In 1994 Joanie and Clyde West owned a business called "Gift in a Balloon". It was essentially a Party Store that sold wedding and party related items with the main focus being balloons with various items inside (i.e., hats, flowers, chocolates, etc.). One night they were having dinner with friends and they were discussing a mutual acquaintance who was very ill. The conversation turned to "what do you want to have done with you after you are gone?" When it was Clyde's turn he said, "I don't care. Just have me cremated, put me in a balloon and send me off". The idea for the Eternal Ascent Society was born.
After extensive research and testing Joanie and Clyde contacted a patent attorney and on October 15, 1996 the Eternal Ascent Society received a U.S. Patent (#5,564,260) for the idea and process of placing cremated remains of a human or pet in a balloon filled with a lighter than air gas and releasing it to the heavens. The Inflation Chamber is also part of the patent. They have since obtained Trademark protection for the name and logo.
The founders, Joan and Clyde West, have been running this business on a part-time basis since 1995. They have recently sold their other businesses and are now committed to focusing all of their energies on growing Eternal Ascent Society.
Until the beginning of 2003 our service was promoted primarily through news stories done by local media outlets (television and newspaper), the occasional national and international magazine article, through our website and by "word of mouth".
In February 2003 we retained a Consultant to help us create a marketing plan that would allow us to grow our business more quickly. After considerable analysis we decided that the quickest and most effective way for us to expand throughout Florida and eventually the entire United States was to License our patented process to Funeral Professionals (Crematories, Funeral Homes, etc.) allowing them to offer our service to the families that they serve and to perform the Releases themselves.
To gauge the Funeral Industries acceptance of this approach we exhibited our product at the 2003 Florida Funeral Directors Association's Annual Convention in Orlando. The response was very encouraging. Many of them expressed interest in promoting our service to the families that they serve, but they were not necessarily interested in performing the Releases themselves. We realized that we needed to be able to provide adequate support for those Funeral Professionals that did not want to actually perform the Releases.
We determined that by Franchising our concept we could make our unique and beautiful service available to more families on an even greater scale. Our challenge was to create a Franchise Opportunity that would allow a hardworking Entrepreneur to build a substantial business by marketing our service directly to the public within their "territory", work on a referral basis with the Funeral Professionals in their territory that don't want to perform the Releases themselves and support the ones that do. In early October, 2003 we completed the compilation of all of the disclosure documents that the Federal Trade Commission requires to be included in the Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC). Once we were in full compliance with the FTC's Franchise Rule we began marketing the Franchise Opportunity on a limited basis in the State of Florida.
Encouraged by the reception in Florida we exhibited our service at the National Funeral Directors Association's Annual Convention in Las Vegas in late October 2003 and again in Nashville October 2004. Based on the tremendous interest in our service expressed by the Funeral Professionals in attendance we have accelerated the timetable for expansion outside of the state of Florida.
As of June 1, 2005 we have franchises in Florida, Washington, Michigin and New Jersey. We are currently in negotiations with potential franchisees in several additional states where we have met those states' requirements to offer franchises for sale.