True REST Float Spa
Floating for health and relaxation
Business View Magazine interviews representatives from True REST Float Spa, as part of our focus on best practices in the health and wellness sector.
The invention of the sensory deprivation tank, also called an isolation tank or flotation tank, is attributed to John C. Lilly, an American physician and neuroscientist who designed his first tank in 1954, while working for the National Institute of Mental Health. His desire was to study the origins of consciousness by cutting off all external stimuli.
Today, flotation tanks are used for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST). A REST tank is filled with about ten inches of water, exactly at body temperature, into which a thousand pounds of Epsom salts have been dissolved, making the body totally buoyant. When one floats in a flotation tank, the body absorbs these minerals and its magnesium and sulfate levels increase, which its proponents claim helps to calm the nervous system and enhance the body’s natural ability to heal.
In addition, the deep relaxation state that one can enter while floating helps to reduce stress by lowering the body’s blood pressure and cortisol levels. Studies have shown that REST has also been found to reduce anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, irritability, fatigue, tension headaches, and pain. And there are many claims about flotation-REST causing feelings of happiness, euphoria, increased well-being, and optimism. Others have reported spiritual experiences, deep inner peace, sudden insights, and feeling as if they were born anew.
The various effects of REST on athletic performance are well documented. One study found that competitive archers who floated for forty-five minutes before shooting arrows generally shot those arrows better than archers who did not. It has also been found effective in speeding up recovery after strenuous physical training by decreasing blood lactate levels. Other studies have found that REST can help to increase originality, imagination, intuition, focus, and concentration, which can all lead to enhanced creativity and improved learning.
Today, True REST Float Spa is the industry’s largest float spa brand and is on its way to servicing one million floats. True REST Franchising LLC, with units in 17 states, was ranked No. 7 in Entrepreneur’s 2019 Top New Franchises and No. 234 in Entrepreneur’s 2019 Top 500. Each True REST Float Spa location is dedicated to providing pain relief, relaxation, and better sleep through a 60-minute float session.
Recently, Business View Magazine spoke to True REST founder, Nick Janicki, and Mandy Rowe, Director of Sales & Construction, to find out more about the company’s operations and plans for the future. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVM: Can you talk about how True REST came about?
Janicki: “My wife and I discovered floatation back in 2008. At that time, there were only 14 centers in the United States that offered the service and one in Canada. It took us about six months just to find a location that offered flotation therapy. Once we tried it, my senses were revived and I was in an elevated mood. And I thought if someone actually made this a high-end spa service, this could be the next Massage Envy. So, we opened the first spa in 2010 and then we franchised in 2015. We now have 36 locations open and dozens more on the way. There are six corporate-owned and the rest are franchised.”
BVM: How do you find potential franchisees?
Rowe: “We attend conferences; we do some digital marketing. But, for the most part, the majority of all the new prospects and leads that we get are people who have been in the spa; they floated and have expressed interest to a local team member that they would like to talk to someone about franchising. The most common theme is that we find husbands and wives who are burnt out in their corporate jobs and have found floating because they are burnt out. So they do have that business experience, whether it be franchising or another corporate job of some kind, and they have the tools to follow the franchise system. They also have felt, first-hand, how floating can help people in their community.”
BVM: How do you help new franchisees set up their business?
Rowe: “We know this is a very new and unique concept to most people who are franchising with us. So, we do a lot of hand-holding. We’re very transparent; we share all of our actual performance numbers and expenses before they get started, and then we provide everything from a business plan, to a three-year pro forma, to assist them in getting funded. And then, we have a development team that does everything from real estate to construction. The build-outs and interiors are exactly the same. Twelve weeks prior to opening, our operations and marketing teams jump in and do twelve weeks of marketing with them, so we can make sure they’ve got the sales as soon as they open their doors.
“The permitting phase of this industry is also interesting because not a lot of health departments know how to standardize or regulate this business yet, so, of course, we take them through that process. Then on a monthly basis, we have support calls with all of our franchisees; we support them through all of our promotions; and we have two in-house support teams here to support them on a daily basis.”
BVM: How does True REST compare itself to the competition?
