One year of Floatworks: “We have a duty to put it in the lives of more people”

22 May 2017, by Floatworks
One year of Floatworks: “We have a duty to put it in the lives of more people”

Regular readers (and floaters!) will know that in April just past, we celebrated one year of being in business at St George’s Wharf in Vauxhall.

In recent features we’ve shone a microscope on the long-term history of Floatworks and the i-sopod tank, but to mark a brilliant first year of bringing floating to thousands of Londoners, owners Chris Plowman and Ed Hawley talk us through their story, and what’s next for Floatworks.

“We’ve always been in business together,” begins Ed, one Wednesday evening in the Floatworks Head Office. He’s surrounded by bags of Epsom salt for the tanks, softening salt for the shower water and other hardware they’ve just picked up on the monthly grocery list.

“We had a few properties together, and we wanted to start a new business, but we didn’t know what that would be,” Ed continues. “Chris started floating because he hurt his back, and obviously he said, ‘You’ve got to try this’.

“I did and it was awesome. Chris has great ideas: he said, ‘I’ve looked at America and there are franchises springing up and they’re doing it in a very modern, cookie-cutter way’. The UK had nothing quite like that. At the time, Floatworks had a big centre in London Bridge, then they had a little one in Canary Wharf, and that was it.”

Their initial business plan was built around starting their own float centre.

“We took advice. We talked to a lot of people who are really good entrepreneurs, and we just took on board what we could.”

From there? It was all beautiful timing…

“Matt and Tim [Strudwick] wanted to relaunch Floatworks properly because they only had the two tanks in Canary Wharf, and they wanted to be back involved and back moving forward. They saw what we wanted to do, they saw we were fairly competent businessmen and that was it.”

Of course with any business, the supply needs to meet the demand, and the demand needs to be… demanding. With only two tanks tucked away in Canary Wharf to serve 13million people, floating had not yet become ‘A Thing’ in London. Yet.

“We thought we needed to be around 70% occupancy,” recalls Ed, “and now we’re at 100% with a 3-week waiting list.”

“Even I didn’t predict the level of success and interest that we’d end up having,” adds Chris, consulting his mental calculations. “I think that’s a testament to the true, tangible benefits of floating. And that’s why I think we’re now ready to expand.”

Ahh yes, expansion. If you’ve bumped into Chris or Ed at the centre at any point over the past 12 months, no doubt one of them will have collared you with wide eyes and a vision of bringing floating to everyone in London… and beyond. Now here’s the exciting bit: they, and Floatworks, are now ready for phase two.

Two things are happening behind-the-scenes right now: Chris and Ed are pulling together investment to launch Centre Two, and they’re looking to nail down the perfect location. At the time of writing, there’s a location in central London under consideration, but nothing is set in stone yet.

“If we close a property within the next month or so, we could be live six months from now,” says Ed. “It could be a little longer, that’s best-case scenario. But we’re really, really focusing in on this now – because we’re ready.”

Watch this space, then. Chris and Ed’s ultimate vision is for six-to-ten float centres in the capital, depending on the needs of the city, and from there, as Ed says, “It’s a case of opening one in every city and town in the UK. If it works here, why not everywhere?”

“LONG-long-term, the plan is to make floating affordable and accessible to everybody. We want people to look at it like scheduling exercise. You go to the gym to exercise your body, you float to exercise your mind.”

“I think that will become more and more important as we become more connected across the world,” Chris adds. “Floating becomes even more critical to give people an hour to completely switch off. Stress, anxiety, depression at the moment are all quite rampant, and we feel that we almost have a duty to put it in the hands of more people.”

So as Chris and Ed begin to write the first page of the next chapter in Floatworks’ history, how has a year at the helm – and a year in the tank – changed them?

“Well,” ponders Chris, “I’m happy now, and in the past I was sad. I think that’s a good start! I feel like I have a mission, before I didn’t really have anything to aim for. I have something to get me out of bed every morning. Something that puts a smile on my face when I see the impact it’s having on us, our staff and our customers. I’m a lot happier and more fulfilled.”

“I’ve always been quite obsessive, and high energy, and driven,” adds Ed, “but I’m definitely a lot calmer. I don’t react as impulsively as I used to, I think about things a little longer, I’m a lot clearer, and in the past I was kind of trucking away in the city and that was great and I’m glad I did it, but this is a totally different ballgame. I feel totally fulfilled. I am fascinated by consciousness, mindfulness and anxiety – the link between the mind and body – and about how good we can make this existence of being a human.”

You can keep up with developments on Centre Two (and all things Floatworks), on Twitter and Facebook, or just pop in for a chat at Vauxhall!