By Petra Chesner Schlatt for Bucks Local News
When someone passes away, loved ones are grief-stricken. They must process their feelings and begin to deal with a future without the recently deceased. They also have to deal with the present, and many don’t know how.
Entrepreneur Rachel Zeldin knows how and has set up, “I’m Sorry to Hear LLC” and www.imsorrytohear.com to assist those who need help taking care of funeral arrangements.
Zeldin, 30, of Lower Makefield, called the service “I’m Sorry to Hear” because she felt it was a fitting and honest expression of sympathy.
“Personally, whenever I hear someone has lost a loved one, my heart breaks. I say, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that. I felt it was a universal way to empathize with each other. It’s a genuine expression.”
The funeral planning website was developed to promote consumer education and advocacy during one of life's most emotional events.
Since the launch of “I’m Sorry to Hear” in Oct. 2012, Zeldin and her team of interns has helped more than 11,000 families through what she calls “the unfortunate experience of funeral planning.”
“We want to help so many more,” she said. “The free online community not only helps families find funeral service providers faster, compare them, and leave and read reviews, but also educates them on all of the decisions they will have to make and provides unbiased information on a variety of funeral topics.”
Zeldin said her company has been called the “TripAdvisor of funeral planning” by numerous publications.
The website provides funeral planning resources and funeral home information to promote consumer education and advocacy in funeral planning.
“Designed with the consumer in mind, it offers powerful search, sort and refinement capabilities to quickly find funeral service providers based on user preferences such as geography, religion, culture or services offered,” Zeldin said. “Consumers are empowered to do more than just read editorials.”
With the ability to leave reviews on their funeral home experiences, tips for funeral planning and more, they can provide word-of-mouth recommendations to aid other families to efficiently make sound decisions when it’s time to plan a funeral.
“’I’m Sorry to Hear’ establishes a new era in consumer advocacy, empowerment and shopping in an industry that has been historically closed leaving consumers financially vulnerable at a time when emotions often cloud decision-making,” Zeldin said.
Previously, families were left to rely solely on the industry to provide accurate information on the planning process and fair pricing without any way to effectively comparison shop.
“Now, consumers can do their own research and pre-planning in a matter of hours rather than days before calling a funeral home to make the final arrangements for their loved one,” she said.
The website was initially launched for the tri-state area, with all funeral homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware in the searchable database. It has since expanded to 17 states and more than 9,000 funeral homes.
Zeldin graduated from Drexel University in 2006 with a business degree. She worked for a mid-size financial services company in a sales and marketing capacity.
Five years later, the 2002 Pennsbury High School graduate “jumped ship” and traveled the world. She lived in Toronto and Tel Aviv before settling back in Lower Makefield, where she grew up, in 2012. She likes to say she has come “full circle.”
She set her sights on establishing “I’m Sorry to Hear” and focused on bringing the funeral industry into the digital age.
“As a lifelong resident of Bucks County, I am proud to be able to offer this new technology to our local communities,” she said.
“I’m Sorry to Hear” is now her full-time job. She has a team of nine students working with her while completing internships or senior projects