I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the “idea” of having a hot tub. We picture hopping into this mini pool of bliss after a long day of tackling one challenge after another, relaxing as jets of water pulsate against our back, the heat of the water releasing all the tensions of the day. We feel our muscles release as peace, calm, and tranquility wash over us…all is right in the world.
In reality, though, most of us don’t ever get around to checking off that box, and certainly, there are those who do, who can list a number of reasons why it was not the utopia they had hoped. Ownership brings responsibility and maintenance. Hot tubs don’t sit in the background, waiting to serve when called, without ongoing attention…whether being used or not.
So most of us rely on our fitness club or travels to fill this need. The club is closer by, but requires monthly fees, likewise, whether we use it or not. Personally, travel has been my main hot tub entry point…after a long day on the road or jockeying between airport terminals, the glorious reward for which has been sinking into a nice bubbling hot tub at the end of the day.
Of course, more and more, that’s a fairy tale. We often have this serene, solitary view of our hot tub paradise. But somewhere along the way, that dream has been shattered. Assuming you can last more than 5 minutes in the eye-burning, over-chlorinated pool area, now the hot tub is an all-access adventure pool for kids, as they splash around in the hot bubbly water, then bound off to the cold swimming pool, only to come running back to the spa in what feels like mere seconds later.
I still love hot tubs, just on my terms. I don’t want to have to maintain or repair one. I also don’t want to wonder when the last time it was cleaned, or contemplate how many kids have peed in it…the answer, in case you are wondering, is somewhere between some and all of them.
Enter Tim and Brandon Andrews
Tim’s son Brandon had decided to take a step back from college to figure out what he wanted his path to be (I understand that…been there, done that). After looking around for work earlier this year without much luck, Tim brought up the idea of starting a business together, which could provide not only an employment opportunity but also be a learning experience and potential path for his son as well. Brandon was interested in the thought, but doing what?
It’s always interesting how opportunities present themselves.
About a month after their conversation, Tim was listening to a podcast that had on a guest who was a teacher who had started up a part-time hot tub rental business on Long Island. Tim found himself thinking this was something really unique, that he hadn’t heard of before, but also something that sounded like a lot of fun to do.
Now, Tim still works full-time, so anything they did would also have to be something that could be flexible enough to work around that. This had potential.
Tim humbly acknowledges having had lots of business ideas throughout the years (I think this is something many of us can relate to). He says he’s tried a number of things, sometimes putting a lot into them, with some things working out, but also, some things not so much. So this wasn’t entirely new territory for him.
So, before getting too far down this path, he started researching the idea.
How unique was it…apparently, very unique.
How feasible was it…he found portable hot tubs that would be easy to maintain, move, set up, were insulated for yearlong outdoor use, and don’t require any special power hookups.
But was it even legal…as he found, in some places, no, it wasn’t…fortunately after digging into things, he didn’t see anything that would prevent operating a hot tub rental business here.
Brandon thought this was an awesome idea, but that was only part of the buy-in that was going to be necessary.
While this was going to be a business for Tim and Brandon, it was still something that would impact the whole family. Now they just needed to run the idea past Justine, Tim’s wife.
Justine was also quite familiar with Tim’s business ideas over the years. Tim pitched, Justine listened and heard him out.
Apparently, his due diligence, combined with the fact that the “worst” case scenario was that they’d have bought a hot tub, which is something they’d talked about a number of times before anyway, was enough to gain Justine’s buy-in as well.
This was also a good thing, as Tim had ordered one before Justine fully said she was on board!
Hot Tub Arrival
The new hot tub showed up and they set it up at their home to try it out and start learning what it was going to take for setup, maintenance, draining it, and moving it. Smartly, they also sat down to talk about what they thought would be important to potential customers.
They narrowed it down to three primary things: educating people that “this was actually a thing,” making it as simple and easy for the customer as possible, and overcoming any concerns, especially in the midst of COVID, about sanitation and cleanliness.
So Tim started building out a website to help introduce everyone to the idea of hot tub rentals.
From Tim’s main job handling customers with car repairs, he says they’ve worked really hard to make that easy and painless on customers, so they focused on how to duplicate that as much as possible for CHILLnTUB. Tim and Brandon handle the delivery, set up, filling the tub, showing the customer what they need to do for daily water testing and any necessary chemical treatment during their rental period, and then the subsequent draining and removal of the hot tub. They’ve even gone out ahead of time to measure the area to confirm whether there was enough room for the hot tub.
To address any sanitation concerns, they focused heavily on developing a whole cleaning and sanitation process. Every tub is cleaned, wiped down, and sanitized after use and before going back out for the next rental.
Going Down the Drain Even Before Starting?
