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Show Highlights

Graham and Ashkahn remember fondly what the first 100 days were like when opening Float On to commemorate the 100th episode of the podcast. Everything from the mistakes they made and the lessons learned from them to the moment they realized they fell in love with this industry and what it means to them still.

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

Ashkahn: All right. Well, we thought today would be fun to talk about, instead of doing a question as normal, we’re going to talk about starting projects. The first 100 days of this made us reminisce of the first 100 days of opening our float center. We thought it would be nice to do a little retrospective. Go back in time a little bit here, and talk about what the first 100 days of Float On was like.

Graham: Which, was a lot rougher than the first 100 days of this podcast, I would say.

Ashkahn: Yeah, definitely.

Graham: Thinking back on it.

Ashkahn: It’s a good thing no one was recording the first 100 days of Float On, or it would be a lot crazier.

Graham: By first 100 days, I guess, we were thinking about the first 100 days since we opened up. If you think of the first 100 days of construction, that’s just a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a very different story.

Ashkahn: First 100 days of Float On. Well, I feel like day one, I was very tired. That’s what I remember.

Graham: Day one was still the single longest day that I’ve worked in my life. It was 39 straight hours of work leading up that.

Ashkahn: Yeah. That was our grand opening. We were determined, absolutely determined, to open by the day we arbitrarily made up about a month-and-a-half prior to this.

Graham: Which, I don’t actually know of a lot of other float centers that hit their grand opening date, so …

Ashkahn: Yeah, it’s pretty rare.

Graham: Not that we should have. We definitely should have just pushed it back. There was no reason to work a 39 hour day leading up to day number one.

Ashkahn: Yeah. It was a little crazy. We had to duct tape certain parts of our float tanks together that morning, just to have the façade that we had our shit together, and everything was totally fine and up and running.

Graham: Yep. I guess day number one, for our grand opening, we didn’t actually have water in the tanks.

Ashkahn: No. We just had the tanks in the rooms. There weren’t doors leading in to the rooms or furniture in our lobby. Or, many of the other things-

Graham: Well, we did have that one fold-out chair from the computer company that one of our staff had worked at before. So, I would say there’s furniture.

Ashkahn: Yeah, we had fold-out portable chair. And, we had a few pillows we place on a wooden platform that was meant to display retail in front of the window.

Graham: Which is good, because if you didn’t put pillows on there, the hard edge really cut off your circulation.

Ashkahn: It was a retail shelf. So, we were pretty much set out. We were ready to go. Then, we got water in the tanks. That was like day two.

Graham: Also, I had blonde hair.

Ashkahn: That was probably the biggest thing going on.

Graham: Just setting the context, you know?

Ashkahn: Yeah. We opened up. Had a grand opening party. Fooled a bunch of people into thinking that knew what we were doing. Sold floats. We sold floats that grand opening day. Then, we immediately slept for like 20 hours, and then started filling our float tanks with salt water.

Graham: I was going to say immediately closed the shop for a week. So, then days two through eight was actually getting ready for being open.

Ashkahn: We started doing floats about three days later, or something, at limited hours. We started getting people in. Then really, yeah, about a week later, the floodgates were open.

Graham: That happened when we actually launched a Groupon back in the day. Back then, it wasn’t so much how you have it now. This Groupon marketplace setup where there’s ongoing deals that you launch. People can buy them whenever, and you have it up for a set amount of time. It was just a single giant mailing list for everyone signed up in Portland, which is several hundred thousand people. There was a one day deal, and it went out to everyone. That was the Groupon that we launched to.

All of a sudden one day, 300,000 people had a story about Float On hit their inboxes. The phones started ringing, and we sold two …

Ashkahn: 2,100 floats.

Graham: Yeah, 2,100 floats in that day. I was going to say two, but, yeah. I think yours is right.

Ashkahn: Yeah. 2,100. And, we had done a few other things to kick our marketing off right from the beginning. That pretty much made us slammed. That was it. We were booked about a week out right from the beginning.

Graham: Yep, and not our 24 hour schedule, either. It was about 12 hours initially, and that lasted for like two days. We immediately expanded to 14 hours. It was actually over the first, maybe, month-and-a-half we got up to being open about 18 hour a day, I want to say. It was really quickly we scaled up the operations.

Ashkahn: You may think that, perhaps at this point, a week or two weeks in, we had gotten furniture or found anywhere to … made any improvements to the things we didn’t have when we opened. But, that’s not right. That’s not the case. We rocked that one single folding chair and those cushions on our retail shelf.

Graham: I was going to say, we had furniture. I don’t know why you keep saying we didn’t have furniture, when that folding chair was very clearly fine.

Ashkahn: We did get doors on to our float rooms after our first day of floating. We went about a day without those, and then we got that figured out. But, we didn’t have a couch until what had to be at least a few weeks in, before we actually had a couch in our lobby.

Graham: Yep. Just to note it, too, we launched with four tanks, not the six that we have now. So, it was a little smaller space that we had for those of you who have made the pilgrimage out Float On.

