In the hustle and bustle of the Asian financial hub, resting is regarded as a luxury. Not only is there a lack of public space for sitting down and taking a break, but the general public perceives sleeping and napping as a sin. Chillazy aims to provide a tranquil space for hectic city dwellers to take a break from their busy working lives, and to promote a culture that accepts napping.
“In Hong Kong, people perceive taking a rest as a sin,” says 26-year-old Hong Konger Kevin Lee. “They never take a break.”
A graduate of one of the most prestigious universities in Hong Kong, Lee initially joined the city’s biggest industry and worked at an investment bank for two years. But his adventurous and ambitious soul was not satisfied with the monotonous and repetitive nature of bank work; and besides, he had always wanted to start his own business.
“Like a lot of people in our generation, I would like to have full control of what I am doing,” Lee says.
Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit was supported by his childhood friend Sum Wong, who then worked at a young technology start-up company. Inspired by the success of his employers, who had also started their company at an early age, Wong shared the same entrepreneurial ambition that Lee had.
Chillazy – to chill and be lazy – is a business idea that comes from Lee’s personal experience.
“I used to have lunch alone and always wanted to take a nap after the meal, but there was nowhere I could do that,” Lee says.
In fact, in this densely populated city, it is normally forbidden to sleep or nap in public spaces such as in parks or on benches along promenades.
Founders of Chillazy - Kevin Lee (Left) and Sum Wong (Right)
Sum Wong turned Lee’s observation into a business idea.
“What we are selling is space, experience, and quality time. We want to sell the concept of ‘doing nothing’, and promote the importance of taking a rest,” Wong says.
Lee and Wong rented a 1,500 square foot unused factory space in an old industrial building and converted it into a zone of tranquility and calm. It is a space made for napping, thinking, and doing nothing.
Filled with 14 hammocks imported from Mexico, Lee and Wong wanted to provide a different “sleeping experience” for customers. “Different hammocks have distinctive features and are made with different materials. Some are soft, some are more solid, while some give a greater sense of balance.”
But all are set up to provide a new napping experience that Hong Kong people can seldom even enjoy at home.
“We thought about putting in beds, but that would have created a hospital atmosphere,” Lee said. Also, hammocks are usually made with materials closer to nature, and can be arranged into a more casual setting.
Chillazy is also furnished with carpets, cushions, sofas, and hanging chairs. “We wanted to promote the ‘lazy culture’ by providing an enjoyable environment. Resting should not be something luxurious. We should not feel guilty about napping.”
In order to save costs, the two did almost the whole conversion job themselves, from laying the flooring and painting the walls to selecting and assembling all the furniture. Only when it came to installing the hammocks did they hire technicians in order to ensure absolute safety.
Three months after starting Chillazy, Lee and Wong say the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs in Hong Kong is the unaffordable rent.
“Rent accounts for 80 percent of our total operating cost,” says Lee. “Chillazy is the first business of its kind. We don’t have any previous examples for reference and we have no idea of the market demand for this service, so technically we are still experimenting and exploring. But since the rent is so high, experimenting is very risky.”
But the pair have been surprised by the public reception so far. Apart from media attention because of the unprecedented nature of its business, Chillazy also appeals to busy city dwellers as a different kind of consumption experience.
“It is very hard to find an appropriate occasion to meet up with friends here. Options are often limited to restaurants and cafes. Sometimes even if you don’t want to have a meal, you are forced to because there are no other places to go for just sitting and enjoying small talk with friends,” says Sum.
“We have noticed that besides paying for some personal space to take a rest, many people actually pay for a relaxing environment to spend quality time with friends here.”
Although Chillazy is still testing the water, Lee and Wong’s motto – “lie down, be calm” - could definitely bring a new perspective to the hustling lifestyles of seven million Hong Kongers.