They Started in a Garage with a $100 Damaged Bathtub. Now These Founders Run a $100 Million Cold Plunge Business. Plunge co-founders Michael Garrett and Ryan Duey detail the launch and exponential growth of their game-changing cold plunge company.
- After the pandemic shuttered his float spa business, Michael Garrett started a DIY project that has turned into a booming cold plunge company with $100 million in annual revenue.
- Plunge leveraged influencer marketing and a strong domain name to achieve explosive growth and outstrip industry competition in cold water therapy.
- Garrett and his cofounder Ryan Duey are now expanding their product line into another hot wellness category.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
When the pandemic shut down Michael Garrett's float spa business, he did what many legendary entrepreneurs do: He went into his garage and started tinkering. His goal was to create a cold plunge tub for peoples' homes that was easy to maintain and use daily. After many, many, many iterations, he and his dad developed a prototype that Garrett thought could be a game-changer.
He brought on his friend Ryan Duey to help launch the company, and three years later, Garrett's hunch that this could be big proved to be true. The founders are running a company that grosses $100 million annually. A ton of hard work (and a little bit of luck, the founders say) has put their company, Plunge, at the epicenter of the exploding trend of cold water therapy, icing out their competition.
Entrepreneur spoke with the co-founders about the launch, growth and future of their company.
What drew you to cold plunges? As a treatment and as a business?
Garrett: I think Ryan and I both got introduced to it through listening to Tim Ferriss and then learning more from Wim Hof and Joe Rogan. For anyone experiencing any inflammation-related issues, cold water therapy feels so amazing after just three minutes. I went on a van road trip and was getting into rivers and lakes up in the Rocky Mountains for six weeks. When I came home, I was craving it like crazy, so I DIY-ed a freezer chest I could fill with water. I was doing it every day and loved it.
Duey: We were parallel plunging. I saw the Wim Hof documentary on Vice, and it kind of changed my life. Previously, I thought I was a pretty healthy person, but around 2017, I got six colds in six months. A health mentor of mine had me try breathwork and cold plunging at a commercial facility. The colds basically ceased happening, and I was like, "Okay, I'm sold."
How did you develop the product you'd eventually sell?
Garrett: My dad is a big DIY guy and was a big help and influence on me deciding to try this. I knew a lot about filtration and keeping water clean from my float tank experience. There was this company called Vanity Art about a half hour from my house, and they had all these damaged tubs that I could buy for like $100 to prototype and iterate on.
Duey: I give Mike the credit for really seeing the opportunity. When he showed me his first prototype, it worked great, but from an aesthetic standpoint, it wasn't a 10 out of 10. I wasn't all in on it, but he kept iterating, and the next time he brought me to his garage, I saw the new unit and couldn't believe it. It was a night and day difference. That was my first glimpse into how great a product guy Mike is. After that, I said, "Let's do it. I'm in."
Garrett: What we sell is a convenient cold plunge. You're not dumping bags of ice into water. You set your tub for, let's say, 48 degrees, and the system constantly filters the water, keeping it at 48 degrees. When you're ready, you flip open the cover and get in. You change a filter once a month, so it is pretty minimal maintenance.
How did you grow so quickly?
Garrett: We went all-in on influencer marketing early on. Our first one was Aubrey Marcus. We built him a cold plunge, shipped it out, and said, "Hey, if you could give a cold plunge to someone, who would it be?" He gave us a couple of names, and we continued playing the gifting game, getting our products at the homes of big influencers, including Tony Hawk. We also capitalized on the name of the company: Plunge. We have the domain plunge.com. Most people called it an ice bath when we launched, but it was soon commonly called a cold plunge, so we quickly became number one in SEO.
Duey: We sold maybe 30 or 40 units in that first year. Now we have months where we sell thousands. It's been exponential growth. We started in the garage, and now we have about 200,000 square feet of warehouse space under management.
Growing quickly can cause unforeseen problems. What are some issues you've needed to contend with?
Garrett: To me, it's about maintaining culture. We doubled in size this year, so it's about figuring out how to seamlessly onboard new team members, get them hitting the ground running and ensure everyone understands and maintains our culture.
Duey: We have five core values within the company that we talk about. The first is being "all-in". The second is, "I got you," which is about ownership and trust. The third is that "all boats rise," which is about doing the right thing. The fourth is to "courageously direct," and the fifth is "find your edge," which is about having a growth mindset.
What new products are on the horizon?
Garrett: We just began selling saunas. We went down the sauna path because many of our customers wanted to pair their cold plunge with one and were asking which they should buy. Ours has a unique design: [It has] an angled backrest, and the benches flip up so you can do yoga and movement inside. And just like the cold plunges, we went for the ultimate in performance. When we started developing ours, most saunas were infrared and got up to 140-160 degrees. But research shows that the magic really happens at 175+, so ours goes up to 230°F. You can set yours up outside in Wisconsin in the middle of the winter, and trust me, it'll still get super hot.
What would you say to people who dream of launching a business but don't have that "big idea" yet?
Duey: One idea is to go and join something that has a great idea and momentum. Get on that ship for a little bit and learn. See what success looks like and what product market fit looks like. From there, when creativity starts to spark, you know what it takes to be a part of a winning culture.
Garrett: Totally on the other end of the spectrum — I quit my job and went backpacking. I needed to find space; I needed to wait. I remember in my mid-twenties, I thought about starting a sandwich shop. I had this amazing sandwich and figured out how to reverse-engineer it and make it my own. But then, one day, I wondered, Is this my why? It wasn't. The idea lost momentum because I didn't care about it that much. So I had to wait and earn a living until the big idea hit. There's no right answer for every person!