Floating Through Impossibilities
A progressive approach to an off-the-wall business idea
Age is just a number, they say. However, when you’re under thirty and looking to start a business, that number becomes very important, especially to banks. For Zach Palmarin, his youth was just one of the many barriers on his journey from student to entrepreneur. But he had a good idea – and he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way. “There were a lot of roadblocks, but I believed in [my idea] and really wanted to make it happen.”
A passion to ‘float’
Today, Zach runs Tranquility Float - a float centre on the south side of Lethbridge. A burgeoning new industry, ‘floating’ boasts a variety of health benefits in everything from pain management to promoting a better night’s sleep.
How do you ‘float’?
During a float therapy session, participants enter a sensory deprivation chamber then float in warm Epsom salt-saturated water for 90 minutes (or more). It’s supposed to mimic the
sensation of floating in space and allows for complete relaxation of both the mind and body. Like Zach, floating is a young enough industry that its potential outweighs its demonstrated
profitability. Combined, the youth of both Zach and his chosen industry made finding funding at a traditional bank impossible. So, when Community Futures offered help, Zach was able to move from aspiring dreamer to business owner.
Equipped to chase a dream
Zach began his journey to entrepreneurship at Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Management with a major in
Armed with a degree, Zach was ready to dip his toes into the working world. After some searching around, he landed a role managing a health supplements store in Medicine Hat.
Then, on a trip to Calgary, he discovered floating and was deeply moved by the experience. Despite the distance, he would drive back and forth to Calgary just to float. While floating was going well, his job wasn’t. “I was just kind of unhappy and I wanted to do more,” Zach said. “So, I started researching businesses to open and the idea came to me to put two and two together and start a floating business.”
Using a business plan he crafted while at the college as a starting point, he started to draw up a plan for Tranquility Float. From 2016 to 2017, he studied the market and contacted
entrepreneurs in the industry to create a solid business plan he could take to the banks to get the funding he needed to pursue his dream.
A question of age
At 24 years old, with only two years experience under his belt, Zach knew he was young – and sometimes even felt too young. But, despite his doubts, he believed his college and
university experience had prepared him to take on the challenge. Unfortunately, the banks didn’t feel the same way. “They looked at me as being really young and I guess not mature or established enough to open a business,” Zach said. “Most banks didn't even look at the business plan, they just turned me away.” While his youth made dealing with the banks difficult, the young age of the floating industry didn’t help either.
Each time Zach made an appointment with a bank, he had to explain what floating was and try to convince them the industry had real potential in Lethbridge. While he never came away from a bank with the funding needed to build his business, he did get helpful feedback on his business plan each time. And every time, he took that feedback and used it to sharpen his plan. But, no matter how great his business plan became, he still faced the same immovable wall at each bank until he was almost ready to give up. When one of the bankers mentioned Community Futures, Zach mustered his courage for one last pitch effort. “It was the last straw,” he said. “If it didn’t work I was ready to put it off until later in life when I had more experience and more money saved up.”
The human approach of Community Futures
When Zach finally approached Community Futures, he was surprised to find the previous roadblocks all but evaporate. “It was nice. The minute I stepped in they knew what floating was and wanted to see it happen.”
Zach presented his business plan and blew the Community Futures crew away. While their familiarity with the industry and his stellar business plan had fared well, there
was still the question of his age, which had stopped him so many times before. “At Community Futures, they take the age out and look at you based on your life stage –
which was huge.” With this approach, Community Futures determined Zach was ready to take on a business and gave him the funding he needed. It’s all green lights (with no red in sight) With a year of preparation under his belt, Zach, grateful for a chance, took the funding and immediately put it to work. “At that point, everything was planned. It was just calling to get the equipment ordered and transferring the funds to the contractors and it was off.” Within six months, Tranquility Float was operational and completely booked up for months
– including reservations from the folks at Community Futures who had come to see Zach’s dream come to life.
After three years in business, Zach hopes to grow, turning Tranquility Float into a larger wellness centre and expand it into many new forms of therapy.