Founders Ryan Ho & Natasha Toh have created Singapore’s #1 team-building company The Fun Empire – a venture that asks its corporate clients to give up days in the office for a trip to the paintballing park.
Built by a few passionate and dedicated individuals, The Fun Empire is a team-building initiative that aims to bring something unique to one of Asia’s most highly workaholic destinations of Singapore – the concept of fun as a legitimate professional pastime. Founders and couple Ryan Ho and Natasha Toh started the venture five years ago after becoming convinced that their hometown’s notion of team building rested on the typical and lacked innovation. With clients from both the corporate and startup scenes, the company has since flourished, boasting 6,000 events and over 400,000 satisfied clients. The couple spoke to Hive Life about making Singapore’s fast-paced workaholic culture a more fun-filled environment to live in.
The Fun Empire is not Ryan and Natasha’s first joint venture, having started their entrepreneurial journey by launching an online T-shirt printing platform and then an online education platform. “Natasha and I really enjoy the challenge of creating a concept from scratch, grinding it out and learning how to execute well,” explains Ryan. “It’s hard work and a lot of rejections, but it’s something that strengthens our relationship both personally and in business.” For their most recent venture, it was strengthening the relationships between coworkers that became their area of focus. “Singapore is a pretty boring place. Natasha and I wanted to dispel that notion and fill the gap with something interesting. Everyone wants to try something new with their colleagues and co-workers,” explains Ryan.
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Today, the Fun Empire offers over 30 unique types of activities, ranging from combat archery and laser tag all the way to neon art jamming and wine appreciation. The key point for all of these activities is that they take their participants as far away from the corporate sphere, both literally and mentally, as possible. “People were very curious when we first launched. Questions such as: ‘How do you play a game with inflatable suits?’ ran through their minds, and this is where we saw the opportunity,” says Ryan. But, however different The Fun Empire’s proposed activities might be, at their heart are always the simple objectives of enhanced communication and increased morale. “The psychology behind these activities boils down to having one common objective. Of course, there is a competitive aspect to each of our activities and a little bit of pressure, but, this is a very effective way to learn a lot about each other quickly, making it different from the working environment where you are more constrained.”
With clients including Microsoft, HSBC, Disney and Loreal amongst a long list of others, Ryan factors in the knowledge that each client has a different type of expectation from their team building activities. “Sometimes, I come in with a fixed idea of how to pull their team building event. Other times, I come in with a blank piece of paper with a lot of room for discussion, considering the client’s demographics and objectives. We receive requirements that range from the really specific to the really flexible.” Being inventive, however, is key – and the reason that coming up with new ideas is a fundamental part of his and Natasha’s jobs. “We are always exploring the idea of introducing something new. Currently, we’re exploring the idea of introducing VR and AR concepts into creating a new experience.”
It took overcoming a number of challenges to get the duo where they are today. “When we first started, it was really important for us to show that we knew the industry and that we could execute well,” says Ryan. Alongside credibility, scaling up to meet an increase in customers has also proved tricky. “The team plays a huge part in the company’s success. It’s not easy to hire people who have the same mentality and share the same vision.” To face these, the pair are keen to focus on steady growth. “A common notion of startups and entrepreneurs today is getting the most amount of funding or raising the most amount of money in the shortest time. We believe in the old-school way of business, where we grow sustainably and responsibly, making sure it’s profitable,” he explains. With a firm belief in the power of fun at their heart, the duo believes that participating in these activities sparks communication and increases productivity through the power of play. “The team taking part gets the chance to share a greater bond with their colleagues and interact with each other in a lighter setting. Participants enjoy and gain a lot of satisfaction after each event,” explains Ryan of a venture with results that go way beyond the passing fad of fun.