UNDERTAKING A BUSINESS

Madeline Lyles can’t quite put her finger on why she was interested in becoming a mortician. However, her passion to work in the industry has been with her ever since she was a child. “I didn’t know anything about the profession, but it just dropped into my head that I wanted to be a mortician when I was 7th grade,” says Lyles. “I stuck with it, did a lot of research on the subject, and as soon as I finished high school I went to college to get a degree for that.”

Now, she and her friend, Dana Taylor, operate After Life Mortuary Services, the only such service in Memphis run by African-American women. The two met in 2010 at the city morgue, when both were forensic technicians at the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s office. They went their separate ways after that but met up later while working at a funeral home. Lyles explained the idea to open up her own Mortuary and recruited Dana to be her business partner in 2016.

After several years of preparation, the two became licensed morticians and opened After Life last October 8th. At After Life, Lyles and Taylor offer want to go beyond offering the conventional mortuary services. “There are a lot of hidden fees, and things of that nature, that many families don’t know about,” says Lyles. “That greatly raises expenses, so we want to educate people on that.”

To spread that knowledge, they host the Funeral Services Education Camp, which is targeted at 13- to 18-year-olds who have a desire to become morticians themselves. In addition, there are programs geared toward adults which cover pre-planning, insurance, final expenses, and paperwork required for funeral arrangements. Dana and Lyles have also opened their doors to students at the collegiate level. “We have a class at Northwest Mississippi Community College, which we both graduated from, in which students come in to get hands-on training and receive credits for their degree.”

Having successfully established their own business, Lyles is proud of making her mark in the field. “It’s a major accomplishment, with it being a male-dominated profession for so long. Of course, more women are being engaged in the profession, but many have married in to the business. So for us to be established, the women who founded it, is very rewarding, and it’s very uplifting to other women as well.” Lyles says that many aspiring morticians have reached out to them after the opening of After Life, having been encouraged to continue down their chosen career path.

To round out its services, After Life offers different types of insurance and final expense coverage. “We’re also able to provide more affordable services, as we are the funeral directors and the embalmers.” Plus, Lyles and Taylor seek to act as liaisons between funeral homes and the community. After Life has its own walk-in cooler storage to properly preserve bodies while the families explore which funeral homes they can afford, rather than having to pay to move the body multiple times. While many families would be in the dark as to how to navigate funeral services, Lyles’ and Taylor’s approach ensures clients are supported through a difficult time.

– Samuel X. Cicci

WHAT’S GOING ON

– In a significant tourism investment for Arkansas, Southland Gaming & Racing is planning a $250 million expansion that includes a 300-room, 20-story hotel and casino. Read Samuel X. Cicci’s story in the Memphis Flyer here.

– The job and recruiting site Glassdoor has released its annual jobs report identifying the 50 Best Jobs in America for 2019. The top five are: Data Scientist, Nursing Manager, Marketing Manager, Occupational Therapist, and Product Manager. To see the list of 50 with the salient details (job satisfaction rating, median base salary), go here.

– The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is none too thrilled about the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, saying workers and consumers in Tennessee will pay a higher price. A CWA report says the merger would result in 419 lost jobs in the state, while increasing prices for consumers, especially low-income residents of the state such as seniors. The proposed merger also would threaten call center jobs in Chattanooga and Nashville. Additionally, the merger would, the report says, still leave the majority of rural Tennesseans without access to high-speed broadband and wouldn’t dramatically improve the rural offerings compared to what the two companies would provide as standalone companies. The report is available here.

–  Nearly 30 percent of business leaders believe that global economic growth will decline in the next 12 months, about six times the level of 5 percent last year – a record jump in pessimism. This is one of the key findings of PwC’s 22nd annual survey of 1,300 plus CEOs around the world, announced at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. This is in contrast to last year’s record jump, 29 percent to 57 percent, in optimism about global economic growth prospects.

There’s still hope: 42 percent still see an improved economic outlook, though this is down significantly from a high of 57 percent in 2018. Overall, CEOs’ views on global economic growth are more polarized this year but trending downward. The most pronounced shift was among CEOs in North America, where optimism dropped from 63 percent in 2018 to 37 percent likely due to fading of fiscal stimulus and emerging trade tensions. The full report is here.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

Inside Memphis Business is honoring its 2019 CEO of the Year honorees today. This morning we recognized Jonathan and Jarrett Logan of Castle Black ConstructionNathan A. Bicks of Burch Porter & Johnson PLLC, Jack Soden of Elvis Presley Enterprises, and Meri Armour of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. The CEO of the Year breakfast was presented by eBiz Solutions and sponsored by Orion Federal Credit Union.

Profiles of the winners will be in the next issue of Inside Memphis Business out next week.

NEWS FROM OTHER SOURCES

– FedEx Logistics president and chief executive Richard W. Smith talks about the future of the one-stop shop for international trade and specialty transportation solutions. Read Wayne Risher’s story in the Daily Memphian here.

 Pyrex‘s parent company will move some of its manufacturing and distribution operations to a 790,000-square-foot building in Marshall County, Mississippi. Jacob Steimer writes about it in the Memphis Business Journal here.

– FedEx and International Paper made Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” report. Read Max Garland’s story in The Commercial Appeal here.

THE HOT SHEET

Who’s getting promoted? Who’s closing big deals? Who’s getting awards? Inside Memphis Business magazine’s Hot Sheet has the latest on milestones in Memphis.

– Sophie Tsagronis (pictured) joined DCAas account coordinator. She had previously interned at the firm helping with client research, campaign planning, public relations, and social media content creation. In her new role, duties will expand to include campaign planning.

– archimania was ranked 8th in design by Architect magazine’s “Architect 50” rankings. The magazine is the official publication of the American Institute of Architects.

– Vision Hospitality Group opened a boutique-style Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Memphis at 150 Union Ave. The 150-bed complex also hosts The Greyhound, an upscale Gin bar featuring a curated menu of craft gins, spices, tonics, and bitters.

POWER PLAYER

Inside Memphis Business magazine publishes a list of local Power Players every year. These are the movers and shakers in more than 30 categories who get things done in their respective fields. IMB’s April issue has the complete list. We also publish individual categories in other issues throughout the year, and we feature individual Power Players in our weekly Tip Sheet.

This week’s Power Player is Jud Cannon:

CEO, Cannon Wright Blount. Bachelor of Business Administration, U of M. Started company with Doug Wright and Richard Blount more than 15 years ago, offering business, software, outsourcing solutions for clients beyond general accounting services. Firm offers tax and audit services, technology, accounting, and consulting solutions. Professional concentrations include healthcare, business improvement, outsourcing.

For the complete list of Inside Memphis Business Power Players, go here.