If you’ve seen Instagram posts and stories of your friends engaging in a series of thrilling activities with their colleagues and schoolmates, from games such as Bubble Soccer to Laser Tag, you might have thought to yourself – “wah like fun leh!”
To you reading this, fret no more because The Fun Empire is here to save the day! As its name suggests, this company aims to deliver a wide array of fun and innovative activities to your doorstep. Having catered to 400,000 over clients over 6000-odd events, it is safe to say that The Fun Empire has done it – in bringing joy and respite to all its clients across the island.
But like all inquisitive and curious millennials of today’s time, STYLEGUIDE is interested in the sweat and grind behind the scenes – how did these individuals transform novel concepts such as “fun” into lucrative businesses, and what prompted such initiations? We talk to Ryan Ho, co-founder of The Fun Empire and recipient of Forbes 30 under 30 Asia for 2019, to gain an insight about his thought process and journey thus far.
Husband and wife duo (L to R): Natasha and Ryan
Tell us more about The Fun Empire and how you got started. What makes The Fun Empire different?
The Fun Empire is an award-winning team building and events company headquartered in Singapore that has successfully organized more than 6,000 events for over 400,000 clients. We provide some of the most unique activities such as Saber Tag®, SaberFit®, Poolball™, Ninja Tag™, Bubble Bump, Laser Tag, Combat Archery Tag, Bullet Ball™ and Giant Whack A Mole. We currently have over 30 activities and creative workshops that cater to all age groups and profiles.
We started The Fun Empire with the mission to deliver the world’s most exciting, unique and fun experiences to people. The Fun Empire differentiates itself by creating unique and proprietary experiences that are fresh, unconventional and novel. We place a strong emphasis on providing quality and reliability, and is the only team building and events company in Singapore that has attained the ISO 9001:2015 Certification, the gold standard for quality management in the world.
Could you share the reason behind your change from McKinsey to The Fun Empire? Was it intimidating to take that leap of faith?
From a young age, I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, and had started several start-ups while attending college. After graduating from university, I joined McKinsey as a management consultant and had the opportunity of working on challenging business problems for different companies across Southeast Asia. Though I enjoyed my experience at McKinsey and had learned so much, I wanted to challenge myself again in the field of entrepreneurship to apply what I had learned to start and scale a business.
When I was considering of leaving McKinsey to jump into entrepreneurship, it was definitely intimidating, as that meant that I was leaving a stable corporate job at a prestigious global firm to go into the high-risk environment of start-ups and entrepreneurship.
To de-risk this move as much as possible, I gave myself some targets to hit within a year to ensure that I was on the right track in growing and scaling The Fun Empire. If the minimum targets were not met within the year and that the business did not work out, my worst case scenario was to go back into the corporate world and apply for a job again.
Before making this move, I made sure that I had several back-up plans in case things didn’t work out, and set several personal milestones as guiding points to keep me on track. This enabled me to take the leap of faith with calculated risk and some confidence that if things really didn’t work out, at least I had some exit strategies that I could adopt.
The Fun Empire's exclusive Ninja Tag™
What is your favorite (or most unforgettable) memory about The Fun Empire?
One of my favorite memories was dressing up in a full-body Chucky costume and completing an obstacle course inside the Singapore National Stadium for one of our wacky marketing initiatives. It really embodies the fun-loving and crazy spirit of our team that helps us to continually innovate and stay ahead in the industry.
What is your creative process like in coming up with new innovative activities?
We always try to adopt a flexible and open mindset when brainstorming and coming up with new and innovative activities. This helps everyone in our team to think outside the box and not be limited by what the current industry norm is.
One example was the creation of Saber Tag®, the world’s first and only team-based saber duelling game, and SaberFit®, the world’s first and only group fitness activity that combines combat sabers, saber striking techniques and fitness exercises. We wanted to create new activities around the unique concept of saber-dueling, and conceptualized and developed Saber Tag® and SaberFit® to provide a different and fresh experience for our participants. Thankfully, these 2 concepts were big hits with our participants as they were something that they had never tried before.
The A team behind The Fun Empire
In one of the interviews, your wife mentioned that “a company is only as strong as its people.” What do you think are the most important qualities of a strong team and what are your thoughts on your own team?
We are very grateful for our team at The Fun Empire, and the commitment and effort that they have put in to continually drive the company forward.
In my opinion, the most important qualities of a strong team are integrity and attitude. Without integrity, team members will not be able to trust one another and depend on one another.
Attitude is also essential – even though someone might not have the current skill set or experience in a particular area, but with the right attitude, he or she will be able to pick up the necessary skills quickly and gain the required level of competence.
At The Fun Empire, we strive to create a fun and nurturing company culture to work in by providing opportunities for our team members to take on more ownership of tasks from beginning to end.
What are you most excited about these days and what have you been doing about it?
We are continually looking to innovate to bring in new and novel concepts that our clients have never experienced before. I’m excited to see how industries have been disrupted by technology and digital transformation, and we are currently looking at different ways to integrate technology into our activities to create more immersive experiences.
If you could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
I would switch lives with Mr. Jeff Bezos as I am interested to learn how he had successfully scaled Amazon from a small start-up to the disruptive and influential company it has become today. It is amazing to see how Amazon has transformed and shaped the E-commerce industry, and how it has now moved into different verticals and continued to disrupt them.
One thing you can’t live without and why?
Staying active. I love playing sports, especially soccer, as it helps me to keep a good balance between work and play. Exercise also helps me to relax and keep fit at the same time!
Bubble Soccer - a hot favourite and definitely Insta-worthy activity!
What is the best piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs in this day and age?
Having laser focus early on is essential to help achieve product-market fit and gain traction quickly.
However, having this laser focus in the initial stages can be very challenging as you will be wearing many hats and you will be required to do everything because resources are limited in the beginning. There will be many tasks that require your attention, and it is essential to concentrate on working on the most important things that have the greatest impact.
I’m a huge believer of the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the impact will come from only 20% of your tasks. Adopting this mindset allowed me to prioritise and focus on the most important drivers of growth for The Fun Empire first. The rest could come later.
Additionally, being an entrepreneur also meant that I had to be willing to sacrifice weekends and downtime to continue working on the business and making sure that it could succeed.
However, it didn’t really feel like work to me as I really enjoyed what I did and I still do feel this way every day. This keeps me motivated throughout the entrepreneurial journey, and allows me to stay positive in the face of challenges.
I suppose I had picked up this work ethic from my time as a national sportsman for the Singapore National Youth Football teams. I was used to going for training almost 7 days a week as I really loved football, and I have brought the same work ethic to the work that I’m doing now.
How would you describe your life and business philosophy?
Being persistent, working smart and having the perseverance to overcome challenges. I believe that persistence is absolutely necessary for an entrepreneur, as I have had to face multiple rejections during this journey. It is also important to work hard, but also smart to stay adaptable to fast-paced and rapidly changing business climate.
What are your goals for the company in the next 5 years?
We have several new activities in our pipeline that will be launched in the future, and will also be looking to assess overseas expansion and partnership opportunities in the region.
All photos courtesy of Ryan.