How We Started A Successful Cryotherapy Business That Landed Shark Tank

$35,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
product
Glace Cryotherapy
from Mountain View, CA
started October 2014
$35,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
2.96M
alexa rank
714
followers
11
subs
platform
accounting
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I am Brittney Scarlett, I along with my brother Skyler started a Cryotherapy business in 2014 in our tiny hometown of Carmel, CA which now five years later has evolved into a recovery/wellness business with 5 additional services located inside of a big box gym in Mountain View, CA (Silicon Valley).

Our main service is whole body cryotherapy, a 1-3 minute cold therapy that reduces overall inflammation in the body. Since starting we have brought in more modalities that fit in with pain management, fitness recovery and even fat loss- compression therapy, LED light therapy and facials, electric stimulation and Cryoskin. Our customers are people seeking natural pain management, faster fitness recovery, beauty, wellness, and fat loss.

When we started in Carmel a busy day would be 10 people and our monthly membership peaked at 30 members, today we are in a higher populated area inside a big gym owned by Fitness International (City Sports Club/LA Fitness) and see a minimum of 25-30 people a day and have 200 monthly members.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Back in 2014, I was unhappy in my current profession and had just left my job looking to get into something new, unsure of what at that time just knowing that I needed a big change.

Most of the time entrepreneurs don’t hit it right out of the gate - a failure can lead to your next great idea. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out just make sure it’s worth the sacrifices you will make and know when you need to make a change.

In the meantime, my husband had mentioned to Skyler that his buddy tried this thing called Cryotherapy over in Texas and that he should look into it being that he had studied exercise physiology and was thinking of going to physical therapy school. Skyler was immediately intrigued and spent time researching this new technology, shortly thereafter he found a place about an hour away ran by a former Olympian that had a Cryosauna and knew he had to try it.

Once he tried it, he was sold on making this into some sort of business, and soon after he brought me in to try it. Immediately afterward, I felt better than I had felt in months and decided to get involved with the intention of being the organizer/facilitator in operations.

At this time there were only about 15 Cryotherapy businesses in the US, we set out to try as many as we could starting off by driving down to LA where three existed at the time, and then traveling to Dallas, Texas where the rest of the cryotherapy centers were. We took in what we liked and disliked about the different businesses, got positive feedback on how the therapy was helping people and decided to give it a go.

Being on an impossibly small budget our Dad took a risk and sold his home and gave us as much as he could to start our business, the rest of what we needed was put on credit cards. We then found a tiny “hole in the wall” spot, slapped some paint on the wall, put in some new flooring and bought our equipment and we were ready to go with I think about $3,000 left in our account, just enough to cover first month's expenses.

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The first day of business we had one person come in, our mom’s best friend. Luckily word of mouth spread as we delivered positive results, we received some local media and eventually applied for and appeared on Shark Tank in 2016 bringing education and awareness to this small but growing industry to millions of viewers.

Shortly after appearing we were approached by Fitness International (LA Fitness, City Sports Club) who was interested in having us open within their fitness chain, starting here in Mountain View.

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Describe the process of launching the business.

When we started we were on a very low budget, luckily Skyler was good on the computer and was able to make us a basic website and over time has developed his skills.

We created social media pages and worked on SEO as much as we could. For SEO we focused on keywords, getting reputable links directed to our website and keeping the site up to date. We also sped up the website to load faster and made sure to focus on having a nice mobile designed website since we realize most people are viewing things on their phone these days.

As we grew we outsourced the website and SEO but were overcharged for less than stellar work and find keeping it in-house has worked better for us. If there is a small job we need that we could use outside help with we have found Fiverr to be a great and inexpensive resource, just be aware of possible language barriers.

We talked about how we financed our initial location above, when it came to financing our second location that’s a whole other story. We finalized our contract with Fitness International in 2016 and decided on our location shortly thereafter.

At that time we were talking to a few potential investors which unfortunately fell through, regardless we still pushed forward on our project, I guess you could say time was on our side as it took much longer than anticipated to get our building plans approved for permitting by the city. Luckily for us about a few weeks before we were approved to begin construction (which a big deposit would then be due) we secured our final two investors which got us the last of what we needed to move forward.

A combination of three angel investors, 1 equipment investor, a small business loan and a credit card helped us to finance our location in Silicon Valley. I should mention our build-out was much more than we had hoped for so we scrambled in the end to make it happen.

We had a pre-membership sign up list a few months prior to opening but made the mistake of not having an actual person obtaining these (just a list at the front desk of the club) and no actual credit card information taken so I think we lost out on a lot of interest as it took a lot longer to open then we thought and by the time we contacted these people a lot of the leads were dead.

However, with that said we hustled hard those first 5 months. We constantly reached out to people in the community who we thought would be interested in our services, delivered handwritten notes and chocolates to physical therapist and chiropractor offices inviting them in to try out our services, reached out to the local high school and college.

We ended up with 50 members our first month and worked 8am-9pm to make sure our hours accommodated mostly everyone and to see what worked best for our new business model. On the weekends we took our modalities that were mobile out to different boutique fitness places (barre, spin, etc.) basically anyone who would let us and even if we just got one member out of it we saw that as time well spent.

Lessons learned

The biggest lesson we learned was to make sure you do not burn yourself out-unfortunately we were unrealistic about our schedules and having just one day off which was usually spent preparing for the week ahead caught up with us in the end. By month five we definitely hit a wall but being a two-man team we didn’t really have any option but to just keep at it, what’s a sick day anyway?

