Just 2 and a half months ago, Royce Tan, founder of The Fragment Room, expressed his uncertainty of whether or not his new venture would take off in Singapore.
"Where do you wish to see The Fragment Room in a year after its opening?"
"I can only visualise 2 possibilities - one of it is that I get constant bookings, or two, nobody wants to come by. It's very hard to get traction in Singapore," revealed Tan.
The pessimism that lingered in his response was jarring, given his excitement throughout the interview so far.
We put the interview and feature article on hold, agreeing that it would be more timely to publish it when the Room was officially launched.
2 and a half months later, I received an email from Tan. Attached was the press release for the opening of The Fragment Room, and the photos of his shop.
Back then, all he and myself had were the mock-ups created by his interior designer.
And as for the traction he was worried about getting?
Well, within a few days, the Room has already been featured on a good number of websites (like DiscoverSG and The Playbook), and from the comments, people are pretty damn excited about it.
But while the shop space has definitely changed since then, Tan's motivations as an aspiring entrepreneur hasn't, so here it is, 2 and a half months later - the story behind The Fragment Room.
The Fragment Room: When Anger Becomes Therapy
Why "The Fragment Room"?
What my concept is, is that it's a 'rage room' where you break objects. And when you break them, they break into fragments - and that's where the name came from.
Is this the first 'rage room' in Singapore?
This is actually the first in Southeast Asia! I heard that there's something like this in Japan, but I heard that it's more like, you have a whole room full of objects in an office setting, and you can break everything in the room.
An office setting?
Yeah, I think they're too stressed at work. And in Singapore too, people are very stressed at work.
So do you have a room with an office setting?
No, I do not. I think the cost will be too high, and it'll be a bit crazy to break all the office tables and chairs. It'll definitely cost a bomb.
So instead of giving people that, I'm giving them simpler, smaller things. Like you can break cups, plates, normal tables…you can even break electrical appliances like TVs, radios…
Where are you getting the supplies for all of these?
So I'm getting them from karang guni, and for the tableware, I actually have a supplier. He's a very nice guy - he's selling them to me at a great price, even though he usually supplies his stuff to hotels like Hilton, Sheraton and all that.
But when I went to meet him, he told me, "Since you're a young entrepreneur, and I was also once a young entrepreneur, I'm going to help you out."
Why are you bringing this concept over to Singapore?
I was actually working a full-time job before this. I was a salesperson for this furniture company, so I sold office furniture, lightings and stuff. And throughout my time there, I realised that Singaporeans are very, very stressed out.
Like if you just talk to them a little, and they'll just blurt everything out.
So were you stressed as well?
I was stressed because they were stressed!
Everyone was in such a stressed up environment. Like my clients were stressed, everyone had deadlines to meet, so everyone was stressed. Even my boss was stressed.
For example, whenever we get a job and we go to a construction site, a lot of things can go wrong, and a lot of people just cannot control their temper. So they start to flare up, they start to throw tantrums, and that's when I was like, "Maybe this job isn't cut out for me. Maybe I should do something else."
And I saw on Facebook that this 'rage room' concept was a thing, like people could actually break things to relieve stress. And I was thinking if we had anything like this in Singapore - and the only thing I could think of as a way to relieve stress is to go and drink.
But that doesn't really solve anything, you're just suppressing it. So now, I'm giving you a space to release all of those suppressed emotions.
How many people will be in the room at a time?
For practical reasons, I'd say about 2 at a time. Because the rooms are about 150 sq ft, so they're not very big…
So people won't accidentally hurt each other too?
Actually they'll be fully decked in protective gear, and coveralls!
Did you contact any of your entrepreneur friends for advice?
Actually, my entrepreneur friends aren't really in the same industry, they're most doing fashion and all that.
In Singapore, no one really does a business like this, and they usually start something online instead of an 'old school' business like opening a shop.
How long has it been from ideation to now?
It has taken about 5 to 6 months actually, but it was very hard for me to find a place.
How did you decide on this location?
I think this location is very good because it's by the main road, and it's very unassuming you know? The whole area is like, near shops selling spices and all that.
So it's like a "if you know, you know" type of thing.
What do your parents think about it?
Well my dad thinks it's bullshit lah HAHA!
He just thinks it's ridiculous lah, like why would you start something that no one else has started, why do you want to do something so risky?
But I guess if you're successful, he'll change his mind! What about your friends? What do they think about it?
My friends are all crazy about the idea!
So if you're fully booked, how many people will there be in the shop?
Well, we have a lounge area for customers to chill out if the rooms are taken, so maybe 8 people?
How many rooms do you have in total?
I have 2 rooms, so a total of 4 people can be using it.
How long will a session be?
A session is around 30 minutes. But I think after 5 minutes, people will be tired already.
Do you plan to keep it open 24/7?
No, opening hours would be 1pm to 10pm, but if they want anything outside working hours, they can just give me a call and make a booking.
Actually I wanted to make it appointment-based, and I'll open from 4pm to 10pm, but I feel like the appointment-based arrangement might be too intimidating, you know?
Like people would want to make small talk before they jump into it, they don't want to just make a booking then commit to it.
Are there going to be specific rules that you will brief everyone on?
Yes definitely. Because we're so repressed, you won't know what they can do when they let loose!
They could even break my walls!
Will you be there to talk to the customers at the lounge?
Yeah! That's actually what I'm looking for when I look for staff. I want people who can talk to the customers.
My slogan is "anger therapy", so you can release your anger, but you can also talk about it. I feel like a lot of people don't like to talk about their feelings.
What do you think about your step into the world of entrepreneurship?
Actually, I've always to be an entrepreneur. My dad was an entrepreneur, and I feel like I can't work a 9 to 5 job. And I can't study, so like…this is my next best thing. Where I can be my own boss, and my own ideas.
What are your greatest fears for the shop?
My greatest fear is when people who come in can't control their aggression and then they start breaking everything in the shop. It's like, what am I supposed to do then? How am I supposed to charge them then?
So how are you ensuring that they know it's just a rage room, and that every negative emotion just stays there?
Before they go in, they will need to sign a waiver on what they can, and cannot do, and the consequences when they go out of bounds.
Where do you see The Fragment Room in a year?
Right now, I can't really visualise it yet. I can only visualise 2 possibilities - one of it is that I get constant bookings, or two, nobody wants to come by. It's very hard to get traction in Singapore.
What's your ideal vision for The Fragment Room? Would you launch a chain, or just keep it to a solo shop?
I would just keep it 'pure', and just have one store. Also, based on the licensee-licenser agreement, I can't do a chain.
I had ideas to open abroad actually, in our neighbouring countries..but I don't think it's a good idea, because it's easy for them to find places to break things. In Singapore, we have this culture that we just can't do things like this.
Their countries are just not as repressed as we are here.
What do you want to change?
I just want Singapore to be more diverse lah. Singapore is a very boring place, and there's nothing new. All the new places are cafes!
I don't want to go to a new cafe, I want to go to a place with a new concept and experience something new. That's the whole point of leaving the house right?
When will you know that you 'made it'?
Maybe when I'm fully booked? But it'll be great if I can just make a difference in the lives of Singaporeans.
The Fragment Room
3 Balestier Road, Singapore 329671
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 1-10pm