Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Ashley Hoff-Czapleweski, a funeral director with Hoff Funeral & Cremation Service located in Goodview, Minnesota to learn more about her career and experience in the funeral industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you always want to be a funeral director? How did you get into the industry?
I grew up in the funeral business. My grandpa started our business and now my dad and uncle own it. When I was little we lived above the funeral home, but even growing up there every day it wasn’t a business I wanted to go into. I initially went to college for nursing, but part way through I realized that wasn’t what I wanted, so I started thinking more seriously about joining the family business.
When I was younger I used to think that this business was just dealing with the deceased, but when I got older, I realized it was so much more than that. Once I officially joined the family business, I knew it was where is supposed to be and I have no regrets.
What steps did you take to become a funeral director? What was the process like for you?
I was at school at the College of St. Benedict for nursing, but when I changed my career pathway, I transferred to Rochester Community and Technical College to finish up all my general requirements. I then went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Mortuary Science. After school, I completed an internship with Mattson Funeral Home in Forest Lake, Minnesota before joining my family at Hoff Funeral & Cremation Service.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
My favorite part about working in this industry is working closely with the families to create a tribute or service that is truly unique and all about their loved one.
What makes Hoff Funeral and Cremation Service stand apart from other funeral homes?
We have 5 locations and we are family owned and operated. In addition to that, we try to stay on trend and on the cutting edge of things in the industry. We are always open to new ideas and love to try new things. We are also the first funeral home in our area to have a therapy dog.
What is it like to have a therapy dog on site?
At the funeral home we have Charlie, a six month old Labradoodle. We had him professionally trained and he came to us at 4 and a half months old. We were also trained on how to work with him and how to further train him in the future. He lives with my family and then comes to work with me every day.
He’s great around the families we serve. Before we begin arrangements with a family, we will tell them about Charlie and ask if they would like to meet him. Most everyone says yes! Then, if the family would like, Charlie can sit with them while we make arrangements and plan the service for their loved one. He can also be present at the visitation and funeral if the family would like.
He is a temporary distraction for the families when they are going through some of the toughest days of their lives. Charlie has a way of knowing who needs his comfort the most and always can find his way to them.
You are not only the youngest President of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association ever, but you are also the first female president. How has your experience as president impacted your life?
I started serving on the board of directors in 2012 and eventually decided it was time for me to start moving through the chairs. I enjoy serving on the board because it is a way to give back to a profession that I dearly love. I am really looking forward to the year ahead and getting to know more of our members throughout the state and build relationships that will last a lifetime.
Are you a member of any community groups or organizations?
I am a member of the Goodview Business Association, the Goodview Economic Development Authority, and we belong to the Winona Chamber of Commerce.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I’m proud to serve as president of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association and represent such a great profession. I believe it it’s our responsibility to give back when we are able, and I feel honored that at this point in my life, I have the opportunity to do so. I am also proud to be a third generation funeral director and carrying on the business my grandpa built.
How do you keep residual emotions from following you home from work?
When dealing with particularly hard days, I find that it is really important to make sure you talk about it. I’m lucky enough to have my family at work and a work environment where we feel comfortable talking through hard times.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about?
I love the fact that this industry is ever changing, but at the same time, that’s also what can be a little concerning. It’s exciting because we constantly get to think outside of the box as we serve our families. At the same time, that’s the scary side of this industry. With how quickly things change and evolve, we have to constantly find ways to be able to help every family in the way they need.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
When a service is done and a family tells me that is exactly what their loved one would have wanted. It means I did my job and really paid attention to what they wanted and needed to make that day as special, unique, and memorable as possible.
Do you have any advice you would share with other funeral directors, especially the younger ones who are just now entering the profession?
My advice would be to put yourself out there when meeting with families; don’t be afraid to really get to know them, get to know their loved one; ask them the tough questions. It will help you to find ways to celebrate the life of their loved one in a very meaningful way and it will allow them to create a bond and trust with you. But also, remember to take time for yourself and to do the things in life that you enjoy doing. In order to be great at what we do, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. FBA