Read our insights from starting a float tank business for 3 float centers,
including 2 new floatation spas and a second location for another.
Introduction to Starting A Float Tank Business
When you want to open a float center, it’s vital to spend time planning out your spa and ensure your budget fits your goals (and includes a considerable amount for unexpected expenses and delays). It’s standard for many businesses across the board to miss their original opening schedule, but with a float center there are so many factors involved since the industry is still forming and maturing. Especially if you are the first or one of the early leaders in your area, you may have to work with developing the processes and standards for your local health authority.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s some of the most important insights I’ve gained from floating and launching float spas and key issues I see happening in the industry for other centres.
Major Considerations: Avoiding Past Mistakes
Starting a float tank business comes with a ton of major considerations that are unique to it. If you think about it, it makes sense that it may be quite difficult to sell the service of pure silence, darkness and deep relaxation within a world of endless noise and light pollution. Add into that the understandably high expectations around cleanliness along with the chemistry and plumbing that go into making that happen for each and every person who comes in for a float session — you need to have a clear plan built off of the expertise of others in the industry. Things never go as planned, so here are a few key considerations we have seen play out for our partners and others in the industry to think through for yourself when starting a float tank business.
- Finding the right space to lease — We have seen and heard horror stories of people signing a lease only to realize that the building is not ideal for soundproofing (or presents unexpected challenges that increase the complexity and cost). Or even worse, to have the landlord rent out an adjacent space to your polar opposite in a heavy metal cross fit gym. You are selling silence, an escape from the regular noise of our busy world. Ask more questions than you think you need to and do your due diligence when finding your space. When possible, try to include additional points in your lease that help ensure the success of your float spa.
- Making a stellar first impression (sink or float) — Floating is incredible when set up with the proper conditions, in many ways it sells itself, as it’s such a necessary practice and tool for our modern world. That’s really your job, is to make everything so smooth and well thought out that people feel at ease throughout the process and experience the best possible float they can. Education, cleanliness, calm and warm customer service are all key pieces of ensuring that each float experience is 5-stars or an 11/10. Since there is a lot of anxiety and concern around things like claustrophobia or sanitation, there’s the added pressure of helping to set the standard across the world to help break down the lack of education. More positive experiences of people floating safely and in pristine environments lead to further acceptance of floatation therapy as a viable therapeutic practice and treatment. On the contrary, every float center that opens in a rush without the proper care results in an onslaught of 1-star reviews that not only sink the business, but can make it harder for everyone else running a float spa. Even one or a few lower reviews can start to skew the perception of potential customers curious to try floating when you’re starting out, so make sure each and every person is treated like royalty. We strongly recommend running at least a week or two of soft launch with friends, family and your close network. This helps ensure your floatation tanks are running properly, your turnover routines are set, and every actual customer at your launch gets a 5-star experience built off the initial feedback and practice runs.
- Planning for delays and money pits — The last thing you want is to run out of money before or right after you open your doors and end up scrambling to bring in revenue. We have heard horror stories of being ghosted by contractors (after payment of course), leases lost after being signed, and government approvals throwing a wrench in your launch dates. Desperation is often the deflating killer of many businesses as you start to look to options you normally wouldn’t to try and keep your business going. This is where we see many people being convinced by deal sites like Groupon to bring in new customers at much lower rates, which too often leads to highly critical reviews, a major opportunity cost and customer service nightmares. Be sure to add a considerable amount of money in your budget and time on your schedule to allow for any delays or extra expenses that pop up along the way. Plus, as you’ll read below, don’t forget to have a reasonable marketing and advertising budget for your float center. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a Field of Dreams, you need to pay and put in major effort to make people aware of you, educate them about floating and then have them be convinced to try it out for the first time (and finally come back again and again). Need an idea of how to plan out your timeline? Check out this timeline put together by Float Tank Solutions.
- Be clear in where you’re positioning yourself — Do you want to be a premium option in your area (reach out and we can help make that happen)? Is it your mission to help provide more affordable floats without devaluing the service? Will you want a family-friendly, local business vibe or a modern minimalist spa aimed at the business community? It’s vital to answer these questions for yourself in the context of where you’re opening your business to inform every decision as you build your business and it evolves over time. The absolute last thing you should do is skip this or start to compromise on your previous decisions as it will lead to inconsistency across your brand and business. A premium business should not be on Groupon or doing flash sales. Your social media posts should not be kitschy memes if you invested heavily to have the best spa and website compared to the other centers in your area. When you launch your business with higher prices and some things start to conflict the premium messaging you first put out, people may not believe it and therefore won’t be willing to pay the additional price at your spa. In the same way, if you invest much less for a basic, family-run feel at your float center than it probably doesn’t make sense to be the highest price. Choose a position and be clear with it everywhere.
Common Struggles, Delays and Roadblocks
While you can’t predict the future or how your launch will play out, there are some common patterns we’ve noticed happening to keep an eye and ear out for, while planning into your budget and schedule too.
- Getting approval from city and health authorities to ensure you are not blocked from opening or shut down
- Issues with buildout resulting in delays or extra expenses (project management, poor estimations, material delays)
- Float tank delivery and installation (including soundproofing, heating, proper preparation and floor levelling, etc.)
Marketing / Advertising to Open A Float Center
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
While we definitely need more trees right now, this quote helps to convey a good point for marketing as well. You always want to start earlier than you think. Floating is still in its infancy, so you have an uphill battle of bringing awareness to the benefits, safety and sanitation of the practice — as you also break down the negative misconceptions (please do not share Stranger Things memes). A lot of your work early on is about educating people and providing them with a training of sorts with their first float and consecutive sessions until it clicks for them. This will be your main focus up front before and during your launch, but it never stops as you continue to try and win over first timers to try it at your float center.
There will be an overwhelming number of factors top of mind as you launch your center, which is why it can be so helpful to work with experts who know the industry and have been through it before. Questions like:
- How much should I spend on ads?
- When should I start advertising?
- How do I know that our advertising is working?
- How do I properly educate and prepare first timers?
- What is the return on my ad spend and marketing efforts?
Case Studies: Open A Float Center
Dive into some examples of our part work with our partners to get a better understanding of where to aim when starting a float tank business or how we can partner with you to exceed your expectations and blast past your goals:
Recommended Reading and Resources
Floatation Tank Association (FTA) – The Floatation Tank Association has been serving the worldwide floating community since 1983. They are dedicated to serving the interests of float center operators, floatation tank manufacturers, educators, consultants and the floating public by creating standards and best practices that promote health, safety, sanitation, and the consistent dissemination of accurate knowledge and information about floating.
Float Collective – A not-for-profit and free Facebook group that is full of conversations around almost every surprise, challenge or piece of advice you may need when opening or running your float center. Tap into the wealth of knowledge from thousands of other float center owners and operators.
Float Tank Solutions – Great free resources and tons of industry experience running centres in terms of the chemistry, build out and technical nuts and bolts that come with hosting this unique type of space in your community.
Float Conference – Meet up with people in real life to connect with others who are preparing to launch, those who’ve done it before and attend workshops or talks to help bring clarity to your vision for starting a float tank business.