How Nadeem Jiwani turned a chill-out session into a wellness business
Nadeem Jiwani started floating in someone’s basement when he was studying economics, business and psychology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. His first float was great, but he didn’t completely relax, Jiwani says. He had a bit of an epiphany the second time around and by the third time, he was hooked.
The practice, which involves floating in a dark sound proof tank in salty buoyant water, is a relaxation method that dates back to the 1950s. It began as an experiment involving sensory deprivation tanks and the scientific theory that the human brain would shut down in the absence of external stimuli. “They found that, in fact, the mind doesn’t turn off but it slows down and it gets into a really relaxed state,” Jiwani says. “People found a lot of benefits from this and in the 1970s they created the commercial [flotation] tank.”
In the early 2000s, the SARS scare put a damper on pools and spas, and float therapy declined along with them, Jiwani says. Around 2010, the practice enjoyed a resurgence in North America. Meanwhile, in 2014, Jiwani learned that a float centre was opening up in Waterloo. He decided to get a job there so that he could get some free floats and was Flowt K-W’s first employee. Jiwani helped with the marketing side of the business and learned a lot about float therapy along the way.
In August 2017, he opened his own location in Markham, Ontario, called Float Valley, to serve not just as a float centre, but a place that offers meditation and yoga classes as well. “It’s more than just floating,” Jiwani says. “We want to bring in new things in the future and make [Float Valley] an all-around wellness centre.
“The float community is actually quite a tight-knit community in the sense that we all talk to each other, the owners, around the world and are able to share information through a group called Float Collective,” he says. From this community, Jiwani learned how to construct the float centre, how to set up the tanks and conduct maintenance, how to market it – basically everything he needed to know to get his business off the ground.
“It was a lot of work with construction dealing with sound-proofing and water-proofing the rooms,” Jiwani says. “That was a new thing for the construction people that I was working with, so [we at Float Valley] had to go through a lot of training, learning exactly what needed to be done, and then training them to as to how to put that together in the centre.”
Float Valley features six rooms each with their own shower, where clients cleanse with special soap to remove any oils pre-float, and a flotation unit. Each client is given a robe and slippers, ear plugs – to keep out the 800 pounds of Epsom salts that the water in each flotation unit contains – a float pillow, and detailed instructions about how to prepare for the float.
The Epsom salts in the water act as a natural disinfectant, Jiwani says. “We go a little bit further by using hydrogen peroxide in the water in between each user,” he says. “After someone’s float, the system turns on for about 15 minutes, which allows all the water to run through it about three times fully.” The three-tier system features a UV filter, it has a skimmer, and it has a 10 micron filter, usually found in pools and hot tubs, which goes the extra step to kill the bacteria.
Before and after a float session, clients can take advantage of the meditation and yoga room, and the relaxation lounge, where they can listen to calming music and drink tea. Yin yoga classes – a more meditative rather than active form of yoga – are held on the weekends. Sixty-five dollars will buy a single, one-hour float session at Float Valley, or the client can choose to upgrade to a three-float session package for $129. “Once they’ve finished the three-pack is when we see that people have really noticed the full effects of floating,” Jiwani says. “It does take one, two, sometimes three floats to get to that really deep state of relaxation, but once they’ve tried three floats through the introductory pack, they can then go to our membership [program], which is one float a month for $49.” There are one-month, two-month and four-month membership plans available as well, he says, so there are clients who come in for float sessions on a weekly basis. Jiwani sees the business expanding in another year if everything goes according to plan. When asked if he ever imagined he would be running a float centre, the former economics major laughs. “No, not at all,” Jiwani says. “I just thought I was floating, and I just went from there.”