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Death Is Big Business Death becomes creative for funeral entrepreneurs.

By Sam Boykin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Despite our many efforts to stave off the Grim Reaper, one day he'll pay us a visit. While this is a rather somber reminder of our mortality, it also represents a great business opportunity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the funeral industry generates over $11 billion a year in revenue, with each funeral averaging $6,500. This figure doesn't include additional cemetery costs such as burial plots, vaults and monuments, which can tack on a few more grand to each service. With these to-die-for numbers, some savvy entrepreneurs have started thinking outside the pine box to come up with some unconventional and creative options for our final send-offs.

Houston-based Space Services Inc., for example, offers space "burials" in which up to 7 grams of a person's cremated remains are placed inside lipstick-size capsules and launched into orbit.

Charles Chafer, 53, Space Services' co-founder and CEO, was part of the team that launched the first privately funded rocket into outer space in 1982. However, the commercial space field never quite materialized. "I was getting tired of the 'If you build it, they will come' approach to commercial space [flights]," says Chafer. Theorizing the key to space commerce could be found in mass markets, he pursued the idea of memorial space flights. Says Chafer, "I had a belief that people would find a space memorial just as meaningful as having their ashes scattered at sea."

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