G. Scott Mindrum considers himself lucky. He says that rarely do CEOs have the opportunity to interact with their products in a highly personal and emotional way.
On May 12, 2007, Mindrum's father, Gordon Mindrum, died at the age of 87. The younger Mindrum knew exactly what to do to memorialize his father, a World War II veteran and a doctor that specialized in treating addiction.
He posted to the Web a photo slide show that illustrated his Dad's life story.
The younger Mindrum is founder and CEO of Making Everlasting Memories a company trying to leverage the power of user-generated content to help people memorialize their loved ones online.
"People spend a lot of money on funeral services," Mindrum said. "In the end what do you have left? There's an opportunity to do more to help with the grief and turmoil. What's missing is the story of the person's life and the times they lived in."
People have paid tribute to lost loved ones online for years but more and more the Internet is helping people grieve and pay respects. Some mortuaries now Webcast funerals for those unable to attend services. It's common to see mourners set up memorial sites following a disaster or the death of a celebrity.
Mindrum acknowledges that anybody can post photos and text to a Web site. But his company works with 2,000 funeral homes in North America to quickly craft a more polished product, and do it at a time when customers may be too grief stricken or busy with funeral arrangements to worry about much else, he said.
In addition to the slide show, which feature music and graphics, Everlasting Memories will set up a Web page for biographies, digital guest books and image galleries. The 25-employee company will also bind photos and other materials dedicated to the deceased in hard-and-soft bound books.
To ensure that the tributes remain on the Web for decades, Everlasting Memories commits a percentage of every sale to a trust dedicated to maintaining the archive, Mindrum said.
To speed production along, funeral homes must scan photos and send them via the Web to Everlasting Memories. The company, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, has customized the process so that the images arrive in the proper format.
Mindrum said that within the next several years he hopes the company will be able to accept video. He said right now, mortuaries and funeral homes are unequipped.
"This is a trend that still has a long way to go," Mindrum said, "cause people are very interested in preserving memories."