Entrepreneur ‘floats’ new business idea at local chamber meeting

Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 10:59
  • Sondra Tompkins gives a presentation about her new float tub business, Float 49, during the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce biweekly lunch forum on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 at the Matanuska Alehouse in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

Businesses owners know starting a new venture is a sink-or-swim situation. Sondra Tompkins plans to float.

The owner of Float 49 visited the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce last week to talk about her planned float tub business, which she said was inspired by the way her son responded to floating in the large, saltwater filled tubs.

“He was the inspiration for this business,” Tompkins said during a speech at the chamber’s biweekly lunch forum at the Matanuska Alehouse in Eagle River.

Tompkins said her teenage son suffers from autism and a medical condition that required thousands of blood draws and multiple liver biopsies.

“The trauma from that really took hold,” she said.

Tompkins said she discovered a float center in Seattle that seemed to make an immediate difference for her son. After spending time in the tubs — which are roughly 10-inches deep and filled with a mixture of body temperature water and epsom salts — her son was calmer and more relaxed.

“When he got out I could not believe the difference,” she said.

Tompkins said floating made such a difference for her son that she decided she needed one of her own. But she also realized there were no float centers in Anchorage — at which point she started to think a bit bigger.

“I told my husband, ‘We’re either going to buy one of these and put it in our garage or start a business,’” she said.

The latter idea won out, and before long Tompkins said she found herself looking for a quiet space to open the business.

“We just went full steam ahead,” she said.

Tompkins said her center will have four rooms, each with its own tub. One tub will be larger in order to accommodate two people. The rooms can be either completely dark or lighted, depending on what the client prefers. People can even listen to music or watch television, though the rooms aren’t equipped with TV’s and Tompkins said she encourages people to leave their devices behind.

Essentially, it’s just a way to “unplug and reboot,” she said.

“It’s like Calgon on steroids,” she said.

Tompkins said the treatment is gaining use by everyone from professional athletes recovering from injury to people suffering from PTSD.

“Floating is great for a wide range of people,” she said.

Tompkins said starting a new business from scratch has been a challenge. She’s the company’s only employee and doesn’t think the float business will make her rich. But she does believe in the technology because of the difference it’s made for her son.

“If it can help him it can help a lot of people.”

Clarification: A previous version of this story implied the float tubs will have televisions. They will not.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.

Facebook comments