Often associated with chilling by the beach and sprawling spaces that are not in Singapore, hammocks don't usually come to mind when one is furnishing a home or office here.
However, if you've been to popular outdoor festivals like the Laneway Festival, ArtBox, and DBS Marina Regatta, you might have noticed a hammock-filled area where attendees can lie down and take a breather - literally.
A visit to a typical office of millennials is also never complete without the sighting of a hammock (or a few) positioned at a quiet corner, alongside the fake grass patches and beanbags.
Leading the hammock revolution here is local startup Airmocks, founded in 2014 by Ernest Ng during his final year as a business marketing student at Nanyang Technological University.
I Felt The Need For Singaporeans To Take A Step Back To Chill OutErnest Ng, Founder of local startup Airmocks
For Ng, the idea to reintroduce hammocks to Singaporeans was something that occured to him after travelling overseas during his university days.
"I had the chance to travel overseas while on internship and exchange and had a lot of experience with hammocks. Seeing similar concepts overseas gave me the idea to introduce it in Singapore as there wasn't a hammock culture here yet then."
However, given the hot and humid weather in Singapore, Ng was aware that hanging a hammock outdoors might not be that great an idea, so he set out to create hammocks that could be enjoyed indoors.
The perfect solution? Free-standing hammocks.
"Added to that, strict limitations such as not being able to drill holes in the walls and ceilings of government properties restricted Singaporeans on having the relaxing hammock experience."
"Singapore could definitely use (free-standing hammocks) owing to the harsh weather conditions outside, and using it in the comfort of one's home would be perfect."
"I also observed an increasing trend in private homes marketing their property as beach-side living or having terms like 'Palm' and 'Oasis' in their names, all pointing to an increasing pool of consumers demanding a more relaxed and 'Californian' lifestyle."
"What is the palm life without hammocks then?"
But for him, creating a hammock culture is less about simply introducing a new concept, but more for encouraging fellow Singaporeans to relax.
"I felt the need for Singaporeans to take a step back to chill out after reading reports of Singaporeans burning out at work and the general rise in stress levels here."
Hanging On Through The Tough Times
As a solo founder, everything from sourcing to logistics to marketing fell onto Ng's shoulders.
To make things worse, hammocks were still a rather niche concept that the average Singaporean wasn't totally familiar with yet.
Admitting that it was "very tough and challenging especially at the start", the first-time entrepreneur had to learn skills like website designing and shipping from scratch.
In 2014, he released the Airmocks Classic, one he describes as "very raw and less fancy than the models [they] have today".
Fortunately, the hammock was "very well-received", and Ng cites its success to the fact that it was foldable, portable, and users could use them both indoors and outdoors.
Over the years, the hammocks have been improved by using higher quality steel for the stands, adding a more robust layer of powder coating to prevent scratches and rust, and even improved mechanisms designed for convenience.
One of which is to reduce the number of catches needed for set up from six to four.
"We improve our designs through constant interactions with our existing customers, taking feedback and complaints very seriously."
One of the difficulties he faced though, is the high operating costs that comes with running the business, while also keeping the product prices affordable for the average Singaporean.
"It is also a challenge to constantly re-invent and improve our products to stay ahead as the leading hammock company in Singapore."
A full-time entrepreneur for 2 years now, Ng admits that while the journey "has definitely not been easy", supportive customers and friends had helped him tide through the tough times.
Spreading The Hammock Culture To Offices And Events
Judging from the number of tagged photos of happy customers with their products - it's clear that they've also succeeded in appealing to the aesthetics of Instagrammers.
"We mostly secure new events from existing events as organisers are always on the lookout for something fresh. Moreover, our Airmocks add a relaxing and chill-out vibe to the whole atmosphere, thus making it popular with attendees from all walks of life."
And it's not just events - they are also a common sight at the cool office spaces of companies like Skyscanner, DBS, and Fitness First.
"There has been a rising trend in companies valuing employee welfare and realising the importance of proper rest and work-life balance. Most of the time, they approach us after learning about our products at events and features on the various media platforms."
The Future Of Airmocks, And Giving Back To Society
Business-wise, Ng hopes to bring in new designs and colours to suit whatever needs customers might have.
He cites the example of their dual-function hammock (currently their best seller) which is able to convert from a full-blown hammock to a swing chair, catering to the customers who suffer from space constraints.
But Ng has hopes to start giving back to society with his business too.
"We are actually in the midst of launching a CSR campaign in which we would take in older product models in exchange for cash vouchers to purchase our newer models. These older products would then be donated to orphanages and schools overseas where the children do not have the privilege of having products like this to play or rest in."
And as for advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Ng has this to say:
"Change is the only constant in the business world and you need to cultivate the stamina and determination to keep moving forward."
"Have a clear direction for your business as not having a goal to work towards will lead you to going off-course and facing the possibility of getting obsolete and ultimately failing."