Walter Portz hopes to change the way people deal with death.
After spending a year slogging through the paperwork and preparations that fell to him after his mother, Helen, passed away in 2017, Portz realized he hadn’t been given the space to actually grieve. Settling the affairs of a loved one is no easy task—yet it’s one that most everyone has to face at some point in their lives.
Inspired to simplify and humanize the process, he turned to friends and mentors with the question, “Why do we still deal with death like it’s the 1950s?”
Two years later, in April 2020, Portz launched Helen’s Plan, a secure online database for organizing, storing and sharing people’s essential information.
The vision for the service is to provide a toolkit for families upon the loss of a loved one, storing the personal data, as well as checklists that family members can use to walk through the often complicated process of death certificates, funeral arrangements and closing various accounts.
Helen’s Plan is designed to be intuitive and flexible, assisting with complex matters like funeral arrangements and estate planning, but also simplifying everyday scenarios like leaving kids or pets with the grandparents for a week. Users can grant select people full or partial access to their accounts, providing any information they might need such as phone numbers, medication lists or a doctor’s contact information.
Today, Portz and his business partner, Chris Hintz, are working to raise awareness about the service and its potential impact across different channels and markets.
Growing Helen’s Plan to make an impact
Portz and Hintz completed Startup Sioux Falls’ CO.STARTERS accelerator program in January 2021, where they spent time focusing on various challenges, including audience and market adoption.
At this point, they are pursuing growth through strategic alliances rather than individual users.
“We thought we’d be able to gain quicker traction through B2C channels, but what we realized along the way is that we’re going to need a bigger net and something to amplify us, because a startup has not yet earned anyone’s trust,” Portz said.
“We’re talking about a data security product, and that requires trust. We need relationships with people who are already talking to people who are planning for this,” Hintz added.
They recently announced a partnership with senior post-acute care provider, Koazie, to reach its growing network of 100+ nursing facilities—an ideal audience for Helen’s Plan, which is targeting older adults or their children who might be managing the estates. While that demographic is the current target, Portz adds that Helen’s Plan is a valuable tool for people at any age or life stage.
The partnership allows Koazie to white-label Helen’s Plan, creating its own branded offering of the service—a move that expands its own product line and provides Helen’s Plan with the infrastructure and credibility of a larger corporation standing behind it. Gaining that recognition will be beneficial for future user adoption as well as potential financing and capital opportunities.
Portz and Hintz hope to find additional partnership opportunities in industries like life insurance, long-term care insurance and estate planning. Based on initial reactions, Portz says they thought individual sign-ups would be flowing in, but over time, they’ve realized people have certain hang-ups, including security concerns and making the time to input information.
“Our biggest challenge is still adoption,” Portz said. “That’s what’s going to make or break this product. It’s secure, it’s well-designed, it’s easy to use, super user-friendly, and we’re incredibly proud of the product.”
Participating in CO.STARTERS provided a valuable opportunity to focus on those challenges.
“A lot of times we get tunnel vision about what we think people will want, and it was valuable to focus on those hard questions and get each other’s authentic and real reactions,” said Hintz.
As Portz and Hintz continue to refine the product and hone in on their audience, they welcome feedback from individuals and organizations who may be interested in Helen’s Plan.
Sign up for Helen’s Plan today
Helen’s Plan is structured as a monthly subscription for $10/month or a discounted $100/year fee. Each subscription provides different levels of access for up to 8 family members or friends.
Helen’s Plan is offering a special deal for SiouxFalls.Business readers. Use the code “Startup 55” for a free one-year trial of the subscription service.
Learn more at helensplan.com.