Opening and running a float center is an incredible undertaking. What will be asked of you will most likely push you to more extremes than anything you have ever done in you life, particularly if this is your first business or even first brick and mortar.
Every individual opening a float center will bring their own skills and assets to the table that will help shape and develop the business as it expands. There is always more to learn however, and there will be many portions of the business that require developing an entirely new skill-set in order to run it effectively.
So why are there so many people rushing to start their own float business? Are people that in love with floating? Or is there more to it?
While Sandra immediately saw the benefits of floating for the patients that she saw at the hospital, I saw the incredible introspective benefits of floating. We both agreed that on many levels float tanks were an incredible tool that could only use more public attention and accessibility.
An Accessible Industry
That being said, there is something else that connected with us and I believe is connecting with a lot of folks who are interested in starting a float business: Ease of entry.
Ease of entry financially: Do the math on running a float center and you will quickly see that even with inflated costs and low expectations of float tank income, a break even scenario appears easily within grasp. The potential profits look too good to be true.
Ease of entry educationally: No doctorate required! in fact no degree required. In fact, you don’t even have to take training courses or pass a test to say your are capable of running a float center.
Because of this low barrier, a lot of individuals are seeing exactly what we saw a year before we opened our business. This is possible for me when so many other business ventures that appeal to me aren’t. Sure, you could open a bar, but your interest is in wellness and helping people. Occupations in wellness often times require an education.
First of all, If you have not opened a float center yet, know this: running a float center is not a get rich quick business. You will not open your float center and pay employees to run your shop while you vacation in the Bahamas.
Since opening our float center in Portland Oregon, we have had a countless number of excited floaters let us know that they will be opening their very own float center. We have given pieces of advice and had hours and hours of conversation with our patrons on what we think the best philosophies are for opening a float center. So far, very very few have actually opened a float tank center. Of those that have, one that we know of has closed already.
The most obvious reason is funding. But even the funding to open a float center does not make a financially successful business year after year. I believe the main issue with opening a successful float center (and most any business) is having personal passion, understanding and dedication to the products and services offered. Too often those with the entrepreneurial spirit are motivated to join the float industry because of the apparent ease of running and making money off of float tanks. Often these people have no business experience as well. Most individuals will be in for a rude awakening when actually setting up their float center or opening their doors to the public as they learn this industry requires just as much work as any other business, and even more so in comparison to other types of businesses..
The flip side of this is those who are incredibly passionate about floating, but are not business minded. Without a business sense, people will often times give too much away for free, not develop a brand, not focus on advertising or simply assume that people will find them if it is ‘meant to be’.
The Challenge is the Benefit
Consider that there is currently no cookie cutter formula for running a float center. This has many advantages and disadvantages. Currently there is no simple A + B = Successful Business. There can be an incredible learning curve to running a center. We are on a new frontier, operating a technology (float tanks) that have not met their golden age of quality. They will require a lot of maintenance and often times will require modifications by your hand. Heaters go out. Pumps die. Leaks happen.
The advantage of there being no current formula on how to run a float center is that you don’t have to follow a mold. You are left to blaze your own trail. You get to use your own ingenuity and strengths to create your own mold for how to create the perfect float center. While there are plenty of franchises that you could buy into or businesses with similar models across the industry, by opening a float center you become a trend setter and will help define an industry and shape the future of the industry.
Dylan, I love reading your posts! they are so inciteful, and make for excellent food for thought.
Another potential problem that people should consider is – are there too many markets to aim for? As the saying goes, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ and with all the research unveiling health issues that can be helped by regular floating, should potential center owners be absolutely clear in which area they aim their initial marketing at?
Dylan Schmidt says
Thank you Mark,
I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on anything in life, but the purpose of my blog is to inspire thought so that others can build on our own knowledge base. So your first note means a lot to me.
As far as the second portion goes, this is an absolutely true statement. I’ve seen peoples eyes glaze over as I’ve tried to explain all the various benefits. More than any other business I’m aware of, I feel like you have to very consciously navigate the conversation towards their own interests. When it comes to marketing I think it is important to focus on one benefit to attract a particular demographic. Focusing on the psychedelic aspects will bring in one demo, focusing on the spa atmosphere will bring in another. Focusing on those with specific needs (veterans for example) is a smaller group, but could mean you get a higher percentage of those you are marketing to (and possibly more passionate) rather than a vague shotgun ad that is supposed to attract everybody.
Suuuper valuable, this piece. I had noticed it a couple of times in our emergent branding, but didn’t give it much pause. “Pretty much everyone can benefit from floating, so I’m going to try to reach them all” was my approach to it. But that makes it really hard to move forward with ideas, trying to be circumspect with every piece of our brand and appeal to everyone. You both put it really well, so I don’t need to explain it any more. The anchoring idea for me (when I remember to ask myself) is “who do you want to serve?” The simplest answer I have to that valuable question is “Kind, open-minded people who can afford to float as much as they want.” And then my door is slightly more open than that designation, because life is supremely talented at surprising me. And that designation is a work in progress.
