H&R Block Profiles in Black Entrepreneurship: Providing Comfort to Grieving Families
Gary Jones is passionate about providing comfort and help. He got his start in ministry but has grown his work to include helping families experiencing the loss of a loved one. It started in 1985, when he was living in Lexington, Mo. and pastoring. After a series of funerals through his church, he began working more closely with a funeral home, eventually taking the state test to become a funeral director.
Jones sees the funeral business as an extension of his work as a pastor. “When you have ministry, you do it already. The only difference is the business side and the actual preparation,” says Jones. “But, pastors are involved in the funeral industry by default. The majority of funerals have been done in a church, so the pastor meets with the family. It’s a natural fit.”
That preparation and becoming a business owner, however, was less of a natural fit and took additional time. After a move to Philadelphia, Jones put funeral directing on hold when that state required funeral directors to also have an embalming license. After 10 years in Pennsylvania, Jones moved back and eventually began consulting for a local funeral home in the Kansas City metro.
In 2016, he had the opportunity to purchase Church Funeral, starting his tenure as a business owner. Four years later, Jones rebranded to A Better Place Funeral Home, and just this year, relocated the business from Kansas to Missouri.
In addition to owning A Better Place Funeral Home, Jones is currently a co-pastor for the South Kansas City Baptist Church. The location, Jones says, gives him greater reach in serving families from the neighborhood having been a minister there for 15 years. The funeral business is a high-referral business, so he recognizes the importance of social capital and building relationships in the community.
“Our funeral home is a faith-based funeral home…and that’s the community we want to serve,” say Jones. Faith is what Jones says separates his business from the competition.
As a first-time business owner, Jones was excited about the opportunities presented to him through the Urban League and H&R Block program.
“I’m really excited about this not only the exposure and the experience but some of the tools they bring to the table,” says Jones. “When you start a business, there’s so much to do.”
One of the things he’s turned to the program for, is help putting together a business manual that will set the standard for moving his business forward and scaling up. And, getting help from a Block Advisors small business certified tax pro to help him understand where his business is at financially, and steps he can take to improve, as he looks to add grief counseling and additional services.
For Jones, the success of his funeral home in turn helps enable his mission work in West Africa. Six years ago, Jones began attending mission trips to Togo with a friend and colleague, where they support a local farm and create opportunities in entrepreneurship. With an average income in Togo just $2 a day, according to Jones, empowering entrepreneurship creates opportunity for individuals, families, and communities at large.
Jones says their philosophy to help people start businesses in mission work is comparable to the help he’s received himself. “It’s just like the Urban League and H&R Block partnership with [small businesses]. You’re helping us to be better equipped to be more efficient in what we do.”
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