NAME: Melanie Hunnaball
YOUR BUSINESS / ORGANISATION: The Hunnaball Family Funeral Group
YOUR TITLE IN THAT BUSINESS: PR & Marketing Director
WHEN DID THE BUSINESS LAUNCH?: My husband Trevor and I started the business in 1984.
ELEVATOR PITCH – TELL US WHAT YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS DOES IN A NUTSHELL:
We are a family funeral business providing a premier quality service, with 12 outlets in Essex and Suffolk.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BUSINESS’S USP OVER YOUR PEERS?
Our ‘Ladies in Hats’ – a team of elegant lady funeral directors; our signature silver funeral fleet; our passion for perfection; and an outstanding reputation for care and professionalism.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE SO FAR?
Firstly, as a woman, breaking through the glass ceiling that existed in funeral service 30 years ago – it was a very male-dominated profession. In recent years, responding to the upsurge in the pre-paid funeral planning market.
AND YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS?
Undoubtedly being the first company to introduce our ‘Ladies in Hats’ – now a recognised trademark of our company; and also changing our fleet from the traditional black to silver, another innovative move.
WHAT DOES THE NEXT 12 MONTHS HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU?
For me personally, the opportunity to take a more relaxed approach to the business. I am planning on taking on more of a consultative role so I can have more leisure time.
AND IN FIVE YEARS TIME YOU’D LIKE THE BUSINESS TO?
Be even more successful than we are now, and to fulfil my ambition of creating a centre of excellence for funeral service established.
WHEN YOU FEEL TROUBLED OR ‘BEATEN’ AT ANY STAGE IN BUSINESS LIFE, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO RALLYING YOURSELF?
My husband Trevor is who I always turn to for support – we are a very strong team and have the benefit of many years of experience to help us through difficult times. We are also very lucky to have a tremendously supportive family, who work with us and who understand the pressures of running a modern business.
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR, OR HAVE YOU USED ONE? IF SO, HOW WAS THAT?
I had a fantastic role model and mentor – a wonderful funeral director from Coventry, Muriel Grimmett-Offley, who was an inspiration to me from the outset, and was still working up until her recent death at the age of 86 – amazing lady!
WHAT’S CHANGING ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY THAT MAKES IT SUCH A GOOD SPACE TO BE IN?
Without wanting to sound negative, our industry is facing similar challenges to many other types of business. In recent years, a shift away from traditional values and a move towards very aggressive marketing tactics in the industry is a trend that we, as a family business, find difficult to accept. However, we are responding in a positive manner, and will remain steadfast and true to our family values.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WANTING TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY SPACE?
I would advise them to do their research very carefully and thoroughly. Ours is a highly cost-intensive business to start up, and to run properly. So many people think it is easy – all the old clichés about never being out of work are still heard – but in reality it is like any other business, but with the additional pressure of dealing with bereaved people which adds another level of understanding and skill.
THE PLUG BIT:
Our website www.hunnaball.co.uk is a great source of information for finding out about funeral service, our family, and all of our community and fundraising activities.
AND NOW THE SLIGHTLY LESS CORPORATE BIT…
BEST THING ABOUT EAST ANGLIA:
The coasts and rivers, the landscape and yes – the weather!
YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS:
Passionate, ambitious, fun-loving.
To learn to fly.
FANTASY DINNER PARTY GUESTS:
Maya Angelou, Victoria Wood, Idris Elba, Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster Abbey
WHERE YOU LIVE, WHERE YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM (AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE), HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHO YOU LIVE WITH:
I live in a 16th century cottage in Ardleigh, on the Essex/Suffolk border with my lovely husband Trevor. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica a long time ago….1949! My parents moved to England when I was 11, a massive culture shock for our family coming from a colonial lifestyle in the tropical climate to hard and cold winters and a very different way of life.