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Show Highlights

What’s it like to be the first float center to open in an area? How do you handle it?

Graham and Ashkahn explain what it was like opening Float On, being one of the first dedicated float centers in the United States. The exciting thing is that creating awareness is really fun, but it can be a little stressful since your float center will represent floating as a practice for people.

Many of the tips here are the same for anyone opening a center: focus on awareness, be prepared to educate, and make sure your floats are the best they can be.

Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: Alright, so that song goes out to Connor Knabe.

Graham: That song goes out to the Petrovics! Yeah, this is what happens. Remember that last episode –– not last episode, but whatever episode was previous ago –– and we said we’ll give a present to whoever sends in a question next? It was Connor Knabe.

Ashkahn: There’s your present, Connor.

Graham: So that’s what happens when you send us questions!

Ashkahn: Happy float day to you.

Graham: Yeah, thanks! It was a good question, too. We really appreciate it. Keep fighting that crime. All right, we do have a question today from someone who sent it in from Santiago, Chile. And their question is, “Hey, guys!”

Ashkahn: Hey.

Graham: “I’m opening a float center three tanks in Santiago, Chile!”

Ashkahn: Nice.

Graham: “In December. Under construction ATM ––” At the moment. I got it. Yep. “We will be the first and only flotation center in the country. Any general advice on being the first and only flotation spot? Thanks.” Yeah. We got advice! Do well, you know? Because if you don’t do well, people are going to look at you and you’re gonna ruin it for all of the country. All of Chile.

Ashkahn: You may bring down the entire global float economy.

Graham: So, you know, no pressure, but seriously, it’s a big deal.

Ashkahn: I mean, it’s kind of exciting. Like, if I were to think about that, that to me gets me pumped up. You get to introduce the concept of floating to so many people, which is so cool! I don’t know, maybe it comes from the fact that we’ve lived through this a little bit ourselves, like when we opened Float On, there were so many few float centers out there that-

Graham: Did you say “so many few?”

Ashkahn: So fewer. So many less than there are now!

Graham: Sorry, sorry. Didn’t mean to call you out live here in the studio, but-

Ashkahn: Thanks a bunch! We’ll just edit this out afterwards.

Graham: That’s not true, we don’t edit anything.

Ashkahn: So, there were less than the number than there are today when we opened, and it kind of felt like that. We had to introduce floating, the concept, in general to so many people and now when I talk about floating, it’s really hit or miss whether somebody’s heard about it before. Lots of people have actually heard about it.

Graham: Especially here in Portland in the area where we’ve been doing it.

Ashkahn: Yeah. And it’s in some way, like, it’s great. I love the fact that so many people know about floating now.

Graham: Yeah, “You guys are the Float Guys?!” is something when we opened up I’d never thought I would hear get said. And no one knew what the heck we were doing, or who we were.

Ashkahn: It’s pretty rare I even have to explain the concept from scratch anymore here. At least in our neighborhood.

Graham: Yep! Yeah, yeah, for sure. So ride the excitement. As you’ve probably heard, opening a float center is no easy feat. So take the fact that you’re sharing this with a whole new country and population and really ride that high! That would be my advice. It’ll get you through the hard times.

Ashkahn: I kind of miss it! It was fun. It was fun having something nobody knew about that every time you brought it up someone was like, “Wait, what?”

Graham: “I work at a bank!”

Ashkahn: So I don’t view this necessarily as a negative. Don’t think, “Oh, boy. This is gonna be super hard. Nobody knows about this thing.” It’s really exciting, you get to be the person that introduces this to so many people.

Graham: So, onto actual advice, but ride the wave of excitement though! Let it fuel you. And, also on top of that, be prepared to do a lot of education. You always have to do education as a float center.

We kind of say it’s not a competition or other float centers end up being your competition. It’s lack of awareness that’s the greatest competitor in a totally new market. There’s complete lack of awareness from most of the people there.

Making it accessible, even for places–I know for other countries it’s been a little harder, and in places that don’t speak English, just because there’s so much good press, and almost all of it is in English. English speaking sports stars, and stuff like that. Even translating some of the really good content that’s been done from things like TIME magazine or different sources over into Spanish might be a good way to actually make it accessible, too, and show that this is a really big thing in other parts of the world.

Ashkahn: And there’s something about the––It allows you to do a type of advertising that is more unique to the fact that you’re the only place around which is that all you really have to do is get people to know about floating and get them interested in trying it.

And the nice thing is if you’ve gotten someone that far, like they’re interested in trying floating, and they go to look some place up on the Internet, you’re gonna be the place that they find. So with all your advertising and education, you don’t really even have to be doing a bunch about your float center or–– It would almost be weird all your advertising be like, “We’re the best float in town!” Or something like that. It doesn’t matter, you just have to get this concept in people’s heads and spread word that this thing exists and that’s naturally gonna fuel people coming to your business.

