A conversation with Elizabeth Schenk, Co-Founder of Treebute

Thank you to Kristen Armstrong at CanvasRebel for your interest in learning more about Treebute!  You can find the link to her article here:


We recently connected with Elizabeth Schenk and have shared our conversation below.

Elizabeth, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. How did you come up with the idea for your business?

Let’s go back to May 2020. We got the phone call that a friend had died unexpectedly, and it was a total punch in the gut. We wanted to DO something for his family with meaning as an expression of our love and support. Food and flowers are the two most common sympathy gifts in the U.S. But flower arrangements wilt, and food expires. The other gift options on the market were underwhelming. Then I was reminded of the memorial trees in our yard that our family has planted throughout the years and how much I love this tradition. I mentioned the memorial tree idea to my friend group and within 30-minutes had $350 in my Venmo account! Others felt the same way; they wanted to GIVE something with sentiment and meaning too. I set out in search of this, the “1-800-Flowers of memorial trees”, because surely something like this existed, right?! I scoured the internet while I was struggling with my own grief. Why wasn’t there a full-service company that made it easy to order a meaningful memorial tree gift that included delivery and installation?? If this was something I was looking for, surely others would want it too! But it was when his grieving family received their memorial tree that I knew we had given the most meaningful expression of our love and support. And that’s when Treebute was born.

Elizabeth, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?

I’ve spent nearly two decades helping others build their businesses as a commercial real estate broker, and it’s quite an education being on the other side of the table! When covid struck, my deal flow pipeline essentially shut down. Every phone call was another client getting furloughed or another deal getting iced. Then we got the phone call that our friend had died. Suddenly, work didn’t seem as important. I redirected that time and energy into finding a meaningful expression of our love and sympathy for his family. I landed on the sourcing a memorial tree gift. I was certainly not expecting to start a company!

I spent extensive time sourcing and coordinating multiple vendors to get his tree planted. It was inefficient to say the least. Through this experience I recognized that convenience was critical for both the purchaser and the recipient – especially during a difficult time. We’ve created Treebute to be the easy and convenient memorial tree gift option. Our customers love the crowdfunded shared gift alternative. This allows groups of friends to contribute to a more meaningful gift than they would have done on their own. We’ve found through customer discovery interviews that receiving a memorial tree planted in their own yard is far more meaningful than a certificate for a tree planted remotely in a place they will never see. We’ve also found that people are willing to spend more on something meaningful and long-lasting, and that they are equally comfortable contributing to a shared gift as they are sending an individual gift. Memorializing our friend with the tree together was a cathartic experience. We are excited for Treebute to facilitate this for others!

How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?

When people understand what we do, they like it. It resonates. The average number of contributors per Treebute crowdfunding campaign is between five to fifteen. Each contributor feels the experience of giving the tree. They appreciate receiving occasional campaign updates and seeing a photo of their gift after it’s been planted. Roughly 50% of our orders are from repeat customers, which we define as those who have previously contributed to a Treebute crowdfunded campaign. When the time came for them to start their next sympathy gift search, they thought of Treebute first. Campaign contributors become our vocal advocates and repeat customers!

Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more.

We are fast approaching this transition point for my husband and Co-Founder, Brian, to focus on Treebute full time starting January 2023. This is both nerve wracking and thrilling! Nerve wracking to lose one source of income before the business is profitable but thrilling because we are preparing to launch multiple revenue generating initiatives this year. We will add capacity to launch additional services we think customers will love.