'I never wear all black’: Meet the glamorous 29-year-old funeral director shaking up the business
14:03 GMT, 9 August 2012
Poppy Mardall always makes sure she adds a splash of colour when visiting bereaved families
Funerals and death are a taboo subject in modern society, but one woman set about changing that.
Poppy Mardall quit her high-flying job as deputy director at auction house Sotheby's and is forging a new career where she can channel her skills to help people.
Poppy's Funerals was born- a small independent company, passionate about helping people get what they want and need from a funeral.
The 29-year-old from Hammersmith, London takes pride in providing the down-to-earth, practical, emotional and highly professional service needed when faced with the death of someone you love.
'It's not all about wearing a black or a top hat, it's about supporting your family. The industry needs change.'
And that is exactly what Poppy is doing.
It all began last year when her father was diagnosed with cancer and then Poppy herself contracted typhoid during her travels of Ghana.
'It made me realise that there is no time like the present. I was sat at home horizontally for six months, separate from the world and I realised how, as a culture, we don't talk about death.
'We go into the funeral experience unequipped with so many choices.
'I wanted to strip away the frillyness of the industry and say “yes you can have a lovely extravagant funeral but you can also have something very simple and affordable.”'
At Poppy's, the service is simple and the cremation is separate from the funeral ceremony. The company return the ashes to the family giving them the freedom to hold a funeral, memorial or celebration of life wherever, whenever and however they choose.
Poppy will visit the families at home (and she always ensures that she doesn't wear just black) to help them with the paperwork and discuss their wishes.
The average cost of dying in London is 8,020, but Poppy's simple service is 1,750.
'Rather than spending money on things that don't matter, it can go towards creating a more memorable service,' she said.
At Poppy's, choice is important and families are given the power to hold a funeral how they want
The support from her friends and family has been second-to-none.
'The range of responses have gone from people being very interested and asking lots of questions to friends saying “are you completely mad”
'But once they have had a little giggle they ask lots of questions and become very interested. Everyone has had an experience with death, it touches everyone.'
Poppy couldn't have done it without the love and support of her husband Chris, owner of Love Art London.
'Sometimes my husband will wake me up at two in the morning with some thoughts about it all.
'It is really important to have support around you.' she said.
Poppy is there for the family from beginning to end and caters the funeral to their needs
Her lifestyle has transformed dramatically since changing jobs, and although her job at Sotheby's was great fun and she was able to travel the world, she finds her new role 'unbelievably fulfilling.'
It isn't the dead bodies that bother her, it's the fear of letting the families down that keeps Poppy awake at night but she channels her organistional skills to avoid that dilemma and her first four funerals have been a great success.
In between running the successful start-up, Poppy loves swimming, playing guitar and long walks along the river with her husband.
And what would her perfect funeral be
'A simple cremation on the Isle of Wight. Lots of food, music, singing and an unlimited bar on the beach for all the people I love.'