Ashkahn: I don’t know. That doesn’t justify us not having a couch for a few weeks, but it’s good to note.

Graham: We didn’t really have a back work room at the time either. We did, it was just so small. It’s a little … What would you say? 6 x 6?

Ashkahn: Not even 6 x 6.

Graham: 5 x 5… space?

Ashkahn: It was very small. It was very small. I remember distinctly building a rack to put our towels in on Halloween, so that was two, three weeks in to us being open. We had just been keeping towels hidden away in our desk, and stuff like that, because we didn’t have anywhere to put them. On October 31, we were out on the street as people were wandering by in costumes, building this giant little towel holder.

Graham: All our salt was still just being kept under our basement stairs of our personal house, which was quite a lot that we had at the time.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: What else? We were still doing-

Ashkahn: We were running our music off of a tape deck for the float tanks.

Graham: And, a CD player. We had two. One was going to each set of tanks, I believe.

Ashkahn: We couldn’t even tell the volume. There was no visual indication of what the volume was. So, every time we had to get someone out, we would just turn it down so much that it had to go past zero, so we felt good that we were starting from nothing. Then, we’d click Volume Up like 21 times, or something and count each one.

Graham: Do you remember how many it was? I think it was like 28.

Ashkahn: No. It was something … Yeah.

Graham: I have that in my head. We did so many times. I think we had to click it 28 times, then you knew that that was slow fade over a minute, you know?

Ashkahn: Uh-huh. We’ve come a long way. It’s nice reflecting on the changes that have been made. This is also a different time. I feel if, were we to have opened that float center nowadays, people would come in and just laugh at us. And, never come float in our place.

Graham: Yeah. People know what float tank centers are supposed to look like now.

Ashkahn: Yeah, we had them fooled at the beginning. We’re like, “No, this is totally normal. All float centers don’t have couches.”

Graham: Then, it was even being on a street, so like in a business, was the … we were more advanced than a lot of float centers [crosstalk 00:08:06] around.

Ashkahn: People were very impressed.

Graham: They were like, “Oh, we don’t have to go to someone’s apartment to hop in a float tank? This is amazing?”

Ashkahn: We learned a lot of lessons in our first 100 day. I remember distinctly washing our first set of laundry, where we wash our towels and our robes together. We bought all these nice towels, and then we had to buy robes. I tried to go around town to find them, and I could only find these … I found exactly six robes at Walmart, I think, was the only place in town that I could find any robes. Because, apparently for some reason, robes are a seasonal item. Their season is the summer, of all seasons, for an odd reason.

So, all we had was these black robes, and when we washed them for the first time together, and we pulled our towels out. They were completely covered in all these little black specks of lint from the black robes that we washed with them. That was a mistake. We learned that mistake.

Graham: Those immediately turned into our personal robes, which I still wear. I have a nice black comfy robe from the first days of Float On. It’s one of my favorites. That is a nice thing about owning a business where you get thing wrong, is your mistakes turn into your personal possessions occasionally.

Ashkahn: That’s right. Yeah.

Graham: Which is really good. We met Jake Marty within our first 100 days.

Ashkahn: Yeah. On our grand opening.

Graham: Yep. Met Janine within our first 100 days, if you know her from the conference and have seen her around. What else significant happened within our first 100 days? We made a lot of … I’d say our float tanks stayed up for, maybe, three quarters of the time. Then, the other quarter was spent bringing them down, and doing adjustments, and figuring out what the heck was going on.

Ashkahn: Yeah, there was a lot of adjusting.

Graham: Everything from blocking out light from the rooms, to figuring out how to soundproof things a little more securely, to-

Ashkahn: Yeah. That was definitely a surprise for us, that float tanks didn’t come light proof by themselves. We had to do a lot of, all of a sudden, adjusting for light coming in through air pipes, and this, and that.

Our lighting system in the room, we quickly realized, was going to be an issue. We had these pull string lamps, because we didn’t want people touching anything that was connected to electricity in any way, like light switches, or any of that sort of stuff. And, quickly found out that if people are pulling a pull string lamp on and off, one time an hour over the course of an entire day, you break pull strings pretty fast. I think I was realizing that we had been replicating five years of the life of a pull string lamp in like a week of it sitting in one of our float rooms. All of a sudden, we’re repairing these little pull strings left and right.

Graham: We didn’t have laundry on site, and we didn’t have a laundry service.

Ashkahn: No.

Graham: Which meant we did all of our laundry at a laundromat or just at our personal house.

Ashkahn: There was a lot and a frequent amount of laundry to be done.

Graham: Which is when our laundry program, which could almost be called one of the first special programs that we run, predated the artist program, even. Really started up for people who want to float and are passionate about laundry. Boy, did we have a program for you.

Ashkahn: Yeah. No one should have let us do this. We should not have been allowed to open a business, I think.

Graham: Yeah. I’d say by day 100 is around the time when I was starting to think to myself, “Shouldn’t you have to take a test to open a small business? Shouldn’t you verify that you’re more qualified than we were when you start up? There’s nothing?”

