If no established path forward exists, why not create your own? For Mike Zaremba, Owner and Co-Founder of Float House and Co-Host of the Vancouver Real podcast, this mantra has been one of the guiding philosophies of his early entrepreneurial career, taking a previously dormant industry and reintroducing it with spectacular results.
An Introduction to Floating
Mike and his business partner and brother, Andy Zaremba, own a chain of wellness centres in the Lower Mainland that focus on floatation therapy and sensory deprivation. “Floating”, as it’s called, is a reflective activity that places customers within an isolation tank filled with magnesium rich water that can help relieve stress and improve sleep. The practice gained popularity in the 80s and 90s, seeing another rise in popularity over the past 5 years.
“Floating popped up on my radar very unexpectedly. I came across it randomly on YouTube and was immediately attracted toward trying it out,” Zaremba revealed. “My brother and I tracked a lady down who had a float tank in her basement in Port Coquitlam. We went and tried it out once each and after that we knew it was something we were interested in. We split the cost of a tank and set it up in my condo in North Vancouver. At the time, a company in Portland had opened up a float business and we could see online how well they were doing and we thought to ourselves – there’s no reason Vancouver couldn’t support a business like this.”
There was just one problem for Zaremba and his brother Andy to overcome – Floating as a business didn’t exist in Vancouver, or British Columbia, so they would have to go through getting Float House regulated when no existing framework was in place.
“Ultimately, we opened a giant can of worms for ourselves,” he said. “The city, the health authority, they had never heard of floating, yet they were going to be the regulatory body for us. They knew nothing about us, so here we are trying to deal with an authority that essentially has no real authority. It eventually needed us to tell them we were pushing forward and going to make this happen and ultimately we did.”
Finding Inspiration in the Challenge
While some may have been put off by the red tape and bureaucratic challenges involved, it instead inspired Zaremba to double down and work harder on crafting the best small business he could.
“Our personal approach was that every time someone put up a hurdle, or every time we met resistance, we personally took it on as a challenge to prove to people how amazing this was going to be. The energy we had to apply to making this work inspired us to make it incredible.”
Find Your Why
In Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk on leadership, he puts forward the argument that it’s not enough to know what you do, or how you do it. Instead, why you do it must be central to your business, and it’s something Zaremba advises young entrepreneurs to embrace.
“My main bit of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is – what is your why? Digging into the reasons and being as honest as you can with yourself about why you want to do this business is so important. If it’s just to create an income it might not be fulfilling, and when you hit the hard spots it’s going to be more challenging. You really need to have a foundation that’s deeper than just financial security.
“What floating represents to us personally was something that just inspired us and we thought this service, this environment could be something really useful to a lot of people in our contemporary world. The whole notion of slowing things down, hitting the pause button, allowing people to de-stress and be a little more reflective than automatic. We really believe in what that represents.”
Turning Passion into A Side Job
Like an increasing number of Canadians, Mike Zaremba holds a side job alongside his main career. In his case, it’s presenting the Vancouver Real Podcast with his brother Andy. Just like Float House, it represents a passion project for the pair, which is all-important when it comes to a side hustle.
“Vancouver Real is a live, street level podcast we host out of a Float House location in Gastown. With your side gig, it’s going to take so much of your free time you want to make sure it’s something you enjoy. Time is ultimately all we have in this life, and you only have so much of it. You have to make sure it’s something you love doing and the podcast is something we wanted to do ever since we got into the whole scene around 2010, originally picking up the idea from an episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast.”
As for the future of Float House, the company has been expanding holistically when opportunities arise, something Zaremba hopes to continue. “Floating is still in its relative infancy and there’s still so much to learn. Our future aspirations will be dictated by what comes to us. We’re not on an aggressive plan or project, it’s more organic. It’s all about making sure it’s the right opportunity and letting it come to us.”
So much of business is making connections with people, and Zaremba’s final recommendation is to be personable with everyone you meet: “Be open, be present, don’t judge people and give people the time of day. Just being human can make all the difference.”