One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered by fielding calls and emails from people through Float Tank Solutions is that floatation therapy has an uncanny ability to grab people. I’ve spoken to many dedicated floaters, still amazed by the therapy after decades of practice, and a growing number of newer floaters, who have more recently discovered their interest in float tanks. What they have in common is a passion to open a center and share floating with their communities.
Sometimes this involves a drastic life change, and their enthusiasm is often quite raw. Many people can’t even begin to lay out their plans because of the chaos of their everyday lives. The floatation industry is also still developing, and is by no means a commonplace business (though the industry is growing stronger every day). This means that there’s not much information out there, and people are often wondering where to even begin.
In response, and as a home base for those of you interested in starting a center, we’ve outlined these 5 steps, some of the first and most important on the path to opening up a float center.
1. Decide on a Rough Location
Having a neighborhood in mind for where your center will be is beneficial for a few different reasons. Most notably, it gives you an idea of an important recurring cost for your business – the rent for your location. By having a neighborhood in mind, you can get a much closer estimate of this cost, and use the information for your business plan. Furthermore, having an idea of your location will help you in planning out your marketing tactics. By thinking about the foot traffic of the area, the neighboring businesses, and the surrounding community, you can begin to conceptualize the best way to reach people to spread the word about your center. Each neigborhood also has a distinct personality, and where you want to put your float center will undoubtably give you insight into the type of customers you want to attract, and the type of business you want to run.
Here is a previous blog post we wrote about some of the most important things to look for when deciding on a center location.
You can also check out our Location Checklist
2. Build a Brand Image for your Float Center
Of course you’ve likely already thought of a name before this step (it’s one of the best parts of starting your own business), but at this stage in the process is a great time to begin branding your center in a more complete way. Since you have an idea of the location, you can begin to plan the aesthetics and image of your center. Design your logo, pick your fonts, get your social media usernames, and mock up a simple website (at this stage, it should probably just be a single page with a prominent mailing list signup). Start building an audience now, so that the ball is already rolling by the time you actually open. And this will all be useful in your business plan and marketing campaigns to come.
For more about marketing, check out our marketing guy Derek’s blog on relationships and marketing.
3. Decide what sort of Tanks You’ll Use
Float tanks themselves are one of the most expensive initial costs for opening a center. This step boils down to three words: do your research. Fortunately, checking out all the different kinds of float tanks that are out there is actually quite interesting. Look up different tank brands, compare costs and reviews, compare aesthetics with what you’ll want for your center, and contrast that with your budget. We always suggest calling up other float centers that use the tank you’re considering to ask about what’s required in terms of maintenance and upkeep for that particular brand. The maintenance each style of tank requires can vary, and that information can be hard to find online, or even through the manufacturer. Researching and contacting people about tanks will get you the information you’ll need to settle on which types of float tanks will fit your center best, and that will give you a much clearer idea of your start-up costs and sanitation requirements.
(We wrote an earlier blog post about the difference in float tank heating systems, one major difference between types of tanks, if want to check it out.)
For a more in depth look at the differences between tanks, check out our Tank Comparison Chart.
4. Check with your Local Health Departments
If you don’t know what you’re talking about, or if the Health Department doesn’t believe your plans and practices are sanitary, they can stop you from opening. They can also shut you down if you’re already running. This step can be done with a little bit of research and a few phone calls, but we recommend making yourself comfortable with pool sanitation and best float tank practices before you start conversations. Find your State and County’s specific pool regulations and read through them, making note of which rules will be tricky for float tanks.
Contacting the Health Department before you open will get the ball rolling with our bureaucratic system, which, it may surprise you to hear, doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation for getting things done swiftly. It will also get you information about the practices they’ll require from you as a float center owner.
Fortunately, floating is gaining in popularity and awareness, so Health Department officials have (in general) been more friendly to it recently than in the past. Remember, you’re always talking to individual people: be patient, be kind, be informed, and always work to make a good impression (for the sake of future float tank owners, among other things).
Here’s a link to our free Health Department Essentials, which contains some great material to kick off your conversations with them.
5. Get your Business Plan Together
Unless you have a large amount of personal capital to work with, you’re likely going to be depending upon a bank or investor to help you fund your center. A well-written business plan is your chance to outline your business and introduce the concept to those who will help you get your doors open. On top of introducing yourself and your center concept, however, your cost and profit projections prove to be integral to securing funding. Since the floatation industry is still somewhat new, and the business model is by no means standard, proper financial planning and reasoning is key to the plan’s success. Having the numbers from your research into the tanks and your location will help you project costs and outline start-up expenses, and further research into recurring costs such as supplies and utilities will help to flesh out these financial projections.
For those interested in bypassing the research and writing, FTS offers a Complete Business Plan Package which has built in many of these costs, and can be combined with your own research to create a comprehensive business plan for your center. Furthermore, even if funding is secured, dealing with a landlord and convincing them to let you build-out and restructure their space can be difficult without a convincing argument. By having a well-thought out and well-structured business plan to present as the face of your business, you can overcome the initial reluctance that landlords or investors may have about working with a float center, and convince them to support your business.
We are happy to offer an outlet for your enthusiasm here at Float Tank Solutions, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from members of the floatation community. As always, feel free to contact us with any of your floatation questions or conundrums, and we’re happy to help in any way we can.
Frank Ciavarello, Float Tank Solutions