There are few times that are more trying in a person’s life than when a loved one passes away, and often the mourning process is made even more difficult by the number of personal and bureaucratic decisions that have to be made immediately following a death. In these events, even the smallest of responsibilities can feel like a monumental weight, taking an unnecessary emotional toll on family members.
After the passing of her father, Sheila Hogan, founder of Biscuit Tin, started to realise that she was struggling with every stage of closing down her father’s life, even the simple things she knew her father wouldn’t fuss over, like what he would wear in his coffin for his final journey, became some of the toughest choices she’s ever had to make. On top of this, the seemingly endless administrative tasks made the process feel almost impossible.
It was in the aftermath of this loss that Sheila realised there had to be an easier and more humane way for family’s to plan for a part of life that we seldom wish to discuss, and so she came up with the idea for Biscuit Tin, a digital platform that helps to ensure that the closing down of a loved one’s life is a more peaceful experience.
Where things currently stand
One of the issues with death being such a taboo topic is that we rarely discuss as families what we would like to happen when the inevitable eventually arrives. This can not only cause a lot of distress over decision making, but it can also lead to family arguments and further hurt. As a single child, however, Sheila found that every decision in the wake of her father’s death came down to her, and all she had to help her make these decisions were a few documents her father had kept in a biscuit tin.
Dad and I never really talked about what would happen after his death. It was just too difficult for him. So there was no real planning, and when he passed I got a biscuit tin full of important papers and documents, some special photos and notes my parents had written, and that’s what was meant to guide me—but there was no way for me to know if this was everything, or what exactly I was meant to do with it all.Sheila Hogan, Founder, Biscuit Tin
Sheila quickly realised that along with all the personal decisions like what belongings to keep, throw away, or donate, there were also seemingly endless tasks that she had been unprepared for, such as returning licenses and passports to the Home Office and sending proof-of-death certificates to close down accounts. All in all, she estimates she sent some 50 letters and spent weeks on the phone, a process that took two years in total.
The conclusion she arrived at is that the process is broken on both sides—the lack of preparations we make for something we know will happen to all of us, combined with the vast amount of administrative processes we are forced to undertake, create an almost impossible task in the most difficult of circumstances.
The formation of Biscuit Tin and meeting Bad Dinosaur
In the years after her father’s death, Sheila, who had worked most of her life as a business consultant, decided to put to work her own expertise in business architecture and strategy to come up with a solution that would help families better prepare for the difficult process of closing down a life. Her idea was that by digitally storing information such as important documents, accounts, wishes, and contacts on a single platform, individuals could ease the burden on their family by releasing to them all the important information, documentation, and directions to follow after they had passed.
After my father passed away I began thinking about how difficult it would be for my family to close down my life and settle my estate. Between my businesses, my digital estate, the different pension pots from old employers, it got me thinking this would be a complete mess even for my husband to close down, and an absolutely nightmare if, God forbid, our daughter was forced to do it. So I thought, what solutions can I come up with to help this situation, how can we take control ourselves and take the burden away from those left behind.Sheila Hogan, Founder, Biscuit Tin
Upon receiving a Scottish Enterprise Grant in 2016, Sheila began investing in brand development and research to better understand the stories of others who had gone through similar experiences to her. She quickly realised that the difficulties she endured were widespread, and as she explored further avenues for growth, she enrolled in a business gateway course where she was referred to Bad Dinosaur, and soon setup a meeting with the team.
This was during the time when Bad Dinosaur was still just a partnership, but already Sheila could sense that they were keen to build something long-lasting and meaningful, and so although it would take her another year to secure funding for the development of the platform, she saw the potential was there for a successful long-term relationship.
Building the Biscuit Tin Platform
In 2018 when Sheila returned to Bad Dinosaur, Kyle and Russ were excited to pick-up on the ideas they had previously discussed, and also brought designer and developer Lindsay onto the project. Together, they came up with some new refinements to the original proposal, which included Sheila’s suggestion of building an early prototype for user testing.
By first focussing on a clickable prototype, Sheila was able to prioritise and refine the features she would develop later on. By doing user testing early on, with people from her target market, she was able to justify her decisions, test the design and get feedback before committing to developing specific features. We always encourage clients to get feedback early and often so they’re never developing features blindly, without understanding their users and their needs.Lindsay McDougall, Designer, Bad Dinosaur
With the user tests showing positive results, Sheila and the team at Bad Dinosaur decided to embark on the building of the Biscuit Tin MVP platform, which would allow users to upload and securely store a variety of digital assets, with the potential for further features to be added on in the future.
Currently, the platform includes six primary features: Accounts, Nominees, Documents, Wishes, Memories, and Important Contacts. These features allow individuals to pass on a wide range of data and information, such as: financial and social media accounts; copies of wills, certificates, and identification; and directions on organ donation, funeral arrangements, personal belongings, and guardianship.
During the development phase Sheila met with Bad Dinosaur in person about once a month and had weekly remote meetings to discuss progress and to provide input. One of the most important components that both parties understood would be essential to the success of Biscuit Tin was security, and following the completion of the platform design, a long period was spent bringing together industry leading technology solutions for data protection, which ensures that the information uploaded by Biscuit Tin users is always safe and secure.
Security was at the forefront of all the architectural decisions from early on. We built the Biscuit Tin platform with a robust encryption methodology that greatly reduces possible attack vectors on such sensitive personal data. This was critical in ensuring that Biscuit Tin's customers can rest assured knowing that their information is safe.Kyle Whittington, Director, Bad Dinosaur