Granite Exchange is one of Northern Ireland’s most impressive coworking spaces, but how did a seed of an idea turn into a huge local business success story?
Granite Exchange first opened its doors two years ago in the heart of Newry.
The million-pound redevelopment project heralded the start of an exciting new story that continues to attract businesses from all over the country.
Today, we’re speaking to the man behind the ambitious vision, local entrepreneur Jonathan McKeown.
Jonathan and his team launched Granite Exchange in June 2018, envisaging a place where “offices are of a very high specification and professional in every way.”
Granite Exchange has a range of furnished office sizes available, from 1 – 3 person office suites to coworking office spaces.
The building also has spacious meeting rooms, hosting up to 10 people, available for hire.
And as we approach 2021, Granite Exchange is achieving its mission, with nine local businesses currently residing in the ultra-modern coworking space.
Businesses from all around the country are choosing the Newry building as the perfect location for off-site meetings too.
Speaking about the historic building – formerly the home of iconic sports shop Jack Smyths – Jonathan explains, “When I saw the building for sale, I knew it would be the ideal location for my coworking, serviced office venture.
I knew that it would make a great addition to this side of the city.
The building is in a fantastic part of Newry; it’s an excellent open square here on Sugar Island with beautiful views; looking out the windows you can see Newry City Hall, Newry Canal and the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre.”
Speaking about his excitement at getting involved in the coworking space industry, Jonathan says he noticed that coworking was “something that was becoming more talked about”.
“These types of premises are becoming more and more popular, locally, nationally and internationally, with some huge companies providing quality workspace to new and existing businesses all over the world.”
Jonathan says the whole building was “completely refurbished” after the sale.
After substantial planning and redevelopment work, Granite Exchange opened its doors in June 2018.
“Our vision is to be Newry’s most desirable serviced office and meeting room venue,” Jonathan says.
“Our mission is to encourage commercial activity within the city of Newry.
I wanted to create a space which would then attract businesses looking for a prime location in the city.
And, he adds, “I wanted to make the process of finding and paying for office accommodation as simple as possible.”
Jonathan is proud that Granite Exchange keeps things simple, offering an all-inclusive monthly fee.
“The monthly fee includes all of the things I could think of, including the things that are often overlooked when people are obtaining office accommodation.
That includes installing telephone lines, high-speed broadband, sourcing photocopiers and scanners, cleaning and maintenance.
And best of all, there’s no need to sign a long lease or tenancy agreement.
Significant investment went into ensuring that every room has high-speed internet and Wi-Fi, automatic lighting, air-conditioning and key fob entry system.”
He adds, “The building also has modern shower facilities and two fully fitted kitchens.”
Jonathan says the addition of a dedicated reception team proved to be an inspired choice, with local businesses appreciating the extra help.
He says that his main goal was to ensure businesses based in Granite Exchange could focus on growing their business, “without having to think about anything else”.
As soon as local businesses got a tour of the building, many were sold straight away.
Indeed, in those first few months, Newry Chamber of Commerce made the coworking space their new home.
Fast-forward two years and the local business chamber is joined by a whole host of new faces.
Current residents include Optilase Eye Clinic, Q Radio, Granite Immigration Law, Granite Legal Services, Road Safe NI charity, New Driver NI, Expert Reports, Brogan Group and Jonathan’s latest innovative offering: Granite Podcast Studio.
And with COVID-19 transforming how we work, where we work and when we work, the Granite Exchange founder is optimistic about the future for coworking spaces.
“COVID has been challenging for us like every other business; however, a lot more companies are keen on organising off-site meetings with us as we take care of cleaning, risk assessments and security.
And with people working from home this past nine months, it has shown businesses that staff can work anywhere.
And as a result, businesses are increasingly acknowledging that their staff can work comfortably in a coworking space like Granite Exchange,” he adds.
And what about the future of coworking?
Jonathan insists that while the pandemic has changed some things about how we view work, people are overwhelmingly talking about missing the smaller parts of office life.
“We’re missing the social elements, such as a quick chat over the kettle with a colleague or just socialising in general,” he adds.
If you would like Granite Exchange to be the home for your business contact us today on 028 9592 2675 or click HERE.