Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.
An all-new delivery service is heating up in and around the North Bay area. Keith Ward and Russ Frost have started a business that will transport a wood stove sauna to your home, cottage, or campsite for the day. It’s called The Sweat House and they have been in operation since last December.
“We have found that the feedback has been great so far and we’ve been very consistent in our rentals to this point. We’re expecting that to continue as we’ve had every weekend booked right through to March,” says Frost.
“We’ve met a lot of good people along the way and we’re connecting with a lot of businesses which is giving us some great experience.”
One of those business connections is already paying off in the form of a partnership. Frost and Ward are teaming up with New Ontario Brewing for a unique event this coming weekend.
“It’s called The North Sweat and it takes place on Saturday (February 25th),” says Ward. “The sauna can fit six people at a time and so we’ve had to figure out ways to cater to large groups, but also make it feasible to give people a chance to experience our sauna. So, we brought this idea to New Ontario and they were all for it. For $25 a person, you get 30 minutes in a sauna and then we have a cold plunge going on, so you get to experience the hot and the cold, and then you head inside and hang out with your friends at New Ontario and enjoy a beer that is included in the $25. We’re taking bookings from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” he says, adding that spots are already filling up fast for the event.
Ward says he grew up with a family cottage on Trout Lake and every winter they would do polar dips where people would go from the sauna to jumping into the lake.
“I built a sauna at my house and I love it and my friends come over all the time to use it and it just got me thinking about developing a business opportunity for other people to enjoy having a sauna, even if they don’t have the right property to keep one or the means to build one for themselves,” says Ward.
“I spoke with Russ and we partnered up and decided it was something that we wanted to take a risk on. We started it from scratch and it has been coming along really well.”
Frost says there was some leg work to get it going in terms of finding a suitable sauna that could be delivered around on a trailer.
“We needed a 7’ by 8’ wooden cedar barrel sauna and we had to figure out where we were going to get one. We ended up making a long trip down south when we finally found what we were looking for. We also wanted to integrate the wood stove element into it. When you think of a real sauna experience, you think about having a wood stove. We connected with a provider for that down south and we were able to pick it up on the trailer that it is currently on so that it can be a portable sauna. We leave it on the trailer for the whole experience. It’s levelled and we have jacks underneath to keep it safe and sturdy for everybody. Once we got it up here it’s been a pretty seamless transition into getting our name out there and getting rentals booked and events planned,” he says.
Ward says aside from finding the sauna, getting insurance was probably the hardest part.
“Some brokers didn’t want to touch it,” he says.
“Some said that for the price point on insurance, there wasn’t a point in running the business since they didn’t think we could turn a profit. We got approval and we connected with the Ice Fishing tourism sector. We reached out to a couple of chartered companies in North Bay and asked if they were doing long-term fishing excursions, and would they be open to pulling the sauna out onto the lake and having it beside their ice huts. It’s harder to do that with an electric stove, but as long as you have wood, you can use our sauna.”
From there, the duo spent a lot of time getting their messaging out on social media platforms, before building their website which has now been completed.
“We have a calendar on our website that will show you the dates that the sauna is available and once you book that date it blacks it out so that we don’t double book anyone,” says Ward.
“We also wanted to market toward that off-grid experience and that’s why we really wanted the wood stove in there, it avoids trying to find somewhere to plug into if you’re looking to bring the sauna out to a camp. So this year when you are planning your summer cottage or camping vacations, you know there is an option to have a portable sauna with you.”
The sauna is available to rent for $150 for the day plus a $50 local delivery fee, or $ 1.50 per kilometre delivery fee, outside of North Bay and Callander.
“Every rental comes with a bag of firewood. We come to your house, or wherever you want us to make the delivery, drop it off, set it up, and show you how it works. When you rent with us online, we send you a rental agreement that shows you all the liabilities, and how to use it as well. Once the rental is done, we pick it up, haul it back home, clean it out, and get it ready for the next delivery. If you don’t want to pay the delivery fee and you have the means to transport it, we just need to see proof of insurance before you take it, and you have to have it back by 11 a.m. the next day,” says Ward.
Both Frost and Ward work full-time jobs outside of this business and Russ says they had support for this business venture right from the start.
“There was a lot of support around the board when we told family and friends about the idea. There was a lot of enthusiasm for us to bring something like this to North Bay. It’s a unique idea that we didn't have here before. There’s also a lot of health benefits and that seems to be driving some of that enthusiasm we’re seeing as well,” says Frost.
Ward adds, “When you’re starting a business there is always some reluctance where you’re not always sure about how much money you want to sink into something like this because it is a risk. But it has been paying off and people are coming back as repeat customers and we’re actually running into issues where we are getting multiple requests for the same day.”
Ward says that is a good problem to have as he says, “It’s never a bad thing knowing that you are too much in demand, and we are considering options such as getting a second sauna.”
“Looking ahead, we think summer might be a challenge. It’s an easy sell in the winter because it’s cold outside and so you have people who naturally want to be warm, but we’re hoping to tap into that cottage and camping market during the summer months when people will be by the lake and want that sauna/lake experience.”