Fumbally Exchange nets 40 start-ups after year one

29 Jun 2011

Founded a year ago, Fumbally Exchange, a not-for-profit design and innovation hub, is now home to more than 40 small businesses. This has been achieved with no State funding, just the effort and imagination of a group of determined designers and innovators.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore, TD, officially opened The Exchange this morning.

Fumbally Exchange offers low-cost, low-risk business incubation. For €55 per week, entrepreneurs, creative professionals and start-ups can rent a fully-serviced desk in shared office space at Fumbally Square, just off Clanbrassil Street in Dublin city centre. More importantly, members get to network, brainstorm, collaborate, share knowledge and learn business strategy.

The new centre is also having global impact. Members have already secured an architectural commission for a GAA clubhouse in New York.

Regeneration in action

Speaking at the event, the Tánaiste said: “Fumbally Exchange is regeneration in action. Through the initiative of its founder George Boyle and others, Fumbally Exchange has provided these entrepreneurs with a new lease of life and lifted the neighbouring area. It has provided local businesses with more income and attracted other companies into nearby office space that was previously vacant.”

“Fumbally Exchange also provides an innovative way to attract foreign investment into Ireland. It opens up possibilities for design-focused small businesses to gain a foothold in the Irish market at a difficult time in the economy – something I warmly welcome as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

George Boyle, architect and founder of Fumbally Exchange, explained the inspiration behind it: “The rallying cry of ‘Is féidir linn’ is uplifting, but yes, we can what? There has to be action and direction. We were determined to prove that by working together and supporting each other, we could fight the negative effects of recession – one small business at a time.

“Collaboration is key. The members of Fumbally Exchange are individual businesses, but when they work together, they can take on bigger projects than they could do alone. For clients and customers in Ireland and around the world, Fumbally Exchange is quickly becoming a value-driven, one-stop shop for all things design.”

Paul Rowley of Rockland GAA in New York commissioned four members to design a new clubhouse after learning about the Exchange in a Wall Street Journal video clip.

“After coverage of Iceland, Spain, Greece and Italy, there was Ireland, finishing off on a message of hope,” he said at the launch. “And that hope was symbolised by the Fumbally Exchange. There was the Fumbally team, down but not out, spinning their own little micro-economy. Making work – together.”

A blueprint for Irish business

Boyle believes the shared space and collaborative approach of Fumbally Exchange could work just as well for entrepreneurs, sole traders and professionals in other sectors, including legal, financial or other professional services, medicine and alternative medicine, food, fashion, photography and other creative arts, media and IT, science and technology, and not-for-profits.

“It is difficult to strike out on your own,” said Boyle. “So we say, come together. The Fumbally Exchange model works. It needs only a suitable site, an enlightened landlord and an enthusiastic group of positive, experienced or emerging entrepreneurs who are willing to get to work.”

Photo: The Fumbally Exchange

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years