Passion to Profit
I am a full-time college student at the University of Iowa in the spring semester of my sophomore year. My journey so far has shaped me to become the man I am today. A big part of that journey includes my love for American history. Every year on Memorial Day my dad would take my mother and I out to the cemetery to place American flags on the Civil War veterans’ gravestones. It quickly became a family tradition. As a young child, I had enjoyed this, but I had not yet realized the true reason we had been doing this. Years later, in 2012, I was 15 and my father’s passion for American history along with his respect for our veterans had greatly influenced me. On this Memorial Day as we once again stood in the old Civil War lot of 80 plus soldiers, I had a great sadness come over me. This soldier’s lot had not been taken care of in many decades; it looked defeated. It had been like this for as long as I could remember and I thought nothing of it, but that day I saw it differently. The lives of these brave soldiers should not be remembered by their blackened headstones drowning in overgrown weeds, but by shiny marble headstones proudly displaying their names. These soldiers deserved better. Something needed to be done.
It took us three long years to complete the project. After appropriate training, we hand cleaned over 80 stones, restored a canon, added a black iron fence around the lot. We had replaced broken and missing stones, and installed a lighted flag pole and a memorial bench as well. It was no doubt the most rewarding volunteer service I had ever been a part of. It was such an eye-opening experience as it had cemented morals that I have in which I hold dearly today; being selfless and being the best leader that I can possibly be. We were incredibly thrilled when the city held a re-dedication ceremony for the Soldier’s Lot in August of 2015. We were not expecting the publicity that we had gotten, which let us realize that there is much more that we can do with this. My dad and I began to wonder, “how do others clean and restore their loved one’s gravestones? Who even does that kind of work around here?” And with those questions in our minds, a new business was born. The name “StoneDoctorz” only seemed fitting.
The next priority was to learn how to properly clean and reset all types of gravestones, since military marble gravestones had been the only ones that we had worked with. My father attended classes and became certified in gravestone cleaning and restoration. He, in turn, taught me all the techniques that he had learned through those classes. Our trips to Gettysburg and Washington D.C. were quite a remarkable experience. We were able to visit with experts in the business of preservation of historical markers. We gained quite a bit of additional valuable knowledge, such as discovering what cleaners should and should not be used on various stone types. We now only use a product that is backed by the government. In fact, it is the same cleaner they use on all of their federal monuments. It is quite a process in starting your own business. You are responsible for absolutely everything! Believe me when I say that it is completely different than working at a self-serve yogurt shop. My father and I are the only two employees, so we do a plethora of brainstorming together; pitching ideas to promote our business and working off each other’s strengths to make the job a little bit easier. I handle the advertising and social media side of the business and he handles the billing, taxes and customer service. While I had no experience in advertising, I challenged my creative side. I spent many hours designing our brochures and business cards. I also came up with a Facebook page that shows our before and after pictures of the gravestones we have cared for. They show quite a remarkable difference. I believe those pictures have been a huge reason for our increased clientele. I network with cemetery managers and funeral home directors. I have found that many people contact these businesses with restoration questions that can be referred to Stonedoctorz. Both my father and I are highly involved in the dirty work as well; cleaning, digging, climbing, lifting, restoring and leveling all sizes of gravestones.
A friend once asked me if I thought our business would be successful. It is after all, to some, kind of a strange service we offer. No one around here had heard of this kind of business before. My father and I believe in what we do and advocate the importance of preserving all our cemeteries. Every family has a history; every stone tells a story. We have now been in business for four years strong and are proud to have the support of our community. We continue to volunteer our services in veteran lot clean ups and restoration. Success to me is feeling pride in a job well done. My father and I created this business out of a passion. We know that every grave represents a life lived and should be respected. The satisfaction I get from this is priceless. This entire process has given me clarification in my future goals. I’ve always enjoyed helping others; especially our veterans. Making others smile, laugh, and just simply be happy is what I strive for, and whatever it takes for that to happen, I will do it. Our business is seasonal so it gives me the time I need to pursue my education. It has provided a much-needed profit that I use for those college expenses. I am pursuing a degree in Exercise Science at the University of Iowa with a path to Physical Therapy. I will continue to be a StoneDoctor, and wherever I end up, I plan on the business to come with me.
Jace will continue attending the University of Iowa in the fall, pursuing a degree in exercise science.