Selecting a memorial gift is never an easy task. It’s important to find something that reflects the legacy of the departed while not adding extra hassle for their grieving family. Nonprofit donations and flowers are great options, but sometimes you want a gift that provides a longer lasting tribute. That’s the situation Elizabeth Schenk found herself in when a friend unexpectedly passed away in 2020. “It was a total gut punch,” she recalls. “My husband, Brian, and I wanted to do something meaningful. I was reminded of the memorial trees my mother would plant in remembrance of my grandfather. Watching them bloom and grow was a great source of comfort.”

The idea of a memorial tree resonated with Schenk’s friends, so they decided to purchase one together. Schenk was put in charge of organizing the gift, but she quickly ran into a problem. “I found nothing that offered what I was looking for,” she says. The experience sparked an idea: Treebute. The company is designed to make giving a long-lasting memorial tree as a shared gift simple and convenient. “We wanted to make the process as easy as possible for both the givers and the recipients,” Schenk explains. “It’s a full-service process, from selecting the tree to delivery to planting.”

Treebute allows people to organize campaigns to fund memorial trees. After filling out a form on the company’s website, they receive a link that can be shared via text, email or social media so others can contribute to the gift. Treebute then works with the recipient to determine where the memorial will be planted and what tree will work best in the spot. “Oftentimes, the Treebute is presented as a gift certificate, so we can work with families when they are ready,” Schenk explains. “We’re as flexible as possible when honoring their wishes.”

To help Treebute grow, Schenk has participated in the accelerator programs Velocity St. Louis and SLUStart I-Corps. “One of the biggest values was going through customer discovery interviews,” she says. “Just because I think it’s a good idea and my family and friends agree, doesn’t mean there’s a market for it. These programs showed me there is.” Through the experience, Schenk learned that many people are looking for a way to plant a memorial with cremation ashes. Since the pH of cremation ash is very high, it can be unhealthy for plantlife. Treebute has been able to partner with another local company Let Your Love Grow to plant trees with ash safely.

Partnerships also have allowed Treebute to give back to the community. Landscape designer Martha Baur reached out to Schenk after her daughter Anna Scott was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, an arrhythmic disorder that can lead to sudden cardiac death. “Martha wanted to raise awareness about the condition,” Schenk notes. “Eastern Redbuds have heart-shaped leaves, so we are selling them with the proceeds benefiting the SADS Foundation and Ollie Hinkle Heart Foundation.”

It’s clear that Treebute is building strong roots. “We’ve had some really exciting growth milestones,” Schenk says. “While most of our orders have been local to St. Louis, we’ve planted Treebutes in Colorado, Florida and Maine, and we’re working on orders from Michigan and Seattle. Around 40% of our customers previously contributed to a campaign, so we want to continue offering a pleasant experience for people selecting a memorial gift.” For more information, visit

Pictured at top: Elizabeth and Brian Schenk
Photo: Bill Barrett