George Boyle of Fumbally Exchange

George Boyle and President Michael D. HigginsWe meet George Boyle, architect, award-winning designer and founder of the Fumbally Exchange, to talk about growing with integrity and figuring out the ‘how’.

Fumbally Exchange (FEx) is a not-for-profit organisation helping creative and innovative entrepreneurs to shine.

Originally set up in 2010 in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties, the organisation is now based in Dame Lane in Dublin City Centre and is home to over 150 business members with 50 more associate members in four locations. The mandate of FEx is to drive change and regeneration in the way we work in Ireland, in creative engagement and in collaboration.

Its four point promise includes:

  • 1 Urban Regeneration 
  • 2 Community Collaboration 
  • 3 Innovation in Enterprise 
  • 4 Creative Collaboration 

Why did you decide to set up your own collaborative community of entrepreneurs and creative professionals and how did you go about it?

Fumbally Exchange has grown organically since its first inception in 2010. We initially thought it would be a typical enterprise incubator or accelerator but with the alignment of FEx to the creative sector, it rapidly developed an evolved level of sophistication in terms of ethos, integrity and codes of conduct. 

At the same time, the world was changing rapidly, with radical new thinking in ICT, cloud culture, the rising global popularity of flexible workspaces and the redefinition of work roles and job security.

These factors all influenced FEx and earned it the reputation as a hub of inventive thought, a light-footed enterprise experiment pushing the boundaries of work practice, space and development.

People power with the support from local authorities and enlightened landlords all assisted in bringing this highly evolutionary enterprise model to life.

Tell us about Fumbally Exchange; why did you choose this name?

Fumbally Lane was where the inaugural space was founded –in the heart of the industrial Liberties of Dublin. An original misreading of the Hugenot name “Fonveille” (a family of this name had a brewery on the lane in the 18th century) it became “fumbally” then “bum bailiff” before reverting to “fumbally”.

The “Exchange” part was inspired by the Metropolitan Exchange in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of urban designers, food industry entrepreneurs and architects were listed as one of Time Magazine’s “top ten places to watch in 2010”. It also represented the culture of collaboration we were so keen to see foster at FEx.

Why would you encourage entrepreneurs and professionals to join this kind of community? What are the benefits for them?

The Fumbally Exchange represents the very best of co-working as a culture, combining a unique conviviality, trust and can-do attitude that is a direct consequence of the collaborative, open and sharing community spirit arising from our shared code and mission. 

The transparency of interaction and lack of anxiety around overheads leaves space for shared activity, such as scheduled workshops, exhibitions, social and networking and learning events with the pace constantly challenged and elevated by new and exciting entrepreneur influx.

There are also no direct financial beneficiaries of FEx, which make for a flat, hierarchy-free culture within the Exchange.

The Fumbally Exchange was recognised with accolades from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and the Arthur Guinness Fund among others - what do these kind of awards mean to you?

These awards were enormously important in the evolution of Fumbally Exchange.

Winning the Arthur Guinness “Social Entrepreneur of Ireland” programme in 2011, when we were only months old, was enormously satisfying and validating while the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award came only a year later.

Both awards gave us the opportunity to gain inputs and excellent engagement from industry experts at the highest level of commercial business expertise.

The means to “how” was probably the most impactful piece from both awards – how to describe, brand, fund and operate the business around your mission.

From a personal perspective, it was the friends made and human bonds laid down in the process that made this the most rewarding and unexpected bonus of being founder of FEx.

Do you have any plans to expand Fumbally Exchange nationally or internationally?

Fumbally Exchange is already open in Balbriggan and Waterford, and we have a sister community coming together in Ravenna, in Italy.

In 2013, FEx moved to a new HQ premises and our plans are to continue to grow organically.

It is more important to the “Fumbally Fambily” that we grow with integrity and protect what we hold dear, than to grow quickly.

How has the LEO Dublin City helped the Fumbally Exchange?

Local Enterprise Office Dublin City was a critical factor in securing the viability of Fumbally Exchange.

In 2011, FEx was obliged to leave its original location in the Liberties when the building it was based in was sold. Among a number of real heroes who made the path to a new premises less painful, despite many setbacks, LEO Dublin and Greg Swift in particular stand out.

By encouraging us, intervening with authorities on our behalf and ushering us expertly through a grant application process that permitted FEx to move to the heart of the city centre, LEO Dublin City contributed in making FEx a real and dynamic opportunity for start-ups and creative professionals all over Ireland.

What are your ‘Top Tips’ for new start-ups in the creative sector?

My “top tips” for start-ups can be summarised as follows:

  • 1. Mind the Gap
  • 2. Follow the Lines
  • 3. Be Nice
  • 4. Don’t Delude Yourself (other delusions are perfectly fine)
  • 5. Don’t Run Dry
  • 6. Make it Simple and/but Make it Beautiful
  • 7. Don’t Accumulate
  • 8. Keep Current
  • 9. Compromise Carefully
  • 10. Stay Sharp
  • 11. Live Light
  • 12. Believe
  • 13. Stay Well
  • 14. Ideas * Creativity * Execution = Happiness.

You can find more detail at

What businessperson do you admire most and why?

In architecture, my absolute hats-off heroes are Yvonne and Shelly of Grafton Architects for their grit and elegance, while in social enterprise facilitation, Angela Smith, of Diageo is superbly connected, humble and pioneering.

In local government, Kieran Rose is an exceptional force in Dublin City Council while in business I have two heroes among an enormous army of excellent pioneers – Stephen Plunkett of U-Casadh, and Declan Ryan of Irelandia. I have the absolute privilege of working with both closely at present and I love how they operate.

Finally, Michael Hussey, Margaret Hayes, George and Therese Boyle are business people whose style makes my ability to do business possible. These are the most significant of all in my own personal journey, so get priority ranking, and are the most profound inspiration to me.

Our thanks to George Boyle for taking part in this Case Study.

To find out more about Fumbally Exchange, please visit