Aug. 11—Parting Stone is in the express lane on the highway to heaven with its three-year-old Santa Fe startup business to solidify cremated ashes into decorative rounded stones.
Parting Stone has solidified some 4,000 cremated remains and creates some 250 sets of stones each month, with ashes shipped to Santa Fe from more than 600 funeral homes in the United States and Canada.
Each step of the way, public and private loans and grants have helped a fast-growing company keep up with its growth, with 36 employees now and 109 more projected in the next five years.
"We were growing so fast," Parting Stone founder and CEO Justin Crowe said Wednesday. "I can say without the support we have received from the New Mexico [financial] ecosystem, we would not be here."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mayor Alan Webber showed up Wednesday at Parting Stone's new, 8,000-square-foot lab near Cerrillos Road and Interstate 25 to deliver a $150,000 state Local Economic Development Act grant and $25,000 in local LEDA funds from the city.
"This LEDA funding will help us build the infrastructure to bring on over 100 new employees over the next five years," Crowe said. "We have a lot of machines that do separate things. We want to connect them to automate the process and make them more efficient."
LEDA is a New Mexico Economic Development Department program to assist expanding and relocating companies. The department has had incentives for Parting Stone since Crowe launched the company in October 2019.
"We started with 100 square feet in the Second Street Studios," Crowe said. "We got a $1,500 innovation grant from the state [Economic Development Department] to pay three months' rent."
Each year, Economic Development has awarded Job Training Incentive Program reimbursable grants to Parting Stone in the amounts of $76,084 in 2019; $31,633.96 and $136,360 in 2020; $97,290 in 2021; and $134,000 in April.
"This is an innovative company that has invented a service that is transforming the death-care industry," Economic Development Department Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a news release. "The new jobs and continued growth of Parting Stone is good news for family members who lost a loved one or a pet and want to continue to hold them close."
Crowe won over a group of angel investors to put up $500,000 in seed funding in August 2019 for Parting Stone's launch. The Arrowhead Innovation Center at New Mexico State University in the same year stepped up with a $100,000 investment, with other investors all adding up to some $2 million.
In the beginning, Parting Stone also landed a $30,000 New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program grant from Los Alamos National Laboratory and partnered with a LANL advanced ceramics scientist to determine if it was even possible to turn ash into stone. Parting Stone also received, in the past, an $800,000 loan from Finance New Mexico LLC, a subsidiary of the New Mexico Finance Authority.
"All great startups began with a big idea," Webber said at the ceremony, himself a highly successful entrepreneur as co-founder of Fast Company magazine that sold for $340 million in 2000. "This big idea couldn't be more profound. Every one of us needs to have a better option [when people die]. There are a lot of good ideas that don't grow as you have."
Lujan Grisham said the 56 New Mexico businesses funded with LEDA money created 8,600 new jobs.
"We are creating space and employment opportunities for New Mexican in spades [with Parting Stone]," the governor said. "All of these investments make a difference. This particular business has an impact on all of us personally."
Lujan Grisham recounted the death in 2004 of her first husband, Gregory Grisham, whose remains were cremated.
"What do you do with that box or urn?" the governor said. "[Parting Stone] is a powerful and meaning choice for families. If this was available for us, it would have made a difference for us."