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Show Highlights

So by now it’s old news that Chris and Donna Petrovics have closed up shop at ProFloat Inc. At Rise earlier this year, they gave an emotional, heartfelt farewell talk to the industry. There were tears, hugs, and words of love and encouragement all around.

This interview takes place immediately after their speech, and the effect of it still hangs in the air during our conversation. Be warned, this interview may make you misty eyed while listening. Although it’s possible that it’s just the chopped onions that exist in the background. 

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

Graham: All right, welcome everybody. We have something a little bit different for you today.

Ashkahn: Yeah, we were just out at Rise, the Float Gathering, out in St. Louis. It’s a float event that happens every year put on by FLOAT STL out there.

Graham: While we were off kind of gallivanting around having fun, Juliet got a chance to sit down with all of the speakers after their talks and ask them a few questions.

Ashkahn: So yeah, we kind of have a couple speakers grouped together doing little group interviews that you’re going to get to listen to over the course of these episodes.

Graham: Yeah, so we hope you enjoy them. They’re definitely great to listen to, even if you didn’t get a chance to come out to Rise and see the talks live.

Ashkahn: And you should definitely come out to Rise next year. It’s super fun. The website is risefloatgathering.com. They usually do it in kind of the April, May timeline. We’ll definitely see you there if you decide to come.

Graham: Yeah, and in the meantime, enjoy the interviews.

Juliet: So how are you feeling after your talk?

Donna: Grateful. I feel so grateful that we had the chance to share our story in such a loving, safe, supportive space. I’m filled with gratitude right now.

Juliet: Well, good.

Donna: And love. 

Juliet: There’s a lot of love in that room.

Donna: Oh, yeah.

Juliet: And you bring it out in people. 

Chris: I’m feeling-

Juliet: Both of you.

Donna: Aw, thank you.

Chris: … a sense of relief right now knowing that we were able to tell our story and be authentic and not hold back. It’s all out there now, right, our story and what’s happening.

Juliet: I know that as soon as I saw both of you when you came in, this has been weighing on you. I think that you’re the ones that are going to be the hardest on yourselves, right?

Donna: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely.

Donna: Yeah, I think you’re right, yeah.

Chris: I think, well, because we love what we’re doing so much, and we love the industry so much. It’s not like we’re walking away from … we’re just working a regular retail job or something like that.

Donna: Yeah, give your two week’s notice and off you go.

Chris: No, this is our-

Donna: That’s not-

Chris: This is our dream. This was kind of our first baby. 

Donna: Yeah.

Chris: Pro Float was our first baby.

Donna: We started Pro Float, and then found out we were pregnant finally, which was such a blessing, that people looked at us at the beginning, “Does that mean you’re going to put the business on hold? How will you do both?” Well, I don’t know. Not only did we take that on, we added two more babies to the mix. So we’ve got three of them now. Our first baby, Pro Float, is now going to get laid to rest. 

Juliet: I know part of this feels like a departure, but I mean, clearly this is a family that loves you here.

Donna: I know. It’s undeniable. We can’t not be a part of it. I just don’t know how we’ll sort of find our new spot.

Juliet: Well, I’m not a manufacturer. I’m not a float owner. I found a spot.

Donna: There is a space for everyone.

Juliet: There are spaces for everybody.

Donna: Yes. 

Juliet: You just find out what works.

Donna: Find where it feels right in our heart again, and where we can shine and be our best selves and have fun.

Chris: Yeah.

Donna: We kind of lost the fun. Graham and Ashkahn really drove it home for us. I mean, we kind of have been saying that. But hearing their talk yesterday, yeah, we lost the fun. So we were doing a disservice all around if we were to push forward further. It’s time to stop.

Chris: And take of ourselves and take care of our kids and enjoy this time, because this is a very precious window of time right now. There’s so much stuff happening with these little guys and our little Hailey. They’re growing so fast, and we only have a certain window of time. I don’t want to make the choice to put float tanks over top of my kids.

Juliet: Of course.

Chris: I don’t have to right now. I don’t have to. There’s other people that are doing it, and I get to just be a dad and take care of myself and take care of my wife. Why are you doing stuff, if not for your family, right? So if you’re going to burn yourself out to the point of losing it, which I’ve seen other people do in the industry, I’ve seen other manufacturers that have gone through divorces. I’ve seen …

Donna: Some of our customers have-

Chris: Some of our customers-

Donna: … gotten sick and ended up in the hospital. It felt like the universe was telling us, “You got to slow down. You got to slow down.” We just kind of kept barreling through faster, because, “No, no. We can make it right. We can fix it. We’re strong enough. We can do this.” But we were getting more and more fragile, more and more hollow on the inside, because we weren’t refilling ourselves. It felt like it was closing in. It was getting closer to us at the center, people that were falling, centers that were closing, health crisis starting to rise up. In the eye of the storm, Chris and I stopped. 