Once they had a handle on the actual operation of the hot tub, they recognized that everyone’s physical setup was going to be unique. So initially they offered it up to neighbors for $70 for the weekend, mostly to practice setting it up, tearing it down, transporting it, but also to get feedback. Everyone thought it was a pretty cool idea…but no one took them up on the offer.
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Coming up with business ideas isn’t all that hard, coming up with “good” ideas is harder. Coming up with viable ideas…that’s something else entirely. And the reality is, history is filled with loads of good, even great, viable business or product ideas that just didn’t succeed, for one reason or another.
So they had an idea that everyone thought was really cool, but no one wanted. What do you do?
Tim says they waited a couple of weeks, and then he decided to just go live with the website and start promoting it out on Facebook community groups in May. Time would answer the question for them. They started getting some reservations, then they ran a special for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and were suddenly booked up through the end of August.
And like that, they went from questioning viability to needing to address capacity issues. They ordered up another unit as well as bought a trailer to handle the delivery. Until this point, they were renting a truck from U-Haul to handle the deliveries.
In part, thanks to being active on social media themselves but also through customers sharing their own posts, they are now booked into December.
So what does CHILLnTUB offer?
CHILLnTUB offers hot tub rentals, serving a 35-mile radius around Crystal Lake (further distances potentially for monthly rentals). The hot tubs are solid units, not inflatable, that have built-in seating, featuring built-in underwater multi-colored LED lighting, jetting, and a heater and pump system that can run off a standard electrical outlet. The hot tubs will fit 4 adults comfortably and up to 6 total.
Customers also get a set of stairs for getting in and out; test strips, chemicals, and instruction on treatment during their rental period; and a hose to top off the water if needed during the rental period. They also provide customers with essential oils that they can use for an added experience…and a deck of waterproof playing cards, because how cool would it be playing cards in a hot tub!
An additional wooden surround system and an umbrella can also both be rented separately. The hot tubs weigh about 80lbs empty and around 2,300lbs full, and with their special hose, can be filled in around 30-40 minutes.
Rental periods come in three options, weekend, week, or by month. That also includes two additional days, in the beginning, to allow time for the install, filling, and water to come up to temp.
Not to be overlooked, but one of the biggest things customers get is simplicity and ease of mind. Owning a hot tub requires not just thousands of dollars upfront for the purchase, but ongoing maintenance, including monthly draining, interior & exterior cleaning, filter cleaning, refilling, along with testing and water treatment…whether you are using it or not.
And ironically, something that is always there for use, sometimes, doesn’t get used nearly as much as something that is only there for a short period of time.
Not to mention a permanent setup might require special electrical wiring, permit, and inspection as well. Even if you are thinking of purchasing your own tub, renting one for a month can give you a good idea of how much you will use it and a glimpse into some of what is involved in maintaining it.
We can fill the hot tub using the customer’s hot water if they wish, allowing it to be usable even sooner, essentially getting an additional day or two of use out of it for no addtional charge.Tip from CHILLnTUB
Why Might You Want to Rent a Hot Tub?
Justine says that birthday and anniversary celebrations have been popular reasons for customers. CHILLnTUB also details on their website some of the therapeutic benefits you may experience, and of course, sometimes just pure relaxation is all the reason and benefit you need. The week-long rental has been the most popular so far.
So far the only real issue that has come up is for those who may have home association restrictions that may prevent the use of hot tubs, so if you fit into that category, definitely want to look into that first.
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What Does the Future Hold?
They continue to learn and refine their processes along the way to make everything more efficient, from managing logistics to handling and transporting everything. Always looking to improve the customer experience, they are looking into water treatment systems that will make it even easier for their customers. And as capacity needs grow, they’ll look at adding more to their inventory, and at some point may expand to a dedicated facility to handle storage, cleaning, and prep.
Right now though, they are mostly focused on keeping it fun, for them and their customers, and continuing to get the word out about the concept of renting hot tubs.
As for success, they each have their own target, which balances well against each other. Justine simply looks for when the startup costs have been recouped, while Tim sees building out a regional presence. And as for Brandon, he looks forward to the growth when this can be a full-time business. In many ways, that may be the greatest measure of all. To build a business together as a family that may become a legacy for your son (and maybe someday another son or two) to learn from and carry on is a pretty satisfying end goal.
They are big fans of the Village Squire in particular, but they’re also just big supporters of small local businesses in general.Tim & Justine’s McHenry County Favorites
If you are ready to take the plunge, check out CHILLnTUB’s listing page for more information and the link to their website. And if you’re already a CHILLnTUB customer, please hop over to their listing page and share your experience!
CHILLnTUB Sweepstakes Giveaway
Thanks to all who participated! We’ve announced our winners on the Sweepstakes page.