simply another extension of this commitment.
I grew up on the farm and my concern for the environment as well as wanting to offer the bereaved a greater choice of burial that is more affordable, formed the foundation of this project.
I also wanted to offer families the option of purchasing a plot in advance, as some traditional local authority cemeteries are filling up and the option of purchasing plots in advance is no longer permitted.
Some choose a natural burial as they see it as their parting gesture to the environment where their remains are able to rekindle life as a forest or a tree.
At CairnBrae, each family can plant a tree over the grave. I felt this was the ideal way for me to return to my farming roots after a career as an Associate Director of a large IT firm and offer something back that would benefit both the environment and community.
How did you get to where you are?
Hard work, commitment and a goal to do something positive for the environment. We have worked hard to transform our agricultural field in to a beautiful and tranquil resting place using recycled materials at every opportunity.
As an example, the 10 tonnes of stone used to make the memorial cairn and entrance wall were gathered from the farm fields last year.
Who has helped you along the way?
My family, friends and Business Gateway. I attended both the Start Up for New Businesses and the Finance for Business workshops that Business Gateway run and found them extremely helpful.
I have never run my own business before and the questions I had were answered during the course. The take home notes from both courses I attended have also proved to be very useful and I regularly refer to them.
Your biggest mistake?
It’s less a mistake and more of a lack of understanding on my part of how many hats I would need to wear on a day-to-day basis.
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I can be meeting with bereaved families and funeral directors, designing marketing material, mowing grass paths and preparing for funerals all in the same day – so that took a bit of getting used to.
Your greatest achievement?
It was no easy task, and took 18 months, but we are really pleased with how we have managed to transform what was a ploughed field in to a beautiful resting place.
It is also extremely satisfying to see how much wildlife the burial ground is already attracting.
Hopes for the future?
As memorial trees are planted over each grave, the burial ground will develop in to a tranquil woodland area for bereaved families to seek comfort in.
I am fully committed to achieving this whilst supporting families during what is typically a very traumatic time.
Do you want to recruit in the future?
A combination of being a family business and investing in the relevant machinery and equipment, means it’s unlikely we’ll recruit in the near future.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Opening a burial ground is complex and adherence to the various planning and SEPA regulations is crucial.
Being fastidious in my planning as well as already having the land to fulfil my vision has meant running the business has gone smoothly.
I have a passion for horticulture, experience supporting bereaved families and feel strongly about protecting the environment so by combining all three, running the business has been far more enjoyable than hard.
Advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Attend Business Gateway workshops. Not only are they free but the skills and knowledge you pick up will help you in the day-to-day running of your business.