When Cameron Allahverdi ('06) was an entrepreneurship student at UNT, he had "classic 22-year-old confidence."
He listened as entrepreneurs talked about their successes and struggles in a class taught by Eileen Resnik, then the director of UNT's Murphy Enterprise Center and executive lecturer.
"I remember saying to her I'm going to create a business right away," he says. "I convinced myself I wouldn't see failure. I remember her smiling at me and nodding. To this day, I laugh about it because I knew she was thinking: 'I can't wait to see what you say in 10 years.'"
Allahverdi has experienced the many waves of entrepreneurship, but he's found a niche as the co-owner of geturns.com, which specializes in customization of cremation urns that tell the story of the deceased person. After he and his business partner, Hamza Khan, learned to promote an inclusive company culture, the business is expected to make Inc.'s 500 fastest growing companies of 2022 list at the end of June.
"Now looking back, I remember every single entrepreneur I've learned about had failures or trials that brought them to the brink of giving up," he says. "But those things will happen and you just have to learn how to navigate through it."
He learned these lessons by watching his father, Ray Allahverdi ('77 M.B.A.), who immigrated from Iran and who believed strongly in the American dream. After working in the corporate world, his dad eventually owned and operated a successful dry cleaning business in Irving.
"Since the age of about 10, I've seen him do his own thing -- the efforts, the ups and downs," Allahverdi says. "It's a roller coaster for sure. But there was something ingrained in me to want to take that on and become my own boss too."
He eventually opened a Fox's Pizza Den franchise for two years before partnering with FBS, a Richardson-based provider of wholesale and contract screen printing, with his childhood friend Nicholas McCoy ('05).
"My passion was finding solutions to industries or seeing how something can be done better," he says.
One of their clients was an India-based company that manufactured cremation urns for which FBS handled the storage and shipping. That is when Allahverdi and Khan were inspired to join forces and combine their skillsets in manufacturing, ecommerce and customization to start GetUrns.com
"There is something that we as humans want to differentiate ourselves in some way through each of our uniqueness," he says.
People, Allahverdi realized, also want to leave a legacy, even on their urns.
Geturns.com customer service representatives guide family members through every step of the process. The company's designers -- including David Bojay ('20), a new media art major -- can convert a handwritten note onto the urn. They also can incorporate bold colors, pictures and engravings into the designs. One man described his mother as a lioness, so artists created that image on the urn. Clients often add a favorite phrase their loved one would say. Some have added QR codes that open to a favorite song on a streaming platform.
"I'm trying to tell as much about a person's life in their final resting place," he says. "The feeling of gratification when a customer sees the proof of the design is my favorite part."
Allahverdi says the biggest lesson he's learned as a business owner is creating a special culture in the company -- taking care of all his staff.
"You have to really invest in employees' successes and celebrate and thank them for their work," he says. "That sounds idealistic, but if you actually do this, we all see the benefits."