More than three years ago, Jenny Briscoe-Hough had an idea to adopt a social enterprise business model to provide affordable funeral services. With the hope of “empowering people to take control of their dying, their deaths and their funerals”, Tender Funerals was born.

Tender’s vision is to reach a diverse range of cultures and beliefs, with a focus on working with disadvantaged and indigenous community members. It runs educational programs to explain how relatives can become more involved in the end-of-life process and to change the way communities think about dying.

In August 2014, Tender was featured in an ABC television documentary and the idea gathered momentum. It received overwhelming support via a crowdfunding campaign, then the second most successful in Australia to date. The timing was right for a business that could offer affordable, personalised funerals and an alternative to traditional funerals. The crowdfunding finance constituted the initial piece of the funding puzzle yet to complete it, Tender needed to find mission-aligned partners to fill the gap and support its start-up phase.

Tender Funerals became a reality when SEFA Partnerships joined forces with the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) to create a deal that combined both debt and philanthropy. The SEFA Partnerships loan assisted with the purchase of Port Kembla’s former fire station and the grant from VFFF enabled the conversion of the building into a mortuary.

The journey to holding the keys to the property was long and serves to demonstrate the commitment and perseverance of the people invested in a community-driven initiative.

What Tender says - ‘SEFA worked with us to ensure we had a sound business model and to develop a relationship with the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. SEFA really believed in and backed our vision despite all of the challenges that we faced getting the project off the ground.’ Jenny Briscoe-Hough, General Manager, Our Community Project Inc.

What SEFA Partnerships says - ‘Tender represents the first partnership of its kind in Australia. It demonstrates the power of collaboration between a community organisation, the public (via crowdfunding), a foundation and a social lender that together created a very strong base for a sustainable social enterprise start-up.’

What the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation says - ‘The free-flowing communication between the three organisations and SEFA’s willingness to share its insights on financials, streamlined the Foundation’s processes and opened the door for collaboration in our newest strategic program – impact investment.’