Ashkahn: But, it’s good. I feel like around day 100 is when we really started to get the swing of things. We had put together a schedule for ourselves, so we knew when people were showing up to run the shop and when they were leaving. I think we had actually hired an employee at that point, at the beginning of the next year. We had the laundry thing kind of figured out. We a couch. We definitely had a couch by that point.

Graham: I don’t think we’d hired a person by day 100. I thought we were in April when we hired Jake Marty, so maybe a little later. It’s so long ago, now. We’re talking about 30 years ago, so …

Ashkahn: Yeah. Back when we were just young pups.

Graham: We were still using Mindbody.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Well, we used that for a long time. That was like three years of using that.

Graham: I was just trying to think of things that were really uncomfortable.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Pretty much after day 100, I think, everything ran perfectly smoothly. We no longer had any problems, and-

Graham: Had the exact same staff that we have now.

Ashkahn: Yeah, everything’s been dialed in, and perfect, and unchanged since that 100th day.

Graham: So, for everyone thinking about starting up, that’s the little trial period that you hit. After day 100, if you’re still hitting problems, that’s because of you.

Ashkahn: Yeah, you’re screwing something up there. You should really have it all dialed in by then.

Graham: Yeah. Because a float center, as we all know, is pretty easy to run. If you can’t figure it out in your first 100 days, then … Then what? I guess, tune in to this podcast more. Where do we insert the shameless plug?

Ashkahn: That was it. That was the shameless plug. All right. Well, good. That was a nice little rendezvous with our past memories.

Graham: I feel this is more like thinking about embarrassing things that happened during our first 100 days.

Ashkahn: We did some good things, too.

Graham: Yeah, we floated a lot people.

Ashkahn: We floated a lot of people.

Graham: And, we were all still working the shop and getting to chat with every single one of them.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: I’d say, on the positive side, the first 100 … I was also floating a ton. It’s really where I fell in love with floating myself and just watching other people have these experiences. In a lot of ways, it formed a lot of the positive … What’s the word? Mind things. Positive feelings that you have inside. You know, the things-

Ashkahn: Emotions?

Graham: Yeah, emotions. That’s right. Human emotions that I have towards floating.

Ashkahn: I have to remind Graham about that every once in a while. Yeah, it’s true. I would say in the first 100 days, I realized that we had opened a business that was a lot cooler than I thought it was. I started out thinking this was just some weird, crazy thing that was going to give everyone this out of the normal experience and shake things up for them a little bit.

I pretty soon realized that we were actually really helping people. Seriously helping people. People were coming in and having experiences that were, not just altering their day, but altering their lives. That was cool. It definitely made all the other crazy parts seem like they were worth it, all of a sudden. That was definitely a very nice and joyful experience.

And, it was just a lot of the cool stuff that has continued to be cool we started up back then, too. We were doing a lot of bartering. I think it was within the first 100 days that someone just wandered in for their appointment with a giant homemade cake. And they were just like, “Yeah, I heard you guys trade stuff. I made you this huge cake. Is that good for a float?” I was like, “Yeah. Sounds great.” I put them into a float tank, and I had this giant cake that I just started cutting up and giving to other customers. It was pretty fun.

Graham: Yeah, and still made a lot of connections then, to people we still know now, around the wellness community, around Portland. We gave out a lot of free floats and met a lot of the cool small business owners who were in that same line of work that we are. Yeah. So, for those of you who haven’t opened yet, there’s a lot of magical things that start happening any time you’re running a float center. But, I do think those first 100 days are when you really realize that, and the magic starts crystallizing.

I know what else happened after the first 100 days. My brain and body realized that I wasn’t a construction worker. For such a long time during the set-up, I really felt like this was it. Like, “This is my life now,” as I’m just in construction, and running a float center is always going to be building it. It was really such a dramatic time, that getting out of that was like, “Oh.” And, all of a sudden, you’re not a construction worker. Now, you’re a float center owner, and that switch was very palpable.

Ashkahn: Yeah, that’s true. It almost felt weird to not be doing construction after doing it so hard for so long. Yeah. It’s cool. There’s still a lot of friends we have from that first … You’d be surprised how many people are following along with you, even though you don’t know it. They come in your first few weeks of opening, and be like, “Man, I’ve been watching you go through construction. Excited for this to open.” You’re like, “What? Really?” It’s cool. People are there with you, even if you don’t know it.

Graham: Yeah. All right. You tried to end this before, and I stopped you. I feel good about summarizing our first 100 days, now.

Ashkahn: Well, that was our first 100 days of Float On. Our first 100 days of this podcast have been equally tumultuous, I’d say. We still don’t have a couch here in the recording studio.

Graham: We’ve had a door since day one, though.

Ashkahn: It’s been really great. Thank you to all of you out there for listening and coming along on this journey with us.

Graham: Yeah. Thanks for tuning in. Definitely if you want to give back to us, shoot us questions. Give us more fodder for answering. Yeah. You can do that at FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast.

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