This is kind of turning into a rant, so I’ll stop, but I wanted to say thank you Dylan and Mark for reminding me of this.
I agree Dylan. For me money is not a consideration, though it is a requisite to breathe! My intention is to let people be true to themselves. In this day and age of constant information bombardment we are loosing touch with our inner selves. Silent depression is taking over regardless of age demography, race, social classes and this is the moment to jump into the tank.
The way I see it-This is a gem, a hidden gem this machine we call the floatation tank. I cannot imagine the smile on your face when a “customer” emerges from the tank with that look on their face.
I have mentioned this before: I see people as leaning towards arts or business. Those who gyrate towards the arts are dreamers(with a certain personality type I think INFP). I am one. But one also needs the skills of a rational businessman aka the Doer. We must learn to combine them.
Just by looking at your face I think you are a dreamer(living in Portland helps), and you’ve learnt to combine the doer aspect of things. Bravo!
Dylan Schmidt says
I think everyone who reads this blog would agree with you that we are losing happiness as we multitask more and more and are flooded with information every waking moment. That’s a huge reason we are here!
Sandra and I have really learned about balancing each other so we can each be dreamers and doers. Portland is the only city I will ever live in, it absolutely facilitates our dreams.
Just wanted to say your blog is awesome and inspiring and as someone who is trying to open a float center it has helped me a lot in figuring out how I would want to run my own float center one day. Your commitment to the community over anything else is something we need more of everywhere.
Dylan Schmidt says
Ah, thank you so much Harrison! Good luck in your journey.
i am in the process of opening in may 2014. in southeast texas. in this area folks work tough jobs- stressful jobs. so for me price was a concern. i think i have had a eureka moment- 20% off first float and 20% off each float each referral.
really appreciate all your info!
thanks for all your hard work!!
Amy Grimes says
We get people asking us on a weekly basis, how to open a float center in TN. Most of these are people who have never floated or seen a float tank. Even more are people who have no business background or any experience starting a business. Our biggest piece of advice is buy a float tank, get as many people into it as possible and learn how to maintain it properly for about a year.
Mark and I did our research, studied centers, bought a tank and learned how to maintain it, spent a year and a half educating the department of health and navigating through government channels. I learned pool regulations so well I could quote them to the people enforcing them. I can fix pipes, prime pumps and do basic maintenance on tank and pool equipment. I invested $20,000 of my own money before we even had approval to open a float center. Thanks to regulations, a carefully planned budget almost doubled in reality. It has been a tough (but amazing and rewarding) year.
So many people we talk to perceive this as an “easy” business. Put in some tanks, put lots of people through and rake in the bucks. And in some states it is easier than others. In ours, not so much. And I tell people that – not with the intention to discourage, but the hopes that the truly passionate ones, with their hearts and expectations in the right place, will make their dream a reality and create a high quality float experience. And when they do it, they are so prepared that they get to the other side thinking it was easier than they expected. We all win when that happens.
Thanks for putting out such good food for thought, Dylan! You are shaping the way peeps see their float centers in such a positive way.
John Lanier says
Amy, Thank you for posting. My wife and I are getting the bug to start a float business. We personally love floating and think we live in an area ( Fort Collins Colorado) that is ripe for the experience. Would love to have the chance to talk to you sometime. Is there a way to contact you other than this site ?
My wife has a blog site(see below) and is on facebook as am I. Perhaps we could start there. Again thank you for your time.
John and Johnnie Lanier
Exciting stuff! I am happy to chat. We can arrange time via phone or skype or simply feel free to send questions via email. You can reach me at amy at float nashville dot com.
Good article Dylan, and good points brought up by others.
We met during the Float conference and you were kind enough to talk to me about a massage and float at The Float Shoppe about my plans to open a spa in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
How many tanks does a float center typically have?
Dylan Schmidt says
Currently float centers vary from 1 tank in someone’s house to well over a dozen. I believe the common wisdom is that 4 float tanks create a sustainable income for the business and it’s owners. Sandra and I opened a 3 tanks center with massage and acupuncture and have had similar findings. In the end, I don’t think there is a typical float center just yet. More so I think there is creating what you want to offer your particular community.
Does that answer your question?
My husband and I are in our beginning stages of opening a float spa floating/massage. I am stuck stuttering between my 3 major starting points.
I have to secure the financing (bank) but am not sure of my start-up costs
I am not sure of my start-up costs so I don’t know what to tell the bank I need
I am not sure what the build out will cost and I cannot secure a space with out knowing How much I qualify for
When you were starting your business how did you know where to begin?
Dylan Schmidt says
Wow this is very common and we found ourselves in the exact same situation. The best advice I have for you is to do as much research as possible. Your business plan will be your key to understanding what your business is going to be and will help with estimating costs. Make gross estimates, assume that everything will be at least 10% more than you think it will be (30% is a safer bet).