Rowe: “The next largest franchise is called Urban Float; they’ve got a few locations open. I would say the thing that differentiates us from them is that we are much more like a friendly living room than we are trying to push the modern and sleek side of floating. We want everyone to feel that this is science-backed therapy and that is how we market and how we build our spas. We’re very professional and high-end but not trendy.
“What we do differently than a lot of the mom-and-pop shops is we are strictly floating; we’re offering sensory deprivation as well as sensory enhancement options, which include virtual reality, meditation, visualization, light therapy – there are a lot of other things that can be added onto the experience, if a client wants to do something different than zero light, zero sound, and zero gravity.”
Janicki: “We consider ourselves ‘the four seasons of floating.’ We’re trying to appeal to the masses and not go after a niche, target audience.”
BVM: Who manufactures your float pods?
Janicki: “We have a company called Royal Spa – they manufacture out of Indianapolis and their bread and butter is actually hot tubs. We contracted with them to make us a product. As of this year, we have a new product that was developed from scratch and it actually has a couple of design patents and personal patents on it. So, that product is the product of the future for True REST. And that was made as an audio/visual device, as well as a sensory deprivation device. There are other companies in the marketplace, but they are our sole supplier.”
BVM: How about your salt?
Rowe: “We use a pharmaceutical grade magnesium sulfate. We have two different companies that we like to use to make sure that it’s pure, debris-free, and that it’s going to help create a sterile environment in our float pods. They have warehouses all over the United States, which makes it very efficient for our franchisees. The float pods always have ten inches of water and a thousand pounds of Epsom salts.”
BVM: What are True REST’s plans going forward?
Rowe: “We have 20-25 locations on the docket to be open this year. As far as future sales, what we’ve seen is almost every NFL team already has floatation pods in their facilities, so we’re getting a lot of interest from these larger cities that have professional sports teams where the demographic has heard about floating because they’re following along with their favorite celebrity athletes, but they don’t have a public place to do it, themselves. So, I’d say, most likely, that’s where future locations will come from in the coming year. We have about 42 franchisees; half of them are area developers who are committed to building somewhere between two and five locations. So, we’re also committed to expanding within all of the locations where we already have a True REST Float Spa.”
BVM: Any plans to expand beyond the United States?
Rowe: “We are already approved for our first location in Canada. It’s in Cornwall, Ontario and then all the rest of Toronto and other markets in Canada are still open. We’ll evaluate beyond North America as the opportunities come to us.”
BVM: How often to do you two float?
Janicki: “I try to float once a week. Sometimes, I’ll go deep and do a couple in a row. For me, it’s like peeling the layers of an onion, in a way. The first time I go in, I get rid of about 80 percent of my stress; the second time I go in, it removes everything. So, I tend to go in a couple of times a month, on average.”
Rowe: “For me, when my stress level gets up, there’s one easy solution to take it down; or when I’m tired from travelling. I tend to float around those needs.”
BVM: Do you think that health insurance will ever pay for REST?
Rowe: “Definitely. There is an institute for brain research called the LIBR Float Clinic in Oklahoma. Justin Feinstein and a few other researchers there have a lot of studies and white paper reports that have already come out that show that floating is a very good alternative to medication. The effects that it has on reducing your blood pressure, on how it equals the effects of anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication, are proven. But the studies need to be done in larger quantities, so the National Institute for Health (NIH) has given them a grant to continue those studies. Hopefully, in the next few years, insurance will by a viable option for payment. We do accept HSA’s (Health Savings Accounts), already, at the spa.”
BVM: What else would you like our readers to know about True REST Float Spa?
Rowe: “One of the ways our CEO found out about floating is because the Navy Seals here in Coronado already had float pods that they were using for PTSD, anxiety, and advanced language learning. So, we’d like everyone to understand that we do offer free floats to veterans. Every True REST offers free floats on the 11th of the month to veterans and first responders.”
Janicki: “I want readers to understand that water hygiene is most important to us; sterilization is most important to us; and the environment is something that everyone has control of. No one with claustrophobia has ever gotten out once they’ve tried it. And even though it’s a ‘simple’ therapy, it’s provided relief and hope to hundreds of thousands of our clients. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, you should give it a try.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: True REST Float Spa
WHAT: The industry’s largest float spa brand
WHERE: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida