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Lehigh Valley Startup Offers Customized Funeral Urns From Local Artists

By Colin McEvoy on November 16, 2016

Examples of urns available at Eternally Art, a startup that creates custom-designed urns from ceramic, glass, metal, or wood.

Examples of urns available at Eternally Art, a startup that creates custom-designed urns from ceramic, glass, metal, or wood.

Matt Heintzelman wants to “bring a new life to the funeral industry.”

That’s why the Penn State senior a fourth generation member of the family that runs the Heintzelman Funeral Home in the Lehigh Valley – has launched a new startup that is making urns more than just funerary vessels. It’s turning them into works of art.

Eternally Art connects artists with family members so they can create custom-designed urns from ceramic, glass, metal, or wood, creating a piece of art that also serves as a final resting place, and as a remembrance

“The way I think a lot of my peers are is they don’t fit the mold my parents and grandparents fit,” Heintzelman said. “… My idea with customizing urns is to have something that speaks to the life of the person that passed away.”

Matt Heintzelman, founder of Eternally Art, with his twin sister Erin, who is studying to become a funeral director.

Matt Heintzelman, founder of Eternally Art, with his twin sister Erin, who is studying to become a funeral director. (courtesy photo)

Eternally Art is one of 27 startups that have received micro-grants through Lehigh Valley Launchbox, a business accelerator for early stage entrepreneurs that propels business concepts into startup companies and advances them to win their first customers or early investors.

Launched about one year ago, Lehigh Valley Launchbox provides grants between $1,000 and $8,000, and also links grant recipients to business leaders, academic partners, and Penn State alumni to provide mentorship and to help launch ideas and turn them into useful products.

“We are proud to be a part of the larger ecosystem of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship activity in the Lehigh Valley,” Penn State Lehigh Valley Chancellor Tina Richardson said during at a meet-and-greet event on Nov. 15 at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus in Upper Saucon Township.

Physically based in the Velocity co-working space in downtown Allentown, Lehigh Valley Launchbox is a program of Invent Penn State, an initiative to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success through academic programs, training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and university-community collaborations.

Lehigh Valley Launchbox has assisted such companies as TeraDrones, which makes professional cases for flight equipment and POV cameras; MindMe, Inc., an app for small business owners to attract new leads;  Crowdplsr, a crowdfunding app; and TroubleMaker, Inc., the children’s toy company behind the wooden building set ZYX Sticks.

A meet-and-greet for Lehigh Valley Launchbox was held at Penn State Lehigh Valley. (courtesy photo)

A meet-and-greet for Lehigh Valley Launchbox was held at Penn State Lehigh Valley. (courtesy photo)

Eternally Art was also developed in partnership with the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, a nonprofit arts-service organization representing nearly 500 arts patrons, professional artists, cultural groups, and businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The idea for Eternally Art came after Heintzelman, a finance major at Penn State Smeal College of Business, went on a study abroad trip in the Netherlands and met a student from Holland who was studying to be a funeral director, which led to a discussion of the cultural differences between their two countries.

“Together, they discussed the importance of an innovative approach to memorializing one’s life through these urns that are created by local artists,” said Erin Heintzelman, Matt’s twin sister, who is also studying to become a funeral director. “Matt and I both agreed it is so important to support and appreciate the arts, especially the local artists who make our community more colorful and unique.”

All Lehigh Valley community members and Penn State faculty, staff, and students who have a scalable business idea are welcome to apply for affiliation with the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox. Visit the website for more information.

In addition to the Lehigh Valley, Penn State campuses in Abington, Erie, Harrisburg, New Kensington, and Scranton have received funding awards through the Invent Penn State initiative.

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