Graham: Which is a great boon when it comes especially to things like local media or even blogs or something like that in your area, in Santiago. Because when you’re trying to reach out to them, reach out to the press or send in press kits.

You really don’t have to be self-promotional at all. These don’t have to be articles about you as a center opening up in your neighborhood or opening up in Santiago or being the first place in Chile. I mean, that can be a nice side note, but largely you just have to talk about this cool practice of floating that’s spreading across the globe, and, oh yeah! There’s one opening up in Chile. That’s my advice in general for sending out press kits, but in this case it’s just a lot easier to spin it that way.

Ashkahn: And Santiago’s a huge city. There’s plenty of people there.

Graham: And three tanks is a good number to start with and then expand from if you want to or add on other services. So, I think that’s a good number to kind of get the word out and start going, as well, in a totally new area.

Ashkahn: But, yeah, as far as advice, it’s really just focus on education. Your job now is to get people to know that floating exists. That’s your primary marketing goal.

Graham: Yep. So when you’re taking out Facebook ads, again, it can be Facebook ads about floating in general and people discovering this. On your website, definitely have at least one big page on your website devoted to just sharing information, linking people over to research that’s been done, citing things that people need to know.

Because, here in the U.S. there’s a lot of people where you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I run a flotation center.” They’re like, “Um, what’s that?” And you’re like, “Salt water bathtubs, used to be called sensory deprivation tanks.” And at some point, for a lot of people here, it clicks, and they’re like, “Oh! Yeah, I saw something on the news about that.” Or “I remember reading something in a magazine about that.” And you’re just kind of trying to build slowly to that point where you are.

So, yeah. Education on the website. Again, sending out press kits, press releases, things like that. I would say even if you can do open houses more regularly when you’re starting up and just try to get people to come in and check it out.

Coordinate with other, larger groups in the area, if you do have wellness groups, or the equivalent of meetups down there, where people are getting together on a regular basis to talk about health and wellness. Try to be a speaker there. Try to get involved in your community.

Again, these are all things I would advise almost any float center to do when they’re getting started up, and it’s just if you don’t do them without any awareness or without other people advertising in your country, no one’s really gonna know about it or come in. So it’s extra important that you take those steps and be doing that kind of active outreach.

Ashkahn: The other important thing that’s gonna fall on your shoulders is, I just think that you should be especially conscientious of the quality of your floats, because the less people know about floating, the more they’re gonna judge the entire concept of floating based off the experience they have with you.

As this gets bigger and bigger, someone could be like, “Ah, that float center didn’t have that great of soundproofing, I had a much better float at this other place.” But that’s just not gonna happen if you’re the only float center anywhere around that people know of.

So it’s kind of on your shoulders to make sure that you are doing that properly and that when people are coming in, they’re getting that nice, good float experience. Otherwise, you’re kind of doing a disservice to a lot of other float centers and people’s float knowledge going forward. So just keep that in mind! A lot of responsibility.

Graham: Again, it’s something that I kind of say for a lot of people, but it might be very important in your case, which is especially for the first couple months you’re open, make sure to sit down with your customers. Hang out and have tea with them afterwards, maybe even just offer half-off the next float or a free float or something if they’re willing to spend fifteen minutes, a half an hour, just chatting with their experience and what it was like. Because when you just open, and especially without other float centers around, or no immediate comparison nearby, it can be hard to know what you’re doing right or wrong from the customer’s perspective.

So be sure to budget aside time to really listen to them, and don’t be afraid to close down within your first few months of being open, for just a few days or a week or something to actually make some physical changes to your space or to your procedures.

Again, this is nothing that I would say different to any other float center, really, that’s starting up, except these things become even more important when you’re the only one in the area. And that’ll let you, actually, make sure that the quality is high, right? There’s no better way to insure really good floats than just checking in with your customers and seeing what their actual subjective experience was and using that to improve your center over time.

Ashkahn: It’s really like being the first open’s kind of just like an extreme version of opening a normal one! It’s just like everything is more important but will also be more impactful if you do it well.

Graham: Yeah, so rock it out! That’s awesome! Congratulations, too. That’s really exciting. And definitely feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Ashkahn: Invite us over, we’ll come visit.

Graham: Yeah! Yeah, definitely. Yeah, do it. Invite us over. We love invitations.

Ashkahn: Good luck. This is exciting. I’m excited for you.

Graham: Yeah. For any of the rest of you, in any country around the world, go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast

Ashkahn: And you can type your question in there. We will see it. We may just answer it.

Graham: We will probably answer it.

Ashkahn: There’s a pretty good chance.

Graham: Or we’ll direct you to another podcast episode where we already answered it. That happens sometimes.

Ashkahn: There’s a pretty good chance of that, too.

Graham: All right. Thanks, everyone! Talk to you tomorrow.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Bye.

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