More than 30 years after coming to prominence co-founding the mega-successful PC Direct, one of New Zealand's leading businesswomen has dived into the funeral industry.
Sharon Hunter and business partner Jude Mannion have launched Great Goodbyes, a one stop shop website for people to organize funerals. Users can use simple planning guides, record funeral instructions for themselves or someone they love and also read about how other families are farewelling loved ones. Users can find providers or recommend them, send funeral invites, organise a livestream and create an honour page full of videos and photos from the funeral so the page acts as a permanent keepsake for the event.
Hunter and husband, former Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell, have become a Rich-List power couple. Hunter has had numerous board roles, including for commercial, government and non-profit organisations and has operated investment company Hunter Powell with her husband.
But now, Hunter says, she has turned her attention to busting open the misinformation and restrictions that keep people shackled, as she says she was, when she farewelled her mother 10 years ago, a regret she has to this day.
"You need a casket spray made by a professional florist. For my Mum, I wish I'd cut flowers from her own garden and arranged these on her casket, then added her gardening hat and gloves," Hunter tells Spy.
Other "rules" they guide you through to change, is that rather than needing a professional to conduct the funeral you can find someone who actually knew the person; opting out of embalming; and not having to buy the casket from the funeral director, Hunter says the funeral director is legally obliged to take a casket you purchase elsewhere.
"You don't even have to have a casket if you truly want to "go out green" and have a natural burial," she says.
"Great Goodbyes is designed to fundamentally shift the way we say goodbye to those we love."
The business, which Hunter describes as the biggest passion in her life outside her family, came to fruition as she shared a wine and war stories of funerals with Robin Hood Foundation colleague Mannion.
Hunter found herself inspired by Mannion's self-planned funeral, which would be friendly to the planet and reflect her bohemian personality.
"I'm definitely going out as green as I can. A plain wooden casket, something with clean simple lines. Covered in white flowers and tonnes of greenery. My song is laid down already; Southern Cross by Crosby Stills & Nash. It's my nod to being lucky enough to be born and raised in this exquisite little country," she says.
"If my family or friends were up for it, I'd love the car to be driven by someone I know, taking the long way around a few places, having a chat, listening to tunes. Definitely wine and song."
Hunter says research she and Mannion conducted showed as many as 40 per cent of people would do a funeral differently if they had the chance.
"Think about that. That's taking one of the saddest, most difficult days of your life and wanting to do it again. That's how much not getting it right means to people. And the sad truth is it doesn't have to be that way. Sometimes it's the simplest things that can turn a cookie-cutter funeral into something unforgettable."
The business has launched in New Zealand and on the West Coast of the United States. The US focus groups started primarily in Portland, where Mannion now lives. It is a place where Hunter says the people are very forward-thinking, deeply cognisant of individual choice, and passionate about the environment.
Hunter says having Mannion on the ground there has helped create an eco-system with environmental groups, end-of-life-care practitioners and others.
Hunter plans to see Great Goodbyes go global.
She says almost the entire English-speaking Western world and plenty of Europe too, has the same outdated approach to funerals. Their business will help people say their goodbyes no matter what their denomination, with no regrets.