u r n f o l d

Individually customisable urns made from paper (Winning idea in the 2021 Social Innovators Challenge 2021)

What does u r n f o l d do?

u r n f o l d develops individually customisable urns made from paper. Its founders are committed to supporting and driving the change to a newer and more personal funeral and mourning culture that values sustainability and contemporary aesthetics.

Who are the people behind u r n f o l d?

The people behind u r n f o l d are Kristina und Katharina. They met 13 years ago when they were both studying abroad in England, one as an eleventh-grade student and one after finishing school at the Realschule school type. They have been good friends ever since. After taking the Abitur school leaving examination, Kristina completed an apprenticeship as a violin maker and went on to study philosophy as a major and applied computer science as a minor at the University of Bamberg. This semester she will write her bachelor’s thesis and in the winter semester she will move to Regensburg, where Katharina is already based, and start a master’s in Perimortal Studies at the University of Regensburg. Katharina studied communications design in Nuremberg and at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and now works as a freelance photographer and in the service centre for virtual teaching at OTH Regensburg, the other university in Regensburg.

Where did the idea for u r n f o l d come from?

We have both experienced deaths of people we were very close to several times in our lives. These losses led us to become aware of how rigidly the processes around funerals and mourning are often handled and of how this rigidity can feel inappropriate or no longer appropriate for today.

The idea of making urns, specifically, comes from Kristina having made an urn for her father in 2014. What the funeral home was able to offer was simply not right for her and her family at all, and they thought that they had just been unlucky with the selection of this particular undertaker. But thorough online research also uncovered only a handful of urns at most meeting her expectations around sustainability and contemporary aesthetics at an affordable price point. To avoid finding ourselves in a situation like that again and to enable people who might not have crafts expertise to access urns that are personal, sustainable, and affordable, we developed our sustainable and customisable paper urns.

The u r n f o l d team won the Social Innovators Challenge 2021, an ideas contest jointly mounted by the Universities of Würzburg and Bamberg. What does the victory mean for the team?

First and foremost, the victory confirmed to us that we are on the right track. The positive resonance sparked by our idea, which is very much a personal passion of ours, has been a genuinely lovely and meaningful experience for us that has strengthened our resolve to see our idea through. We were very honoured that our idea proved convincing amid competition from so many strong teams – it was by no means a foregone conclusion that it would. We are also delighted with the prize money our victory has brought in and we are going to invest it in the purchase of a plotter. That will help optimise the process of manufacturing the paper urns because we will be able to generate folding patterns on the computer and then transfer them to paper.

What did the team take away from participating in the competition?

As well as picking up a lot of useful input on specific aspects of entrepreneurship, we learned that simply getting started is very much worth the effort. The Social Innovators Challenge “forced” us to think our project through in a very short, intense period of time and to start working on it in all seriousness. Now we have a much clearer picture of our business idea and the confidence to move towards setting up our own business.

How are you going to take your idea further now? What are the next steps you are planning following the Social Innovators Challenge?

Following the SIC, we are strongly focused on founding our business and developing our idea to get a first product ready for market. You can follow and share our progress on our Instagram account @urnfold while we are getting there! We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are looking forward to it and we hope that our project will generate a lot of interest. It will be decisive for the success of the project that we succeed in making many people aware of the issue that drives us: it is simply not true that funerals have to follow fixed templates. Everyone can shape funerals and the processes around them in ways that meet their personal needs. Our project can contribute to that, but also needs rethinking to take place in this general area for its own success.

What advice can u r n f o l d give to other start-up founders and potential entrepreneurs?

Taking part in an ideas contest forced us to think intensively about our idea and that was productive. We would recommend that other new entrepreneurs also seek out external challenges like the Social Innovators Challenge. At the beginning, it might be enough to have to present results regularly to an unbiased outside person. We had a rough outline of our idea in our heads for a long time, but we needed an external stimulus and something to hold us accountable to seriously get to grips with it. Taking part in the workshops offered by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BIG) is also a very worthwhile way to pick up important skills and expertise and especially to form a network with other start-up founders and sources of support.