by abe chu
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” -Lao Tzu
Juan Carlos slowly paces the hallway in our office, each step placed meticulously in front of the last as if he’s treading a balance beam beneath him. He listens intently to his CPA on the other end of the phone and responds carefully in his trademark soft-spoken tone.
He finishes the call and takes the phone away from his ear. Casually, he turns to me and dismounts the imaginary track that he’s been retracing for the last fifteen minutes.
“Did you hear? JJ Watt just posted a picture on Instagram talking about floatation!”
He cracks a satisfied grin because he knows the power of a major celebrity endorsing a burgeoning industry. His business partner, Joseph Cyrus, catalyzed their mutual discovery of floatation, and the two have been carefully planning the launch of Healing Waters Float Spa for the last two years. The luxury spa is slated to open later this Spring in Montrose.
Juan Carlos’s journey has been a winding road, and our conversation winds similarly from his career as a music video director to the entrepreneurial successes that followed before the seed was planted for this new endeavor.
Can you briefly describe what “floatation” is and how it works?
Sure. The general idea is that you’re in a space where all of your senses are neutralized. You’re floating inside of a pod in about 14 inches of water, filled with a thousand pounds of epsom salt. The water is warmed to skin temperature, so you don’t actually feel it – it makes you feel like you’re literally floating on nothing. The space is dark and sound proof, so it blocks out all sound and light, smells, and everything else. No cell phones, no TV – nothing. The goal is to cut all sensory inputs from your mind, so you get a real mental break.
That sounds kind of scary but kind of beautiful, too!
You know it might sound scary at first, but there’s purpose behind it. After my first time, I walked out of the pod and felt completely rejuvenated. I’d never felt anything like it. My mind was so crisp and clear, and my body felt great. It’s a big thing now for people with really demanding jobs to take on floating because it helps them wipe everything else away and tackle tough problems. The best athletes in the world have now found that it gives them a mental and physical edge, too, because it helps them recover faster. Steph Curry’s doing it. JJ Watt’s doing it. And a lot of artists and programmers and academics have been doing it for a long time as well.
So who first introduced you to floatation?
My business partner Cyrus was the first one to share it with me. He and I met through mutual friends, and we clicked instantly. After hanging out a few times, we realized that our conversations would always end up turning towards topics like meditation and personal growth. Those were areas of life we were both really into, and we constantly traded notes on different practices. One day, Cyrus mentioned he had been reading up on this thing called “floatation” and sensory deprivation. People have been using it for years around the country, but it hadn’t really caught on in Houston.
Would you say this was a hobby for you that turned into a business idea?
No, I don’t think “hobby” is the right word for it. My motivation from the beginning was to help me develop my meditation practice and expand my consciousness. I feel like hobbies are for fun – sometimes you do them, sometimes you don’t. Floating was something I knew instantly would be a big part of my life.
It’s taken you more than a year to get to this point. What have been the primary hurdles in getting this off the ground?
We’ve spent a lot of time researching and defining the company’s purpose, message and unique position throughout the last year. Between the two of us, we’ve visited dozens of float centers all around the world and really focused on what has made for a great experience and what we can improve upon. We’ve also spent a lot of time searching for the perfect location in Houston, and we finally found it.
I’d say the most surprising thing has been the great response from everyone we’ve talked to about Healing Waters. Everyone’s been really eager and willing to help in opening the business.
You started your career as a music video director. How did that come about?
Well, I had an uncle who lived in Brooklyn, and he would send for me during the winter holidays when I was a kid. Those trips were my first introduction into classical music, the theater, and the whole art scene and creative culture of New York. I was hooked.
I ended up going to film school and jumped into a career in the industry. I was lucky to land a couple roles with large production companies, and through a lot of pounding the pavement, I started to get gigs directing music videos. I kept climbing, and I started working for a major hip hop label called The INC Records. My video for Ja Rule’s track “New York” made it to the top of the music video charts in 2004.
That sounds like it was a lot of fun!
Absolutely! For a kid who loved music and wanted to pursue a creative life, it was a dream come true. But I could see myself slowly becoming drawn towards projects that had additional layers of meaning and purpose.
What types of projects were they?
I learned about a documentary that a close friend was creating to expose the awful world of child sex trafficking, and I decided to get involved. I ended up taking on the roles of producer, director, and videographer for the documentary, and we spent a lot of time in Cambodia shooting footage. It was an eye-opening experience, and I learned so much from it – not just about the subject, but also about cause-based initiatives. It opened a door in my mind and made me think about what I wanted my life to be about.
So how did that influence the path you took next?
Well, I knew that I wanted to be in a business that made a positive impact on people’s lives, so one of the investments I made was in a business called Confident Care Home Health. I started off as an investor because I felt that home-based healthcare was going to see a growing demand. I started pitching in with different things and became more involved in the business over time. Now, I’m a full partner in the business. Our team tripled revenues within two years, and we’ve continued to improve operations. I have a team of 25 employees now, and we’re really proud of the service we’re providing the community.
When you think about how you conduct yourself in life and in business, what’s been your secret sauce? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Don’t get too attached to “your plan.” I’ve always just worked to do the best I can with complete focus, and you just have to enjoy the process and go with the flow. Life will take you in different directions you never dreamed of.
Okay, last question. What’s your favorite Disney movie?
From the classic Disney stuff, I’d go with Fox & The Hound. From the new stuff, Wreck-it Ralph was pretty great.
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