I would also say I wish we could have made a bigger launch, I think we were just so ready to open as we had such a tough time getting final approvals from the city that we just opened, no big party/announcement just one day we were open. I think we could have made it a bigger deal and probably signed up more than 50 if we were to do it all over again.

Also, one thing we did in the beginning for the first 3 months was everyone’s first initial visit was free, although this brought in a lot of people many of these people weren’t our target clientele as they were just looking to try it because it was free, had we had the offer we have now (basically first visit is discounted to amount to half the membership price and if you decide to purchase the membership then we waive that fee) it’s a no brainer for people to look at paying half of what a membership costs for 1 visit or going with a membership and being able to come in every day for a whole month risk free.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Having a lead generation system on our website and also a chatbot that they can ask questions to (which we then receive via facebook messenger) has been great for us in attracting the right customers as the people who are generally really seriously interested in our services will do their own research which starts on our website. Creating online profiles such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor, etc. really helps with SEO, in the beginning, we were constantly making sure we had all our business info on all the free sites we could.

Unfortunately, after 5 years I still cannot say we have found what works for us in terms of marketing. We have had poor success with people posing as advertisers that require upfront money to basically do “targeted facebook ads” and send you leads. These leads are typically impossible to reach and 50 leads may equate to 1 person that actually comes in and if you’re lucky buys something. Social media has not driven much business for us in general either.

Our best advertising has always been word of mouth and now being inside this gym as we are lucky to get constant walk by traffic. I have attractive marketing collateral placed anywhere I am allowed to within the gym, videos on the TV screens and we get a lot of sales by advertising monthly specials within the store/club, a sale is always attractive to a buyer as everyone wants a deal.

We keep people coming back by offering a low-cost hassle-free attractive auto-renew monthly membership. Not only is our membership more cost-effective than coming for single sessions but our members will most likely get better results as none of our therapies are recommended just once or twice, it is something you need to do on a consistent consecutive basis especially when beginning. I should also mention when coming up here we drastically lowered our pricing, we have the most affordable cryotherapy/recovery membership in all of the U.S.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Great question, I wish I had a clear answer but at this time everything is kind of up in the air. We have done everything we set out to do and more, in fact back in Carmel we had just set out to work for ourselves while helping others by bringing in a pretty much unheard of cold therapy. Shortly after we were constantly being approached by others who wanted our help to open their own cryotherapy businesses which eventually led to us applying and appearing on Shark Tank.

Being selected out of 40,000 applicants to appear on Shark Tank was one of our greatest accomplishments as entrepreneurs thus far. It forced us to dive deep into our business and really challenge ourselves as we knew we’d be presenting in front of five successful investors and wanted to make sure we took full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Today we would love to see Cryotherapy and recovery modalities in every single big box fitness club because it makes sense, if there is a winning model for Cryotherapy in our opinion this is it. Unfortunately for us it’s never been a matter of if it works because I think we have proven that it’s been a matter of appropriate funding and infrastructure for us to expand to the level we would hope to which today we are in a standstill.

Hopefully someone out there might see this and say hey they have something here and I want to be involved, we’re still looking for that person. It’s been a roller coaster, lots of ups and downs and at the end of the day we can say we have done our absolute best.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We have learned to never rush into signing any contracts and make sure you have the appropriate person helping you to look them over if you do not understand fully.

We have also learned to not grow too fast or before you’re ready, nothing good comes easy or quick, patience really is a virtue. When working with any outside vendors make sure to get reviews from other people they have done work for before making your decision, don’t always go off referrals because even though you might trust the person referring it doesn’t always mean its a good fit.

Don’t be stubborn. When we first started we were convinced all we needed was the cryotherapy and were not open to bringing in other modalities. Once we made the pivot to not only be inside a gym versus on our own we realized we could, in fact, benefit from having more services to offer.

On a more positive note we have also learned to take chances, don’t let rejection discourage you, even when it feels like it’s not going to work out you just have to push through as for us that’s when things would have a way of just miraculously working out.

Even though our team is small it’s been nice to have two of us, I don’t think we could have survived this long with just one of us. When going into business it’s nice to have two opposite people whose skills complement each other. If you are setting out on a business alone just make sure you have a good support system as there are a lot of ups and down in entrepreneurship and its nice to have someone to talk to/relate to.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For booking/processing and tracking members we use Mindbody. For accounting, we use Quickbooks online. We use Leadpages for our website leads. We keep it pretty simple here which works for our type of business, the less complicated the better.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

For books, the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a must read.

Another good one I recently read was The One Thing by Gary Keller. I just recently got into podcasts, I am really into The Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast, they are both entrepreneurs and offer a little bit of everything from motivational people, productivity tips to skincare, I just love it all.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Being an entrepreneur is awesome but make sure you are ready to sacrifice family/friends/you time especially in the beginning startup time.

Make sure you are not driven by money because you may not see it for a long time, if at all. Be smart, if you give it everything and it’s just not working, then know when to move on.

Most of the time entrepreneurs don’t hit it right out of the gate - a failure can lead to your next great idea. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out just make sure it’s worth the sacrifices you will make and know when you need to make a change.

Lastly, don’t be stubborn. When we first started we were convinced all we needed was the cryotherapy and were not open to bringing in other modalities. Once we made the pivot to not only be inside a gym versus on our own we realized we could in fact benefit from having more services to offer. Adapting is very important in business and in life. Never stop learning and never stop growing.

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Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We would love to expand our team, if we could write our future we’d have a kick-ass marketing person, a manager for our current location and 20 more of us to help open up more locations with of course the proper funding in place ;)

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Brittney Scarlett-Torres,   Founder of Glace Cryotherapy

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