After experiencing the benefits from floatation therapy, also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), Sarah and Ryan LaTeano felt inspired to open a local float facility.
Float Forty One plans to open in October. Sarah spoke with Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price about her experience launching a startup in Greater Hartford and why she is passionate about providing float experiences to those who have served in the military.
NAN PRICE: Have you always been entrepreneurial?
SARAH LATEANO: After Ryan and I had our first float experience, it was like a light bulb went off saying: This is what you’re meant to do. I’ve always been a give-it-your-all go-getter, but I never thought I would do something like this. Ryan and I had talked about working for ourselves, opening a restaurant or creating a product, when I was done with my military enlistment. Once we discovered floating, it took a different turn.
NAN: What experience do you both bring to this new business venture?
SARAH: Ryan and his father own a contracting company, so he knows how to run a business and has been helpful bringing the building construction to life.
My strengths come from being in the military and working in an executive administrative type of role. I’ve learned to run many different programs that touch things like resource management and personnel.
NAN: Starting out, have you tapped into any Connecticut business resources?
SARAH: We did. At first, we were just Googling everything: How to open a business and how to write a business plan. I knew you needed a business plan, but I wasn’t sure where to go for assistance.
We did a lot ourselves. We did all the market research and figured out what we wanted out of the company and what direction we want to go in. Our original business plan ended up being 41 pages long—no coincidence, as the number 41 has always had special meaning to Ryan and me.
Through Google, we found local resources we needed. We utilized Greater Hartford SCORE and the University of Hartford Entrepreneurial Center and Women’s Business Center was really helpful as well. We wrote our business plan and brought it to them for review and revisions.
NAN: You’ve done a lot of networking, too—which is how we met.
SARAH: Right. I’ve been trying to take advantage of as many resources as I can, getting out and meeting people face-to-face, networking, and going to different events to educate myself and make connections that are helping to drive my business forward.
I joined the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and have attended their lunchtime roundtables. I’m a participant in Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW). I also joined a Business Network International (BNI) group in West Hartford.
A business needs so many different services, and all I really knew to do was look for things online, which can be frustrating. Once I connected with different business resources, my whole world changed. All these doors opened and I met the all the right people.
NAN: Let’s talk about how your business plans to give back to the community.
SARAH: Our main focus for the community piece of the float center is serving the military. Floating can be so beneficial to people in the military to help deal with things like anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and addiction treatment. So, a certain portion of our business where we can give back to the community will be focused on my brothers and sisters in the military and our veterans.
Once we get up and running, our ultimate goal is to create a nonprofit alongside the business to raise awareness for veterans. I want to float as many of them for free as I can.
NAN: As a business that hasn’t opened yet, how are you marketing?
SARAH: Word-of-mouth is key in this industry. Social media is our number one approach to marketing to get people aware and educate them. Beyond that, I’m visiting local hospitals and different companies to provide information about how they can use floating to meet some of their patients’ and clients’ needs.
NAN: So, there’s a potential business-to-business market for you?
SARAH: Yes. I’m working on developing those corporate partnerships with different companies.
NAN: Any advice to others who are launching new startups?
SARAH: Start early. Get out there. Most people try to network and market as soon as they open. I know there’s zero monetary return right now, but this is what needs to be done. Right now, this is money. All the networking and connections I’m making now are going to ensure there are people at the door when we open and we’re not just waiting for people to walk into the space.
NAN: With an eye toward the future, do you foresee opening other locations and building out more of those partnerships?
SARAH: We do. Fingers crossed, this is not the only Float Forty One and there will be more in the future.