A new Texas startup helps soothe the sting of losing loved ones by allowing them to leave behind an entirely different kind of heirloom. A Sweet Goodbye is a new online service that lets people record messages that can be accessed and enjoyed by family and friends after they're gone.
Fort Worth-based founder Rich Hollander, who worked for Radio Shack/Tandy Corporation in the area for more than 25 years, got the idea about a year ago during a reflective moment.
“I was sitting in synagogue, a quiet time when you contemplate things,” he says. “During those times, I talk to my parents — who are both gone — and my late brother, and about 15 other people who have passed away. On this particular morning, I was talking to my mom. I knew what she was telling me, but I couldn’t hear her voice. I thought, ‘I wish I could just push a button and hear her voice,’ but there’s nothing I could do about that.”
While it’s too late for Hollander to hear his mother’s voice, he says, he wanted to provide such a service for other people. He also says he wanted to make the process as simple and as painless as possible.
“You go to our website and click on a button that says, ‘I want to make a recording.’ Before that you prepare a little bit. You figure out what you want to say, and you figure out who you want to send the message to. You get their email address, and we ask you to give us two trusted advisers so they can tell us when you passed away, and then you just record your message, and that’s it.”
The message customers record is hosted on the cloud, and it’s all audio based. Your loved one will hear it after you die, as many times as they would like. There is no video option, and messages can last a maximum of five minutes long. According to Hollander, this is by design rather than due to technical limitations.
“We thought about our target customers; Baby Boomers and their parents don’t want to see themselves,” he says. “They don’t like the idea of recording a video. And people don’t want to listen for more than five minutes. You can say a lot in that amount of time.”
Some people choose to pass down secret family recipes or record tales from their youth, the company says.
Realizing that people can also use phones and other home devices to make recordings, Hollander made A Sweet Goodbye inexpensive, accessible, and convenient. He says there are other options for similar services on the market, but they are “much more complex” and “much more expensive,” costing up to $8 per month, compared to his company’s one-time fee.
“You can listen to it a thousand times from your computer or your phone,” he says. “You can have your children listen to it. They can listen to their great grandma’s voice. For $25, it’s a bargain.”
Hollander himself uses the service.
“I have two adult daughters in their 40s,” he says. “One lives here, one lives in New Zealand. My message to them is something like, ‘If you pushed this button, you are probably having a bad day, and just need my voice of reassurance. So, understand that I’m up here in heaven, and I’m looking after you guys, and tomorrow will be a better day than today.’ They can push that button and hear that message whenever and wherever they want.”
While A Sweet Goodbye is simple to use, there is an emotional hurdle in getting started.
“The hard part is making the first message,” Hollander says. “Because it’s coming to grips with the fact that you are not going to be around forever, and neither is your mom. But it is cathartic. For me, the second message was extremely easy to make.”
The site has just launched and is now available for anyone to access. On Veterans Day (November 11), A Sweet Goodbye will provide one free service for active duty members in the United States military. Later, they will do another giveaway for nurses and first responders. Follow their Facebook page for updates.
“It’s our way of doing something nice for the world,” Hollander says.