America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Kaiser-Corson Funeral Homes, Waverly, Shell Rock, Denver, Readlyn
Kaiser-Corson Funeral Homes currently has four locations in the Cedar Valley area, in Waverly, Shell Rock, Denver, and Readlyn. George Kaiser started the business in 1901, eventually moving to Waverly in the 1940s where he opened his second location. Shortly after, Jim Corson, George’s grandson, then joined him in operating the funeral homes, and thus the transition to Kaiser-Corson Funeral Homes began.
Jim Corson had three sons, Cal, Carter, and Steve, who took over the business. These three were the
owners up until September of 2019 when they sold the business to the four current owners, Darren
O’Donnell, Ryan Tucker, Denee Muller, and Jon Dummermuth. All were employees of the funeral homes
before transitioning to ownership.
The business is successful because of the path and values the Corson family instilled in their employees.
The families that the funeral home works with are going through difficult times and are dealing with an
array of emotions as they navigate their loss. Staff and owners show these families a great deal of kindness
and empathy while working with them, making sure to do everything they can to make this very difficult
process a bit easier. Darren O’Donnell says, “Much honor goes into helping these families. We have a great
group of owners and staff who do a great job at making sure our clients are taken care of.”
Giving back to their communities is a value that runs deep among the funeral home owners and staff.
When they are asked, they try to give back if possible. Donations to schools for booster clubs, proms, and
after-proms are common, with local service organizations and the Lions Club. The Cedar Valley Hospice is
another priority for the Kaiser-Corson Funeral Homes donations.
Working with Amy Dutton of the UNI SBDC, was a wonderful experience for the four owners. “Amy did a
wonderful job in preparing us to get towards ownership. Her guidance was wonderful, and she did an
amazing job guiding us through everything we needed.”
When they transitioned from staff to owners, a learning curve was present to the current. There were
business things that they were not accustomed to doing that now fell on their shoulders. Darren says that
working with Amy Dutton at the University Of Northern Iowa Small Business Development Center made
this transition much easier, as she was able to give the new team guidance during their transition.
To anyone looking to start their own business, Darren has some advice. “Start with your local SBDC and do
research in ANY way you can, whether online, with a financial planner, an accountant, or a lawyer, you can
find some great advice,” says Darren O’Donnell, one of the four owners of Kaiser-Corson Funeral Homes.