One day a few weeks ago, we were driving down the hill after dropping our kids off at daycare, and we pulled over, because we could just feel there was just this restless, unsettled feeling in the air. 

Chris: I was almost having a panic attack really. I mean, when it comes down to it, I was …

Donna: So we pulled over. I took the keys out, and I threw them in the backseat, like just stop, just stop, just stop. We sat there, and I started to mentally run through every single thread in my body that was Pro Float. It felt like a friendship bracelet that had been braided and was beautiful and full of colors, and every little strand … You know, you’ve worn it so much, every little strand of thread starts to fray-

Juliet: Wow.

Donna: … and break and break and break and break. It was like I found that last thread, and it snapped. There was nothing left to cling to. The journey was at the end. We sat in the car on the side of the road for two hours that morning, traffic whizzing by, and we bawled, we cried, we screamed, we banged on the dashboard. We made a video to capture that moment. It felt so raw, and it feels like … I mean, I’m sure in time, healing and the relief will come. But right now, we’re in the middle of just wrapping up loose ends and saying goodbye over and over. Goodbye to the space, goodbye to our team, goodbye to the last tanks.

There’s a real honor in moving through this final challenge and tasking ourselves with maintaining our integrity and our dignity and our grace for Pro Float. It’s such an honor. I’m so blessed that we get to have this honor. 

Chris: Absolutely, absolutely. Well said. 

Juliet: So what’s your next talk going to be about?

Donna: The next talk. Oh, gosh. I don’t even know. 

Chris: It’s a weird thing, because a few people have asked, “Well, what are you going do?” and so on. It’s like, “Well, that’s the whole point, is that we’re not going to put anything else on our plate right now. We’re going to take care of ourselves, because that’s the whole point. That’s why the decision was made.”

Juliet: Yeah, of course.

Chris: It’s just that we’ve hit burnout. We got three little kids that need us. We need to take a step back and stop putting that obligation or burden of serving by providing flotation therapy and providing the equipment, we don’t have to put that all on ourselves right now.

Donna: I believe the next adventure will present itself to us at the moment when we’re supposed to receive it and ready to take it on. I keep kind of putting a call-out to the universe asking, “What’s next? Should I be trying to set my intention in any particular direction? Gee, I hope they’ll hire me if I start applying for jobs.” Or, “Gee, I hope I can have some time off.” I don’t even know where to put my hopes and my intentions. Nothing is coming back for me to have an answer, which I think is the answer in and of itself. “You’re not ready to know yet, so calm down, and clean up, and get still, and have space. When you’re ready, we’ll tell you.” So I’m trusting in that. I’m trusting in that right now.

Juliet: Well, and I think if this has proven anything here in this space, you guys are not alone.

Donna: No, I know. I know.

Chris: It’s been overwhelming actually, the support that we’ve had from our friends and colleagues in the industry, our competitors. It’s all been this, “We get it. We understand, and you’re not wrong.” To hear that from people when you’re at your … it really does feel like a low point. But really, it doesn’t have to be. That’s what people are saying, “You’re just creating different opportunities for yourself now, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Donna: I think we’re going to go home with a bit of a sense of, I don’t want to say closure because it’s not over, but maybe a sense of closure, because we got to tell our story. We got to have it heard. We had our voice, which was very nice. So now we can go home and wrap up. I’m really excited. I really do want to put it, for sure, on our radar to come to conference in Denver. I’m so excited to see the new beginning. I hope I get to be a part of it somehow. I just know I need to be in that space with all of our people again. We’re not filling our summer up with a whole lot of anything specific at the moment, but that’s one that I definitely have on the books, that we’ll find a way to get there. I know that we’re supposed to be there. So for sure, there’s that. But otherwise, I’m not …

Juliet: And this last year, for this industry especially, has been one of a lot of change. 

Donna: Yes, yes, a new shift is happening.

Chris: Some uncertainty. Yeah, definitely some change. We’ve seen it, and we’ve weathered it. If we wanted to, we probably could have kept forging forward, like that need is-

Donna: Well, that’s not true, because we did want to. We do want to. It’s not an option. We know that.

Chris: That’s true.

Donna: We know that. Yes, the opportunity was there to keep going, but we know, we know we had to stop. We have to stop. That’s a hard thing to be brave about.

Juliet: There’s a lot of wisdom to knowing that, too.

Chris: Aw, well thank you.

Donna: Thank you, Julie.

Chris: That’s a kind thing to say.

Juliet: I want to keep these short, and I think our talks are starting in.

Donna: Right. We should make sure that you are there to capture Justin, of course.

Juliet: Of course. Thank you both so much for sharing and being vulnerable. Of course, this is a great place to do that, but it doesn’t change how much strength it requires to be able to do that up there.

Donna: Thank you. 

Chris: It’s our pleasure. 

Juliet: It’s really been a pleasure to know you both. 

Donna: I feel the same way. 

Juliet: I suspected as much. 

Donna: You know it.

Juliet: All right.

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