It’s a very interesting game of everything slowly coming into place as each category comes into focus.
I’m so sorry for the delayed reply on this, I’m not sure how I missed your post!
John Suprik says
I am currently about to submit my business plan..Dylan is exactly right as this started from a Joe Rogan Facebook post about 2 years ago that caught my attention. Beginning 2016,almost 2 years after hearing about floating I actively began this journey. After two and half months of lots of research I enrolled in a floatrepreneur course offered by a float center 2 hours away vs Oregon on the other side of country. The research was like a wall at first I just wanted to get into it and start building and being able to advertise this to my local community and get them excited,but there was this business plan template staring back at me. I had lots of info in front of me,which I must say become addictive once I started finding info. Each time I looked for something I found something else that I wanted read about. There it still was staring at me,the business plan. After making a general outline and consulting with some family members we came up with out perfect mission statement and from there it was just plugging the information in and and writing the best report I have ever had to write!! We are now working with our bank lender and hope to have some money soon and tackle the next phase!!
Where is this floatrepreneur course you speak of?
you can email me tool _ jack at yahoo.
I am doing research for opening a float center in British Columbia, Canada. Any pointers on where to find out about regulations and other political factors?
Great article by the way.
Thank you in advance,
Grace Barry says
Does anyone have a particular preference for flotation rooms versus flotation tanks? I’ve heard that the pod type discourages many people and that a room with a 7 foot ceiling is preferred. Does anyone recommend any particular manufacturer?
Great read. Very informative. Have never floated myself but feel this is the right thing for me. Have been researching a lot on opening my own place here in Mumbai, India. Would you have any advice to someone who would trying to do something like this in a place that has never heard of this before? All in all..would love to exchange a couple of emails with you. Would really help 🙂
Hello Nader, I guess we are in the same boat, I’m very keen on starting float spa in mumbai, lets get in touch via mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Welcome to world Floating in India.
We are the first float pod manfacturers in India by name Relaxopod
Michael Wolf says
I floated for the first time last week and what an amazing unforgettable experience. I’m a retail store manager in the computer industry with plenty of experience working with the public of all types in all situations. I love working with the public and being with people. Though I’ve never run a business all my own, with the experience I do have operating all aspects of a brick and mortar small business I’m pretty confident I could run the day to day operations of a floating business. My biggest challenges would be the administrative side. Bills, taxes etc. But I know with time and learning I could get it done.
I am very interested in getting as much information as possible about starting a 2-4 pod floating business in Northern Utah. I know of only one other floating business and I do not want to take business away from him.
Any and all information would be greatly appreciated.
Ivan Arreola says
My name is Ivan Arreola and I am currently studying to become a massage therapist.
I have been interested in starting a massage center here in my hometown for years now, not only for business but to help my city improve. Anyways I was wondering if starting with one tank would be enough to expand to maybe 3 or 4 tanks in the future?
Or would it be better to go all out and start out with 3-4?
I already have a location in the downtown area.
Seeing as how I’m only about to be 23 i think it might be hard to acquire funds for 3-4 tanks.
Dylan Schmidt says
Hi Ivan. While I think it is possible to start with 1 tank and expand, the resources required to run a float center can be very similar between 1-2 tanks and 3-4 tanks. Because of that i would recommend starting bigger rather than smaller so that you can have more revenue with the same amount of work. Of course if finances are a barrier that can certain change the plausibility of having multiple tanks. If you are working as an LMT, you will have very little time to take care of your tanks and floaters, which is extremely important.
Rebecca Butler says
Curious to know about how much it cost you to get your float center started? I am over 2 hrs away from one and would love to have one in my town and have thought about opening one. Just getting started on gathering my information for this so any information would be appreciated. Is there a brand you prefer over another?
Dylan Schmidt says
At The Float Shoppe, we raised $60K and put in $8K of our own money. This paid for our float tanks and our buildout. Float tank prices have increased quite a bit since we bought ours (we bought ours used, and used tank prices have gone up as well). I don’t have any recommendations on tanks at the moment. We did just buy an Isopod, and have been very happy with our Floataway, Tranquility tank (which we’ve had since opening)
Would you even consider a franchise?
Dylan Schmidt says
This topic is always part of our ongoing conversation about the future of our business. Although I don’t know if franchising is exactly what we would want to do. In this moment I feel like I want ownership of future locations. But that opinion certainly could change in the future.
Why do you ask?
I work for a laundry service provider, and a float center will be coming to our community. The owner has contacted me about the laundry services for towels and the like. This is her first venture into this industry and has done a great deal of research. I am looking to ensure that I can work with this business on a fair level. Just a few questions for the board. What kind of average occupancy for the float tanks can she expect? Is there a minimum quality of towel that she may want to use? What challenges has anyone had upon opening their float center?
Any responses will be helpful