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Sensory deprivation tanks give people a sense of pure weightlessness in temperature-controlled water. It is typically used to help people meditate by depriving them of all external stimuli or to relieve health ailments such as muscle aches or even asthma.
Who is this business right for?
This business is good for someone who is already familiar with spa services, and who understands the direct benefits of these tanks.
What happens during a typical day at a sensory deprivation tank business?
Owners may be faced with the following everyday tasks:
- Client intake and scheduling
- Tank maintenance
- Marketing/website upkeep
- Supply ordering
- Administrative duties
- Employee hiring/managing
What is the target market?
Historically, these tanks were meant for clients who have a good deal of expendable income. Those who pay hundreds of dollars for regular spa services will think little of paying for a new experience that can help them relax and unwind. However, you can also promote your service as less of a luxury and more of a necessity to those with specific health problems.
How does a sensory deprivation tank business make money?
Owners can charge clients based on the amount of time they’re in the tank, or they may charge a monthly fee for a certain amount of sessions or even unlimited use. Spa services can also be sold as a package if you offer other services that will complement a floatation tank session.
What is the growth potential for a sensory deprivation tank business?
This question largely depends on the area you choose to open in. While this is market is largely untapped in most cities and towns, it is only popular in certain social circles. However, this experience can become very addictive or even be deemed a necessity for certain people. The right business owner can change people's minds and open them up to the benefits of an isolation tank.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sensory deprivation tank business?
People and marketing skills are definitely at the top of the list. Practically anyone can buy the equipment and set up the space, but the successful entrepreneur will need to convince those in the neighborhood that the service is worth it. This means understanding the values and the principles of the area, and deciding on the best angle when it comes to attracting a clientele. Whether it’s online, on TV, through flyers, or by word-of-mouth, a successful owner needs to anticipate how to make their name.
Owners should also have organizational and leadership skills. Schedules will need to be coordinated, staff meetings will need to be run, and supplies will need to be ordered.
What are the costs involved in opening a sensory deprivation tank business?
It can be quite expensive to start an isolation tank business from scratch. One float tank costs about $25,000, but most stores will want to have at least two or three. High end estimates for start-up costs are around $340,000. This includes everything from readying the space to marketing to utilities to office equipment. It also includes licensing and permit cost for the building. There are a variety of ways to save money by price comparing, opening in a cheap neighborhood, or even by selecing previously used equipment. However, even with all these cost-saving measures, low-end estimates are still around $180,000.
What are the steps to start a sensory deprivation tank business?
Once you're ready to start your sensory deprivation tank business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your sensory deprivation tank business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your sensory deprivation tank business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a sensory deprivation tank business?
People have very different reactions to the feeling of being inside a sensory deprivation tank, so it helps to understand how individuals interact with and benefit from the experience. People today are so used to having constant sensory distractions, from a blinking smartphone light to the distant sound of bird song. It's welcoming to experience a change, but it's also an extremely foreign concept. You’ll need to collect and study feedback, as well as develop your own personal experiences inside the tank.
Some people report very extreme feelings or events inside, such as hallucinations or strange thoughts. All customers will need to fully understand what they’re signing up for before their first session. They’ll need to sign a liability waiver so you aren't held responsible for their reaction. You'll also need to form a relationship with the health department. They'll need to inspect the sanitation of the tanks and your space before you can open.
How to promote & market a sensory deprivation tank business
Promotion to a certain extent takes care of itself through word-of-mouth buzz. This is such an unusual activity that it manages to generate its own press. However, not all word-of-mouth is good. Some people see sensory deprivation tanks as a waste of time and money rather than a genuine way to decompress or relieve pain. Promotion is likely to occur mainly on the company’s website, where you can both fully address the concerns and give concrete reasons as to why it’s worth taking a chance.
Choose a branding strategy for your company, and stick with it. Whether you focus more on the relaxation or the health angle, you want customers to have a solid idea of what your business stands for. You may want to give customers a taste of the experience for free (or a deep discount) during the first few weeks of opening. Let customers know they have the ability to stop the session at any time, and give them tips for the best way to enjoy it.
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How to keep customers coming back
You’ll need your customers to become hooked on the experience of being in the tank. Excellent customer service is important, but it’s not what will keep people coming back. Keep up with each client at the beginning, and find out how they feel about the experience. Address any and all complaints that come in immediately — either by survey, Yelp, or in-person. Expectation setting before a customer even enters the tank will go a long way when it comes to retaining your clients.
How and when to build a team
You’ll likely be able to keep the employee roster low by doing much of the work yourself (at least at first.) As your clientele ramps up, you’ll want to hire people who are organized and who have experienced the sensory deprivation tanks first-hand.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a floatation center. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Release of Liability
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, floatation tank businesses should have their clients sign waivers. Here is an example of one such form.
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Certificate of Occupancy
A flotation center businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a floatation center location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a flotation center business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a floatation center location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your flotation center business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Most sensory deprivation tank businesses charge over a dollar a minute, generally in increments of 30, 60, or 90 minutes sessions. Intro sessions may be given at a far reduced rate, such as $100 for two 60 minute sessions.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sensory deprivation tank business?
The majority of the expenses will be maintenance and sanitary upkeep of the machines:
- Cleaning products/labor
- Tank maintenance
- Office equipment
- Marketing costs
- Employee salaries
How much profit can a sensory deprivation tank business make?
On average, a store with two tanks should net more than $100,000 a year assuming steady clientele. Considering tanks only cost $2,400 a year to maintain after the initial purchase, you’ll start turning a profit (minus the costs of the space) in less than two years.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Adding additional relaxation services can help turn your business into a full-service spa. Consider adding massage or sauna services to round out the client’s day of rest and relaxation.