The question Tennessee Entrepreneur Pamela Ware is most frequently asked: how do you do what you do?

“I knew at age 14 that death and I would have a special relationship,” Ware said. “I’m not afraid of death. I never have been.”

At a young age, Ware attended her first funeral, accompanying her mother to pay respects to a co-worker. Intrigued by the proceedings, Pamela observed the funeral directors and voiced her aspiration to pursue a career in the funeral industry.

Despite the uncommon nature of such aspirations at the time, Pamela, a lifelong native of Memphis, remained resolute in her determination. Throughout her high school years at Kingsbury, she avidly collected obituary notices, which mostly consisted of the older generation.

“Every blue moon you might see a young person (in the obituaries),” Ware said. “Maybe a motor vehicle crash or a young kid had cancer (was the cause of death).”

Meanwhile, over the past two decades, Ware has amassed extensive experience in the funeral industry, acquiring licenses as a mortician and gaining diverse expertise in roles ranging from autopsy technician to investigator.

Upon reflection, Ware realized that she had been involved in more autopsies, crime scenes, and funerals for young individuals than she had attended graduations. This insight spurred her into action, particularly after delivering a speech at a juvenile ceasefire class.

Moved by a vision that came to her as gun violence emerged as the leading cause of death among children in the United States, Ware felt a deep urge to make a difference beyond her desk job. In August 2023, she resigned from her role as the Chief Death Investigator for the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center.

This led the Tennessee Entrepreneur to establish PD Ware Inspires, a for-profit consulting agency with a mission to “Inspire, Inform, and Transform” the decision-making of youth and young adults, empowering them to recognize their potential and maximize their lives. The organization was launched in the fall of 2023.

“God gave me a vision a couple of years ago about the state of our kids and that vision was an open grave with kids inside,” Ware said. “It was covered and there were people around the grave trying to get the kids out before the gravedigger could put the dirt on it. I envisioned all the things, the decisions that I was seeing the kids make from gun violence, the drugs, the alcohol, and the gang violence. I was like either I’m going to push paper or I’m going to pursue a purpose. I chose a purpose.”

Through her initiatives, Ware orchestrates speaking programs geared toward helping youth thrive. The THRIVE acronym embodies her organization’s mission to foster transformation, instill hope, cultivate resilience, inspire, validate, and impart empathy. These efforts empower young individuals to navigate life’s hurdles and make choices that lead to brighter futures.

Pamela Ware, founder of PD Ware Inspires, shares her journey from mortician to mentor, empowering youth to thrive.

Ware underscores the significance of comprehending the lasting impact, recognizing that encountering death is a recurring experience for many individuals. In her past positions, she faced numerous cases daily, including those involving children, exposing her not only to the sight but also the smells and tactile aspects of death.

She advocates for transparency with young individuals, offering them an unvarnished look at the process. Ware’s approach begins from the final stages of the mortuary process and moves backward, delving into each person’s story and background to gain insights.

“My goal is to transform kids’ decision-making process,” Ware said. “I want kids to develop critical thinking skills, being mindful of associations, being mindful of the environment but also encouraging and pushing parents to create an environment that’s going to be conducive to growth for our kids. If all kids see is what’s inside of their daily four walls, that’s all they’re going to aspire to be.”

Ware then contemplated her journey, which saw her ascent from an autopsy technician to a chief within five years, a feat unprecedented in her line of work.

“That revolves around having the right attitude, the right association, being authentic,” Ware said. “You need to not be worried about keeping up with someone else, but finding your own uniqueness and building upon that to find success.”

As a first-time entrepreneur, Ware sought external guidance to navigate the launch of PD Ware Inspires. Her priority was to undertake thorough business planning, aiming to grasp the foundational processes of business development and research the market potential for viability.

That’s when Communities Unlimited (CU) stepped in, and Ware connected with Area Director Brian Wells and Management Consultant Sierra Polk from the Entrepreneurship Team.

Polk collaborated with Ware to understand startup fundamentals, develop business plans, and explore federal contract opportunities. She also crafted financial models, provided training on finance tools, and researched certifications to enhance federal contract potential. 

Additionally, she identified grant channels to address youth violence issues and curated custom courses for business growth and development of PD Ware Inspires.

“Working with Pamela has been such an incredible experience for me,” Polk said. “Pamela is knowledgeable and passionate about her field of work in mortuary sciences. Helping Pamela pivot her 20-plus years of expertise as mortician, funeral-home director and death investigator, into a hopefully more preventative part of the industry has been an exciting challenge. Supporting PD Ware Inspires through this transition down a road less traveled in the death industry has the ability to create a new path with unlimited potential to influence and extend the lives of children. I am thrilled and grateful to take part in the process to help lay the foundation for the growth of this business.”

Polk added she has a passion for empowering youth and combating gun violence herself, inspired by personal experiences. Guiding Ware to establish a scalable youth coaching business with social impact nationwide and globally has been a career highlight for Polk.

Helping PD Ware Inspires come to life has added to those tear-jerker moments behind my love and appreciation for CU and being part of the team,” she said. “Helping Pamela lay a solid foundation for the business’s vision to grow and expand has been incredibly fulfilling, meaningful and joyous for me, especially as a huge fan of the hit FOX show “Bones,” about the journey of a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI.”

Ware credits CU and Polk for invaluable assistance in her entrepreneurial journey, citing their guidance as the driving force behind her business growth and confidence. She particularly highlights Polk’s expertise, calling it instrumental in understanding business operations. 

The Tennessee Entrepreneur feels optimistic about her business’s future and recommends CU for transformative guidance in entrepreneurship.

“With CU’s expertise by your side, success is not just a possibility, but a tangible reality waiting to be achieved and sustained. CU has been more than just a consultancy. They’ve been the catalyst for my entrepreneurial journey. For that, I am profoundly grateful.”

— Pamela Ware, Founder of PD Ware Inspires